"Supposed" freedom of speech

This in effect is a response to the few comments that were typed or were told to me about my previous post, touching on “supposed” freedom of speech.

A few valid arguments were raised, albeit a few issues overlooked. I was reminded that novelists and script writers twist history for the purpose of entertainment, examples given were Alexander,Troy, Braveheart etc.

There is no proper historic evidence which takes precedence over other evidences in imposing a definite story in any one of the above mentioned instances. Alexander,Troy or any of the other ones have various historians giving their own opinion, and description of what happened. Hence todays writer is at relative liberty to manipulate history to suit his whims and fancies, and thereby use them for the purpose of entertainment.

Where as in the story of Ayesha, there is very well documented evidence of what happened, to the extent that each and every incident or story related about her is held by a chain of narrators, i.e is C tells something about Ayesha saying he heard it from B who heard it from A and so on. If at any point there is a narrator in the chain of narration whose honesty or reliability is at question then that incident is deemed as not completely accurate or authentic. Such is the amount of care that has been taken in documenting her story, therefor it doesn’t give liberty to writers to manipulate facts as and when they want, and to do so is only to disrespect immorally what many a scribe before painstakingly took efforts to preserve.

But that apart, I see a question of ethics intervening in this debate between merely freedom of expression or Absolute freedom of expression.
Nobody has an absolute right to freedom, absolute right to freedom would be like “wandurata deli pihiya dunna wagey”, giving a monkey a razor blade.

A newspaper is not a monastery, its mind blind to the world and deaf to reaction. Every square area of published print reflects the views of its writers and the judgment of its editors. In every single issue or reprint, newspapers decide on the balance of audacity, offence, taste, discretion and ruthlesness. They must decide who is to be allowed a voice and who not. They are curbed by libel laws, common decency and their own sense of what is acceptable to readers. Speech is free only when there is no one to read them, everything els is editing. Try putting an obscene or inflammatory comment on the online version of the daily mirror and see how far you get.

Despite the global populations secularist robust attitude to religion, no publisher in fear of repercussions would accomodate an articulation suggesting obscenity by the Virgin Mary, or lampoon the Holocaust.

Pictures of bodies are not carried if they are likely to be seen by family members. Privacy and dignity are respected, such restraint is more often than not unknown to the readers who just devour what is given to them, but over every page roams a censor honoured by the title of editor.

Islam is an ancient and dignified religion. Like Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism or the like its teaching can be variously interpreted and used for bloodthirsty ends, but in itself Islam has purity and simplicity. Part of that purity lies in its abstraction and part of that abstraction is repugnance to icons.

Sherry Jones must have known that a depiction of Aishah as promiscuous will offend Muslims. It is plain dumb to claim such blasphemy as just a joke concordant with the western way of life. Better claim it as intentionally savage, since that was how it was bound to seem. To adapt Shakespeare, what to a Christian “is but a choleric word”, to a Muslim is flat blasphemy.

I once read somewhere that in Baghdad airport an otherwise respectable Iraqi woman go completely hysterical when an American guard set his sniffer dog, an “unclean” animal, on her copy of the Quran. The soldier swore at her: “Oh for Christ’s sake, shut up!” She was baffled that he cited Christ in defence of what he had done.

Offending an opponent has long been a feature of polemics, just as challenging the boundaries of taste has been a feature of art. It is rightly surrounded by legal and ethical moats. These include the laws of libel and slander and concepts such as fair comment, right of reply and not stirring racial hatred. None of them is absolute. All rely on the exercise of judgment by those in positions of power. All rely on that protective cover of democracy, tolerance of the feelings of others. This was encapsulated by Lord Clark in his defining quality of civilisation: courtesy.

The best defence of free speech can only be to curb its excess and respect its courtesy.

And btw, I was not at all emotionally victimised by the utterances in the book, just felt I should make things more clear since I felt my previous post on the topic may have been ambiguous.

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