Today is kinda a mish-mash based on emails I have received regarding the blog and themes I should discuss, particularly in response to my postings on Iran.
The most interesting question was “what about the Taliban’s or Al-Qaeda’s freedom of speech?” So here is my attempt to address this.
To start, what limits are there upon freedom of speech? The most obvious ones are you cannot do things that could bring eminent harm to others (shouting “fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire); Then in the US and many other countries there are restrictions upon hate-speech. A less pervasive yet, to me, more insidious form of restricting on freedom of speech is the belief that you will be persecuted for a legitimate belief, typically religious.
This brings me to one of today’s headlines, that France’s Sarkozy has spoken out against wearing the burka. To a certain extent I agree with him, but in others I do not. In this case, if the woman is willing and cognizant of what the burka is, and voluntarily wears it, I am fine with it. However, if she is forced to wear it, then I stand against it.
It does strike me as ironic that Sarkozy calls the burka “a sign of subservience”, when Islam does mean “surrender”. At what point does a woman’s right of free speech become disallowed in the public sphere? At one point women across most of the West wore full body dresses that covered as far as their ankles, and showing one’s ankle was considered improper.
Now on to Afghanistan, the Taliban, and Al-Qaeda.
The list of the Taliban’s excesses is almost too long to list. For me, two that have lingered in my memory are the destruction of the ancient Buddhas of Bamiyan, and then a friend’s story of the horrors he had seen in the streets of his own town. I will not recount what he has told me, for the mental images are very disturbing.
Why do I think that the Taliban need to be rooted out? First, is their numerous crimes against people; second is their intolerance of other beliefs; third is the instability being created in Pakistan; and fourth is their support of terrorists, namely Al-Qaeda.
Free speech is an inherent right, but it ends when it comes to inciting people to violence. To this regard, the Taliban is no better than any other group of thugs who impose their will through violence, hatred and destruction. They encourage others in their intolerant views towards other religions. And perhaps, to myself, most critically, they provide or have provided support and succor to Al-Qaeda.
I will not deny that some of Osama bin Laden’s arguments might be true regarding the US. However, it is his actions against America and the slaughter of innocent civilians in the pursuit of what he deems “justice” that give lie to his actions in supporting the poor. They are used as tools to fuel his version of hated against the rest of the world.
Osama’s views that civilians, women, children, and other Muslims are eligible targets for death are particularly abhorrent. There is never any excuse for killing civilians. Sometimes they are an unintended casualty of war, and this is always regrettable. However, it is the rare case when soldiers, such as the American soldiers in combat theaters, purposefully and clear-mindedly assault and kill civilians. The public reaction to this has always been clear in America – it is not a correct action to take.
In this way, do we exhibit our rights to free speech. One does not have to agree with wars to support the soldiers. One can agree with what they do, while still being chilled by the actions of a select few. However, it is never right to let intolerance, hatred and abhorrence breed. Regardless if it takes the guise of “free speech”, the burka, or foreign governments, it must be addressed directly and not allowed to spread.