Priyamvada Gopal on the Texas Islamist attack:
… are all victims of this contemptible violence automatically courageous?
Yes, they are, if they know full well that they might be provoking violence from the unhinged, not to mention the inevitable lukewarm sympathy they then get from soi-disant free speech ‘supporters’ like yourself.
Are Draw the Prophet contests – organised in this instance by the virulent anti-Islamic campaigner Pamela Geller and attended by the far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders – really the sort of thing for which we defend the hard-won right to speak difficult truths?
Yes. Because if we only agree with freedom of speech for those people saying things we like, we don’t really support free speech at all, do we?
And is standing up to religious fanatics not one of these ‘difficult truths’, Priyamvada?
Or is it only these particular religious fanatics that you wish to see go unchallenged?
The time has come for a more challenging conversation about what makes for the really courageous and truly oppositional. Outcries about free speech that revolve solely around western controversialists and unhinged gunmen declaring insult threaten to narrow our understanding of its value; we are in danger of thinking of all offending speech as brave speech. Without giving quarter to violence even against pubescent graffiti, we must ask what sorts of speech make the defence of freedom of expression truly worthwhile.
Ah! The old chestnut that something – racism, for instance – is only something when it’s from a position of power. You’ve tried this one before, and it didn’t fly then.
Free speech is most precious when it genuinely questions power, when dissent challenges and undermines an unacceptable status quo.
What is the oppositional value of caricaturing religion in a formally secular nation, particularly if the targeted faith is that of a demonised minority who are often pilloried as enemies of the state anyway?
Yes, yes. The aggressors are really the victims. *sighs* Maybe the Christians should have shot the author of ‘Piss Christ’, or burned down the gallery displaying it. Maybe you’d have been writing CiF pieces telling everyone how understandable this was.