Displaying items by tag: free speech
Hatun Tash preaches Christianity at Speakers’ Corner, but when she criticises Islam she is assaulted. Police have warned her it is dangerous for her to speak there. Some Muslims want to kill her. But she feels called to preach to Muslims. Her provocative style effectively attracts attention, and people listen. When she wore a T-shirt with a cartoon of Mohammad on it, she was mobbed, arrested, and carried into a police van, to the cheers of the many Muslims nearby. Cartoons of any other figures would be within the bounds of free speech. Only under sharia law would a cartoon of Muhammad be prohibited. One Muslim suggested that ‘wearing that T-shirt is a breach of the peace’.
Rupa Huq MP raised the topic of buffer zones at abortion clinics, to help protect women who attend clinics from intimidation, saying the bill was about women being able to present themselves for healthcare, not abortion. Fiona Bruce responded, ‘Such a law would damage free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, the right to protest peaceably, and the right to receive information’. The comments were part of a ten-minute rule bill, where a backbench MP makes the case for a new bill and another MP can oppose it. They rarely become law but bring publicity to an issue. This bill passed, but is not guaranteed further Parliament debating time unless the Government chooses to make it progress. The bill’s demands are not around abortion, but are about women presenting themselves for healthcare without intimidation.
Finnish MP Päivi Räsänen was chair of the Christian Democrats from 2004 to 2015; as interior minister she had responsibility for church affairs. On 2 March she faced a police investigation because of a tweet she posted last year directed at the leadership of her church, questioning its sponsorship of the LGBT event ‘Pride 2019’, and quoting a Bible text. After a lengthy police interview last November, she now faces a second interrogation about a pamphlet she wrote 16 years ago on human sexuality for a Christian foundation. These sorts of cases create a culture of fear and censorship and are becoming common throughout Europe. In a free society, everyone should be allowed to share their beliefs without fear of censorship. Finland has a number of laws to regulate speech, including the ‘ethnic agitation’ law which carries a prison sentence of up to two years.
In the last hours of Theresa May's administration, the Government appointed Imam Qari Asim as an adviser on Islamophobia. Earlier this year he indicated that he would support laws banning speech that Muslims find offensive. He argued that although Muslims should obey the law of the land most of the time, he would like the law to accommodate Islamic ideas. For example, he would like to see polygamy legalised, and inheritance to favour male heirs in line with sharia principles. He also supports Islamic finance with its radical view that interest should be banned, and has backed Pakistani radical cleric Khadim Rizvi who supported the death penalty for Aasia Bibi. Although the government has ruled out adopting the Islamophobia definition, many believe his appointment raises even more concerns for free speech.