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Free Speech in Pakistan? You’re serious? 20 November 2006

Posted by TwentyTwoYards in Hypocrisy, Land of the pure...and the not so pure.

Comment gone lengthy… (©: Knicq Enterprises) – in response to Sabizak’s comment on the previous post.

I do agree that many Westerners are of course admirably honest and diligent in their views of Jews and Israel – I have discussed a few of them (eg Finkelstein, Chomsky et al) here previously. However, even these guys are hardly mainstream. The dissenting voices of a few ‘leftwing’ intellectuals (the Ivy League tenured class) may be grudgingly tolerated but are never welcomed. The difficulties encountered by Professor Finkelstein when publishing his books in the US are just one stark reminder of the numerous controls on ‘free speech’. In any case, a few bastions of left-wing or anti-establishment rhetoric do not a country make.

When it comes to the mainstream discourse, even those mild criticisms of Israel are rebuked. The opprobrium and scorn heaped on Mearsheimer and Walt by their peers, by the media and by the wider America society, for stating what most of us outside the US would accept as being a ’statement of the bleedin’ obvious’ is eye-opening. The message is this: whilst its okay for lefties (eg Chomsky) or fascists (eg David Duke) to criticise Zionism, it certainly is not kosher for ‘normal’ folks to do so.

Secondly, I would submit that the reference to Pakistan is somewhat irrelevant here. We (Pakistanis, or Muslims, for that matter) do not claim to be paragons of “free speech” – in fact, our penal code and our society places visible and well-known controls on expression. To berate us for something we never claim to be in the first place seems a trifle harsh – whilst we never claim to be adherents of such dubious notions as ‘free speech’, “they” (ie the Western world as a collective) do! Hence, it is only proper that ‘they’ are held accountable by the standards they themselves proudly cherish and uphold, allegedly.

However, as Pakistan has been mentioned, it would be instructive to explore the issue. Sabizak wrote that in Pakistan, if you “publicly deny the ideology of pakistan”, your fate would not be the envy of many. Is this really borne out by the facts?

Pakistani print and electronic media is replete not only with denials and criticisms of the canard that is the public face of the ideology of Pakistan, but also contain veiled and not so veiled criticisms of many aspects of Islam. Even the recent fiasco that is the so-called “Women’s Protection Bill” was used by many in the ‘liberal intelligentsia’ as a convenient stick to hit Islam and Islamic concepts with, generally in a manner that had little relation to fact or reality. Every evening, loony lefties such as Pervez Hoodbhoy, Mehdi Hasan Rizvi, Samar Mubarak Ali et al fill Pakistani TV screens with semi-demented notions of what Pakistan should be or should not be – and these notions generally do involve robust critiques of Islam and of Pakistan as an Islamic state. Heavens have not fallen and these mouthpieces continue to receive their paychecks from their foreign or local paymasters – doesn’t sound like a particularly repressive environment to me.

I do agree that such criticism and free speech is rare and confined to the Western elite of the country, but that is often the case, even in richer countries. In Pakistan, even mainstream politicos like Iqbal Hiader, Umar Asghar etc openly and blatantly express sentiments that are not only inimical to Islam but often downright blasphemous – that does not seem to impact the vote bank of the political parties these gents caucus with.

Let me clarify – I am not implying that the above is necessarily a good thing or even something to be applauded – my personal view is that it is not – however, the fact that it exists should nonetheless be acknowledged.

Pakistan’s largest selling English language newspaper, The Dawn, is a bastion of ‘left-wing and anti-establishment rhetoric’, and has been for as long as I can remember. The newest decent entrant in the print media market, aka The Daily Times, has made a name for itself with its stridently ‘liberal’ (though not libertarian) and pro-West stances. Najam Sethi, Cowasjee, Dr Lodhi, Irfan Hussain, Khalid Ahmed, Ejaz Haider etc have all made a nice living out of this racket, and there are many more waiting to jump on the gravy train – if criticising Islam and Pakistan wasn’t so lucrative an enterprise, these guys would have been out of business. :-)

So no, being critical of Islam or Pakistan’s ideology in Pakistan is not a one-way ticket to gaol – it is a decision that makes sound commercial sense and is thus the choice made by many of the leading media barons of the country.


Popery 19 September 2006

Posted by TwentyTwoYards in Hypocrisy, Islam and contemporary society.

Just watched the peerless Dr. Zakir Naik being interviewed on ARY by Dr. Shahid Masood (so even liberal Pakistani TV channels are not completely useless!) on the popery (aka jiggery pokery) which is the current flavour of the week for the world’s Islamophobes and anti-Muslim bigots. The good doctor (Naik, not Masood), as is his wont, made some excellent points, which reinforce my thoughts on this whole sordid affair – my own thoughts are summarised below; apologies if they bear little or no resemblance to what was discussed by Dr Naik – he provided the inspiration, not the full song-sheet!

1. Freedom of speech? Bah! Humbug

My own views on the nonsensical and impractical notion of absolute freedom have been recounted in previous posts.

Those who say that Muslims should simply ignore the ignorant have missed the point – accepting such lies and including them in ‘civilised discourse’ does not diminish their impact, but rather, serves to establish and ‘mainstream’ them.

Imagine the furore if instead of quoting some medieval Byzantine loser, the bloke with the funny hat had instead quoted some medieval Catholic on Jews; how about he had started with the blood libel and carried on about sorcery and the ‘murder’ of Christ -nah, even my overactive imagination cannot imagine such an outlandish scenario. A ‘mainstream’ Westerner daring to be even mildly critical of Israel, Jews or Zionism? After what happened to Mearsheimer and Walt, even factual and relevant comment on Israel is beyond the pale, let alone some idiot regurgitating 14th century drivel.

Or imagine the rumpus had he repeated early (and established) Church doctrine on the role and status of women (“they don’t have a soul – thus are not full human beings, if at all“).

But attacking Islam is of course “fair game”, is it?

2. The brazen, bare-faced, shameless cheek of this rascal…
Three words: pot – kettle – black

Actually, how about three more: glasshouses – throw – stones

Should be enough. Okay, okay, I will spell it out.

For the leader of the Catholic church, the world’s leading Christian, to criticise any other religion on the flimsy pretext that the other religion was (in the said leader’s fertile imagination, perhaps?) spread by the sword, is hypocrisy of an unsurpassed magnitude.

Remind me, Ratzinger, me ole chum, which religion came up with the concept of “Holy War”? Louder, please? What? “Holy war” was a construct created and nourished by a previous holder of the same ‘august’ office that you currently occupy? My, my.

So what about Christian atrocities against Jews and Muslims for most of the past 2,000 years? What about the fact that far more humans have been killed by Christians in the name their god, than by Muslims, and the fact that the Christians committing such murders are lauded as lionhearts, chivalrous knights and bravehearts by their co-religionists, whilst the Muslims rightly condemn their far fewer murderous conquerors as misguided ‘black sheep’?

The roll call of horrors visited upon humanity by the followers and adherents of the ‘Cross’ is almost endless; from the Mayas to the Incas, and from the Aztecs to the Australian aborigines; from the Spanish Inquisition to the Salem witch trials, and including the wanton killing and murder of hundreds of thousands of Muslim (and Jewish and Orthodox Christian!) civilians during the previous bout of crusading zeal visited upon Muslim lands…. where does one even begin?

The number of people killed in warfare during the entire 13 year rule of the Noble Messenger in Madinah? 1,018.

The number killed during the six years of WW-II? 60 million.

hmm…yes…its the Muslims who have caused the most bloodshed throughout history. After all, Stalin, Hitler, Genghis Khan, Mao, Pol Pot, et al were all Muslim, right?!

3. The bigger picture

Context, they say, is all important. Well, what is the context these remarks are being made in? Ratzinger (“Ratzy-boy”) may have been a Nazi as a lad, but he is no raving skin-head neo-Nazi now (or at least, not in public).

He is not uttering these fallacies as Joe Ratzy Bloggs, but rather, as the spiritual guide and religious father of 1.2 billion Catholics, perhaps the largest religious grouping on the planet.

This cannot be dismissed as the ranting and raving of a demented xenophobe who has no support in the wider Christian community. This is not akin to some Muslim terrorist in Iraq or Afghanistan coming out with batty ideas that have little resonance in the wider Muslim community and certainly no official or religious sanction, and are condemned by the scholars of Islam. This is just the opposite – what the pope says is official Christian thinking and needs to be understood, addressed and countered in that vein. Rather, Ratzy-boy has thrown down the gauntlet, and its upto Muslims to respond – calmly and sensibly, yes – but also with conviction and knowledge.

So let’s acknowledge his words for what they are – a direct, frontal and aggressive attack on Islam. Let’s also not forget Urban II; when it comes to attacks on Islam, the holder of this office has form!

It seems the head of the Catholic religion wants to re-open theological debates that had been won by Islam already; maybe the tens of thousands of Christians reverting to Islam every year in his own back-yard troubles him. Fine – he ‘s obviously spoiling for a clash of civilisations! Demented and semi-demented Muslim “liberals” go to great lengths to refute, deny and negate Huntingdon’s “clash of the civilisations” ideas; in a way, they do have a point:civilisational schisms and conflicts, leading to thousands or millions of deaths, are something that no decent human could welcome. However, at least (and thankfully!) at the theoretical level, the pope-chappy has expressed his willingness for a”clash of civilisations” – as Muslims, let’s not ignore that either.

4. Bigoted and Ignorant? Well there’s a surprise!

If someone is as keen as Ratzy-boy appears to be to criticise Islam, firstly he should get his facts right or at least, not start with barefaced lies. The Qur’anic verse about there being no compulsion in religion (Surah Baqarah: 256) was revealed in Madinah when the Prophet and Islam were both in a position of strength, and not in Makkah when they were in a state of weakness, as alleged by the Pope – such an obvious error – tut tut – don’t they have papal researchers for this sorta thing?

In any case, the Pope’s central argument, that Islam spread by the sword, is built on lies and untruths. Which extensive Muslims armies went to conquer the whole of Malaysia? What great battles were waged to convert the world’s most populous Muslim country (Indonesia) to Islam? I don’t remember stirring conquests of Tanzania and Timbuktoo; of the Maldives and Madagasgar. In fact, which of the early Muslim wars were religious wars of conquest, the way the Catholic wars were? Not many at all. And there certainly were no conversions at sword-point.

The Muslims ruled Spain for 800 years, creating a society unsurpassed in culture, in learning, in scholarship, in tolerance, in decency, in innovation and in religious freedoms – the majority of the subjects, and many of the important functionaries of the state(s) remained Christian and Jewish. If conversion through sword was Islam’s aim, would all people have been allowed to remain in their original faiths by the most advanced governments the world had hitherto seen? Hardly.

Contrast this with what happened after the “Reconquest” of Spain by the Catholics. Tens of thousands of Muslims and Jews were murdered; within decades, all of them had to practice their faith in secret; with a few more decades, all were forced into exile, killed or converted at the risk of death. With a generation or two, all traces of Islam had been wiped out, through the sword. What a contrast with the 800 years that had preceded it!

Now consider this: if forced conversions were Islam’s aim, would 80% of the people of India be non-Muslim today? Muslims ruled India for over 1,000 years. Many of the Muslim rulers were fairly conservative types, irritable chaps who were not averse to a spot of religious discrimination themselves, especially if it meant more land and more wealth. Yet, they afforded religious freedoms and rights to their Hindu subjects? Let’s face it – the mighty Mughals did not do this because they were weak.

And what about Christianity’s record? Wiping out whole nations, races and civilisations, whether in Australia, Peru, Mexico, or the USA!

The Arabic speaking countries of Western Asia and Northern Africa (aka the ‘Middle East’) have been predominantly and almost continuously Muslim for almost 1,400 years. To this day, 14 million Coptic Christians not only survive as native Arabs but also thrive and have done for centuries depsite 14 centuries of Muslim rule. “Spread by sword” indeed! If forced conversions were what Islam wanted, these and other Arab Christians would not have survived in their preferred religion.

In fact, when the rampaging, pillaging and murdering European Christians, inspired by Ratzy-Boy’s predecessor, arrived in Asia in the 11th and 12th century for the Crusades, they treated the Orthodox Greek Christians and the Coptic Arab Christians with the same inhumane barbarity they reserved for Muslims and Jews. Historical records and contemporary accounts prove that the oriental Christians were far happier living in the regions and cities with the Muslim rulers, rather than being treated like slaves by the chilvalrous European Christian Crusading Knights. Many Christian tribes and communities, not all Arab by any means, fought alongside the Muslims against the European Christians, as they had experienced truly oppressive and inhumane treatment at the hands of the invading Christian hordes.

Doesn’t say much for Ratzy-Boy’s compassion, does it? Or for his scholarship, for that matter…!

Is absolute freedom of speech a realistic aim? 31 July 2006

Posted by TwentyTwoYards in Hypocrisy, World gone mad... or is it just me?.

Continuing the theme of ‘freedom of expression’ I started a few weeks/months/decades ago here , and the theme of copying my comments on other blogs and pretending these are real posts I started here, I post today with some disparate thoughts on the myth around ‘free speech’. This is a myth in two ways:

(a) everyone assumes free speech and freedom of action are inherently good, and represent worthy ideals to pursue in their own right – that’s clearly not the case, and in fact to believe that absolute freedom is a ‘good’ in its own right is an absurdity – it’s merely a means to an end, the end being a stable, just and fair society; and

(b) it is widely believed that the Western nations practice free speech in its absolute sense and the rest should aspire to, and in fact we are lectured and hectored on how we don’t have enough of this freedom.

As I hinted at a few weeks ago in here, the trend in most Western societies is towards fewer freedoms for the individual, and more restrictions on what he may eat and drink and inhale, where he may go, what work he may do, what he may say and even in some cases, what he may think (the most notorious example of the latter being the odious hate crimes legislation in the UK, where any crime becomes much worse not due to its consequences, but merely due to what the perpetrator may have been thinking; so if the Judge decrees the perpetrator had a certain motive / thinking behind the crime, eg a racial motive, the sentence may end up twice as long!).

So these restrictions on the individual, whether in the name of health and safety, or personal welfare, or societal wellbeing, are getting to be ever-present and even all-pervasive in these allegedly free societies – people are no longer free even in the comfort of their own homes, with the blinds drawn and the doors locked…

Despite this, some Muslims, especially those living in the lands of the East, seem enamoured with the chimera of the Western freedoms. Some argue that, for instance, banning books such as the truly vile Rushdie diarrhoea, or the disgusting insults published as “cartoons”, we should merely ignore them. Those who advocate for absolute freedom also sometimes argue that banning anything merely forces it underground, and adds to its allure. Makes sense, no?

No. This is a misleading hypothesis. The argument that “banning something only adds to its allure” can be used by everyone from those arguing for the legalisation of child-porn to those who say that Class A drugs (heroine, cocaine, etc) should be licenced, taxed and dispensed over the counter… at your local supermarket.

On the face of it, this “argument” appears to have some merit: Does banning drugs create a worldwide drugs cartel, making it perhaps the second most lucrative criminal business (after Halliburton, of course ;-)) Yes. Does banning child porn in the end victimise poor, defenseless children in truly horrible and vile ways? Perhaps. Should we legalise both? Never. Why? Because some things are so vile or disturbing that one has to stop them, using the full force of the law if needed.

Merely ignoring such evil is not the sensible nor the decent response. In fact, we are down a slippery slope indeed if we abdicate all our responsibilities to speak up against evil, in the misuigded belief that arguing against it merely gives it the valuable oxygen of publicity. Perhaps it does, but staying silent is worse… as Edmund Burke may, or may not, have said: ” All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing…

Hence, ignoring Rushdie, or Jyllands-Posten was, in my humble submission, not an option, just as ignoring PNAC or the neo-cons would be a dereliction of duty for all serious journalists and bloggers. Of course, I am not condoning violent behaviour of any kind or even unnecessary threats of violence – private individuals have no right to take the law in their own hands. But I am all in favour of condemnation, and other peaceful and polite protest or lobbying – especially when, for instance in the case of Jyllands-Posten, the horrific and oppressive cartoons were part of a much broader narrative of diminishing Muslim rights in Denmark.

In our lighter moments, we may be enticed by the seemingly attractive argument that everyone should have a right to their speech and their views – indeed they should, but then this right is never absolute, is it? Those whose views involve fetishing young children, or propagating murderous fantasies involving defenceless women, find that most countries actually criminalise these very views and statements. Similarly, try praising, or questioning, the official version of the Shoah in most European/Western countries, and one may get a nasty shock. For that matter, the recent avalanche of “anti-terror” legislation in many countries creates and criminalises a whole range of ‘thought-crimes’.

As such, free speech, or even freedom of thought, seems to be far from universal even in the West – those societies have their own sensibilities, their own taboos and their own values, some of which may not make any sense to us Easterners. Given that, I fail to see what’s so wrong about our societies having our own sensibilities and values?

“Freedom of Speech? Only when it suits us…” 11 June 2006

Posted by TwentyTwoYards in Hypocrisy, The 'Zionist Entity'.

The Western world continues its "fine traditions" of supporting free speech by threatening to imprison people who have merely questioned the veracity of the 'received wisdom'; so if you point out the seemingly obvious fact that punishing Group B for the crimes of Group A is neither just nor fair, you are a racist and an evil "anti-Semite". German Zionists, all supporters of "free-speech" no doubt, are planning mass demonstrations at Iran's soccer matches, to protest against the Iranians exercising their right to "free speech". According to The Observer today:

The country's most famous Jewish TV personality, Michel Friedman, will also attend [the protest]. He has threatened to take legal action against Ahmadinejad if he comes to Germany, where Holocaust denial is a criminal offence.

Indeed. Of course, Germany believes in free speech, but only as long as it insults Islam and Muslims, geddit? This is the same Germany where the state of Baden-Württemberg proposed regulations forcing nationality applicants from the member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference* to answer questions about their beliefs and attitudes on homosexuality, domestic violence and other religious issues.  So this all-encompassing Western "freedom of speech" does not even include freedom of belief or thought, let alone of speech.

* Just to clarify, the OIC includes such "hotbeds of Islamist extremism" as Cameroon, Senegal and Sierra Leone.