West must learn to respect wishes of new Arab leaders [smh.com.au]

Sep 29, 2012

Discussion by: drummo
I was astonished to read this article in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.


In a nutshell, he seems to be saying that 

  1. Some new Arab Leaders don’t like free speech.
  2. In some survey 43 per cent of Americans agree that people should not be allowed to speak offensively about religion in public (I wonder if that’s the same 43% who believe that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.”  (Gallup 2007)). 

Therefore we shouldn’t have free speech. He then quotes the  incredible statement “If the international community has criminalised bodily harm, it must just as well criminalise psychological and spiritual harm.” as evidence for his conclusion.

I just don’t know what to say. I assume this guy is quite ok with Galileo being locked up by the Church, such a shame they couldn’t lock Darwin up as well.

I hope the letter writers give this fool the (metaphorical) caning he deserves.

39 comments on “West must learn to respect wishes of new Arab leaders [smh.com.au]

  • 1
    Andrew B. says:

    Page Not Found.

    We could not find the page you requested.

    This is either because:

    there’s an error in the address or link,due to a technical fault it has not been properly published,it is an older article that has been removed from our site OR we’re deeply embarrassed to be associated with the dope that produced this dreck.

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  • The link suffix should read … ‘.html’. Add an extra ‘l’ to the htm.

    Popular opinion surveys are not usually helpful. Even if their methodology is good, which it seldom is. People’s stated opinions are not as tangible and static as some assume, and not always linked directly to beliefs.  The control comparison must be against the opinions of people who would like to eat their cake and have it too.

    If you normalise popular opinion data to a known reference point, like where obviously irrational nonsense is neutrally meaningless, then you might find you’d need a positive response of say 80 to 90%  in favour of a proposition to indicate any residual significance. 43% might be significantly less than this relative reference point. So, adjusting for responses from people who even understand the question and are not just conforming as some kind of automatic social response, the response obtained might just as easily indicate that most people disagree with the proposition.

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  • 4
    Jabarkis says:

    Isn’t there an unbelievable irony in lauding the appearance of the new leaders “as genuine representatives of their people” – in other words, democratically elected – when voting is a form of free expression? It wouldn’t take much to claim that voting was blasphemous (Islamic scholars are divided on the permissibility of democracy), especially when it went against parties like the Muslim Brotherhood. 

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  • 6
    SomersetJohn says:

    I would take rather (or, more accurately, slightly,) more notice of these new leaders intention to demand more respect for all religions when all Islamic leaders, secular and religious,  in one voice, declare that all religions share equal validity with Islam.

    I shall not be holding my breath ’till this happens.

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  • 7
    nick keighley says:

    Well actually I don’t think we should be offensive to religions. I think it’s simply rude. That doesn’t excuse the outrageous behaviour seen in so many muslim countries but I think te initial offence was wrong. And no, I am not a 6K creationist.

    Criticism yes, offensiveness no. Didn’t your parents teach you manners?

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  • Hi Nick,

    What if your criticisms are taken as offensiveness? This seems to be the problem for me; This taking of offence appears to be a one way street, unfortunately.

    “Should we in the west remove any and all criticism of Islam from western media, internet, religious texts etc?”

    “Yes! Of course you should! This instant!”

    “Okay… and you’ll be removing any criticism of other religions, and, indeed, people of no belief, from your media, religious texts etc’?”

    “Behead those who insult the holy Qur’an!”

    It does really seem to be like this.

    We may see this angle as one being pushed by ‘Mad Mullah’s’ and ‘Extremists’ looking to aggravate popular opinion, and I do take the time to explain that there are plenty of similar idiots this side of the divide who do very similar things to these whackjobs.

    The trouble is – and I suppose this is my point, I’m really struggling to remain polite amidst all this fuckwittery, irrationality, and illogical thought.


    [Edited to re-spell ‘Qur’an’ in a less offensive manner.]

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  • Someone should fix the link, it goes to a page not found error. I think the problem may be with the “htm” ending, needs an “l”. 

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  • 11
    ZenDruid says:

    It’s not blasphemy (nor is it ‘racist’) to call an asshole an asshole.  Many assholes tend to gravitate toward religious leadership roles, and claim immunity from criticism by their association thereto.

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  • 14
    Saganic Rites says:

    Proving the non-existence of God. If the Almighty really did exist then by now Hitch would have harrangued / shamed / got It pissed and fooled It into putting a stop to all the bollocks carried out in Its name.

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  • 15
    mmurray says:

     Well actually I don’t think we should be offensive to religions.

    That sounds fine until you ask what is offensive and who gets to decide it.  Was Salman Rushdie offensive ?  Is it offensive to write an article asking if Mohammed was a paedophile ?  Was The Last Temptation of Christ offensive ? Was Piss Christ offensive ?  Was Life of Brian offensive? Are Dave Allen, the Monty Python Team and Rowan Atkinson all blasphemers ? Unless you have a very tightly controlled definition of offensive then you basically hand your opposition an excuse to close down criticism whenever they want to.   You can make a definition of hate speech as speech intended to inspire hatred of a group of people but it won’t be anywhere near strong enough for those who want to “Behead All Those Who Insult the Prophet.”


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  • 16
    Neodarwinian says:

     Some of us in the West are awfully slow learners!

     ” “If the international community has criminalised bodily harm, it
    must just as well criminalise psychological and spiritual harm.” as
    evidence for his conclusion. “

    Fallacy of the false comparison. Also begs the question. What constitutes this psychological and spiritual harm?  Undoubtedly the new Arab leaders will inform us of this as soon as they can!

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  • 17
    mmurray says:

      What constitutes this psychological and spiritual harm?  


    It’s tempting to agree to this and then get all religions closed down because of the psychological damage they cause.


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  • 18
    hellosnackbar says:

    Good point Michael,
    It will be foolish to acquiesce in the notion that one should not be rude to Mohammedans.
    They are very sensitive to ridicule of Mo the desert bandit and Allah the imaginary.
    I believe it’s time to turn up the ridicule to restrict them to their ridiculous field of fantasy and violence.
    They have this amazing propensity to conflate hate and contempt.

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  • 19
    hellosnackbar says:

    Absolutely Drummo there’s a definite dogma of acceptance of an Arabian 7th century religious culture.
    Despite the evidence that it’s a violent fascist movement whose members believe that Allah has told them to convert the world by any means.
    The alliance between Musloids and leftist politically correct sociologists makes me nauseous .

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  • “The alliance between Musloids and leftist politically correct sociologists makes me nauseous “.Me too! Even though I consider myself on the left of most issues.  I find it strange that those who say they care about human rights cannot bring themselves to condemn such an illiberal ideological system. 

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  • 21
    odalrich says:

    I don’t know the guy who wrote this article, but it’s a small sample of mind totalitarianism that is not a phenomenon that affects only the Muslim world, it is spreading throughout the West. I think this attitude is the product of a misplaced political correctness. Everyone has been taught that body injury causes pain or death to a person. But are opinions psychological or spiritual harm that should be criminalized? And if so, who commits the crime? Me? My next door neighbour? My grocer? The Western leader or the Arab (new) leader. In school I was taught how to hold the knife and fork when eating; we were punished when we didn’t do it properly. If I see somebody eating with chopsticks, am I being psychologically harmed? I don’t understand the nonsense of some journalists.

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  •  “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are
    injurious to others. It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there
    are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my

    Thomas Jefferson


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  • 23
    Saganic Rites says:

    To be sung to the tune of the chorus in My Bonnie lies over the ocean

    Islam, Islam,
    Religion of tolerant peace are we.
    Islam, Islam,
    We’ll kill you if you disagree.

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  • 24
    DanDare says:

    Your “In a nutshell” does not correspond to the actual article. You have put words in the author’s mouth.

    From the article “This is not to say that the West must cave in to Arab demands to
    criminalise blasphemy. But patience and a preparedness to work with,
    rather than against, the new leaders as they attempt to bed down
    democracy amid chaos could pay dividends when, say, Egypt’s President
    Mohammed Mursi moves on his stated wish to rewrite aspects of Cairo’s
    peace treaty with Israel.”

    And the bit about new Arab leaders “The greater test is for the West. After decades of happily making the
    rights and aspirations of ordinary Arabs subservient to global demands
    for energy and ”stability”, which the likes of Hillary Clinton, the US
    Secretary of State, clung to until minutes before last year’s collapse
    of the Mubarak regime, the West now needs to be more respectful of the
    demands of the Arab masses as expressed by their newly accountable

    He was not saying we have to agree to blasphemy laws, but that they have some legitimate complaints to make.

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  • 25
    Papalinton says:

    What? No comments section in the SMH?

    I guess that is one way of either stifling or controlling debate and curtailing any reasoned challenge of a few of the assertions made in McGeoch’s article. So much for freedom of speech?

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  • 26
    This Is Not A Meme says:

    So far my favorite point here.

    I believe Jewish circumcision is a barbaric relic of rape as a war tactic. It’s genital mutilation and I find it deeply immoral, reducing children to chattel and altering their intimate lives for life. I respect people who disagree and recognize my views as radical or extreme. That’s as charitable as I can get, and I do not wish to offend religious sensibilities, but it does.

    This view is considered antisemitic by some, and though incorrect I can sympathize. Should we live by the feelings of the most easily butthurt?

    We persecute should cults from existence through education. This means exposing how ludicrous and evil they are. Should Moonies and Scientologists be immune to the harshest of criticisms? How about White Nationalism, which many adherents see as a religion.

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  • 27
    afrobright says:

    I wonder why religious feelings are valued more than say the feelings of a cannabis user. I can’t respect religious feelings, they are infantile. An adult who has learned to reason must leave these feelings behind. These reactions to supposed insults and offences are a calculated means to oppress other views. This is fascism, nothing less.

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  • 28
    PERSON says:

    Bear in mind that most leaders don’t like free speech, full stop. Those that say they do simply know that the alternative is unacceptable to the people who elect them or refrain from deposing them. Further, there are subtler methods of oppressing speech, and certainly of preventing speech from being heard, that aren’t technically violations of free speech, which is part of why (US constitutional) free speech isn’t quite all it’s cracked up to be.

    If you believe in democracy, and the people of the Arab countries do not yet value or understand the importance of free speech (this is not well-established except for a vocal minority, to be fair, but the cause doesn’t seem to have strong support), or they perhaps think that it doesn’t need to be absolute, then I think your response should not be fearmongering about the new leaders (for all their flaws, most of them fairly universal in leaders), but working out how to persuade people in that region of its importance. Egotistical demonstrations of how much free speech you have– rather than explanations of why you value it– seem counter-productive in this respect.

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  • 29
    PERSON says:

    True. The question is whether that would be rejected. Islam is not the only thing impinging on the minds of the Arab electorate.

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  • 30
    PERSON says:

    Or to put it another way, more detailed questions are needed to find out what people actually think. c.f. the survey of people in the UK who call themselves Christian vs their stated beliefs.

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  • 31
    PERSON says:

    I don’t think that’s quite right. Egypt, in particular, has historically repressed religious displays such as veiling, and more recently of anything that disagreed with the government, including radical Islamist opinion. The press was routinely censored, and that included removing anti-American (and so, surely, anti-Christian? Then again, there was a certain amount of anti-Israel populist rhetoric, so that doesn’t necessary follow) content. Further, “behead” type statements are not typical, though of course that doesn’t mean they aren’t a concern.

    The previous regime was funded and supported by the US. It’s easy to see how someone could be convinced that the US was similarly oppressive, and that talk of free-speech is just propaganda (indeed it is, to some extent). If you believe that, then allowing offensive material would seem to be an act of deliberate negligence by the US. It’s nuts, but it’s quite different from how you characterize it.

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  • 32
    amy.l.watson.5 says:

    Why do people continually refer to ‘people getting offended’ as “psychological and physical harm”. Nothing happens when you get offended… except the individuals response of course and since when did a civilised society condone an irrational and disproportionate response to ‘being offended’.

    I was under the impression that offending someone’s religion means that their God gets angry and will punish the ‘blasphemer’. If their faith was strong enough why would they not just relax and allow their God to dish out divine justice rather then limiting ‘criticism’ and freedom of speech.

    It’s (almost) funny that people are trying to gauge offensiveness and apply it to law when it is clearly the individual receiving that ‘offence’ that invents the harm that they have received. 

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  • 33
    nick keighley says:

    “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are
    injurious to others. It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there
    are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my

    Thomas Jefferson

    I fail to see the relevance.

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  • The other day I was debating with a Muslim friend of mine (yes he can debate) when he asked what is wrong with Sharia Law pertaining to Freedom of Speech etc. Essentially he was arguing that it would be good for the west. I replied that pretty much everything Sharia brings to the table the West has already tried throughout history. Slavery, oppression of women, curtailing freedom of speech, all been tried and well failed in fact we are better off since we got rid of those things. He really had no come back to it and the debate digressed. 

    Thank God for atheists. 

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  • What I read was: “reinstate blasphemy laws everywhere”
    No topic should be protected from criticism, especially religion.
    Religion has so many ridiculous stories and claims that it only deserves to be mocked and ridiculed.If people were not to speak about things that are offensive then that’s the end of free speech isn’t it, there’s always someone who finds something offensive, I for example find religion offensive, so
    they should stop speaking about god in public.
    I think they should just grow a thicker skin.

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  • It is really an issue about how much right do we have to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, and what sorts of interference are valid.

    The original idea was it was none of your business. I think we are evolving to think of the world as like a giant federation, and protecting the basic rights of individuals are a concern of us all.

    At this point my thinking goes like this, if a group of people want to live under a theocracy, they have a right to, but they do not have a right to persecute people, unless those people agree they deserve persecution, e.g. murderers, blasphemers …. or are causing harm to the citizens.

    I think it is completely fair in any case to try to convince people to give up nutty beliefs and bad behaviour. 

    The first human who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization.
    ~ Sigmund Freud 1856-05-06 1939-09-23

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  • I wrote a free Java computer program called BrokenLinks to check links, and recheck links, (because they often go pear shaped just for a day or two) and report on dead ones. Though the program itself is quick, the catch is it takes an enormous amount of time to manually research to find replacement links or to remove references to them and the surrounding text.  I spend about 30 minutes a day doing this just to keep my own website up to date. 

    Happily sometimes websites give you a forwarding link automatically when a link it about to be discontinued. These can be repaired semi-automatically.

    I ran the program on the http://www.richarddawkins.net site and sent the results to the moderators.  This list of broken links was so huge they felt overwhelmed, and decided not to even attempt repairs until the new website was thoroughly settled.

    It saves the webmaster enormous amounts of time if when you find a broken link you research the replacement and include that in the report.

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  • The very notion of blasphemy is based on the religious idea that speech has magic power.  It is just a pattern of sound or letters. The ability it has to change the emotional state of the listener depends on the processing algorithms the listener employs.  You can’t harm a human with a sentence unless you utter one he has internally designated as “get me mad/sad when you hear this”.

    I think we need to teach people that reacting to any speech is optional. We should teach people how to decondition themselves. We should put more and more of the responsibility for the outrage on the listener.

    c.f. George Carlin’s seven dirty words you cannot say on TV

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