I promise that at some point I will stop mentioning alt.religion.scientology, but in these early days of this Blog, a lot of what has inspired me to branch out, comes from posting in that particular forum.
Despite or perhaps because of ARS’s history of criticism of the Church of $cientology; sometimes known as the Church of Eternal Litigation; there has been a history of cross posting to that particular group from all manner of other groups. The themes cross posted vary considerably, and many might be described as nutty in the extreme, often bordering on the incoherent. Many of these are completely ignored by the majority, of the eminently sensible posters on ARS. Usually this includes myself, I can’t pretend however that I am not: an opinionated so and so, because frankly I am. And sometimes some things irritate me and I just have to respond.
One such ongoing theme has been the posting of anti-Islamic rhetoric. Two things that have really irritated me about this has been the holier than thou attitude of some posters who claim a Christian perspective, and completely ignore Christianity’s less than glowing record: and the huge amount of generalisation that these anti-Islamic posters seem to make.
Most recently the particular focus of this rhetoric, has been the acquittal of Geert Wilders, by a court in the Netherlands, on charges of inciting hatred against Muslims. Now the argument Wilders defence made was that Wilders critique concerned the ideology of Islam, and could not be construed as inciting hatred since it focused on the ideology of Islam, not Muslims. The court agreed, though the published opinion gave the distinct impression that the decision was a close run thing, describing Wilders comments as, “gross and denigrating”.
Personally I think that the verdict was correct, people sometimes say distasteful things, but unfortunately this is one of the down sides of a free society, on the up side, it keeps the nutters out in the open where we at least know what they are up to, rather than leaving them to spread their bile in ’tavern whispers’ as my grandfather would have called them. However it is also useful to remind them that there is a boundary to freedom of speech. And when someone floats too close to it that the issue, will be tested.
As might be expected, following the verdict, the anti-Islamic lobby began it’s crowing: Victory for free speech, Victory for western values, Victory for the critics of Islam. And the compulsory: Defeat for the Liberal idiots, Defeat for evil Islam, Defeat of anti-free speech activists. (I’m not certain there were any of those involved, but that kind of thing doesn’t seem to fit into anti-Islamists world view) One post even descended into quoting, Mel Gibson’s imagined speech of William Wallace when fighting William Longshanks, (What Wallace actually said was never written down). To say that there was a little spin involved would be the understatement of the century. From the tone of these pieces one might imagine those bringing the prosecution had been condemned by the bench of Judges for attempting a prosecution. Anti-Islamists seem unable to recognise how similar they seem to the extremists they oppose, and who they imagine all Muslims to be like.
Despite the ongoing Rhetoric, one phrase leaps to mind concerning, this particular verdict, ‘Damned with faint praise.’
In their campaign the anti-Islamists make great play of some kind of attempt to gag free speech, talking of, ‘prohibitions,’ describing the prosecution of Wilders as motivated by hate. The response to accusations of prejudice has been to claim that criticism of Islam has nothing to do with race, despite a number of comments about people of ‘non-western’ appearance being responsible for certain types of crime. This seems to sail very close to the wind on the issue of race to me.
In all this what I find most worrying, is the attempt to identify a few vocal, radical, and by their own claim, violent Islamic preachers and writers, as wholly representative of all Muslims in the world. Yet seem completely unable to recognise that this would be the same as saying that because the Phelps Family , revealed by Louis Theroux‘s on his Weird Weekends documentary series, “Thank God for dead soldiers”, and carry placards saying “Fags die – God laughs”, that this is the opinion of all Christians.
In all of the self aggrandisement of the anti-Islamists following this verdict there is an attempt by them to suppress an important piece of information. All the jubilation and cries of victory, all the ‘Yah, Boo’ playground antics draw attention away from the damming nature of the acquittal.
The bench described Wilders comments as “gross and denigrating”, not as a considered, critical evaluation but, “gross and denigrating”. I hope that in the end that this will be remembered, rather than the irrational rants of this particular incarnation of the prejudiced.