As-Sunnah Vol. 2 Issue No. 9


Europe understands limits to free-speech

    As the controversy raged, a few more European newspapers reprinted the cartoons, supposedly to express their solidarity for the freedom of speech – but this action of theirs appears more about monetary opportunism by near-bankrupt newspapers. Likewise, the websites that were setup to publicize the cartoons were in reality selfish attempts at earning advertisement revenues and an opportunity to sell stickers, T-shirts and coffee mugs. May Allah never give them success.

    As for the lawmakers in Europe, they are well aware of the dangers of hate-speech, which is why they have legislation in this regard. The Danish government, for instance, maintains that it cannot interfere with its free press, while at the same time their constitution states, ‘The law prohibits publicly disseminated statements, which threaten, insult, or degrade persons based on their religion.’ – and this law is enacted upon to condemn ‘anti-Semitic’ activities and investigate them, as mentioned in the human rights report made by the US Department of State regarding Denmark in 2004: ‘From January through June, there were five incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism, primarily graffiti, and one incident of an anti-Semitic mailing, which the government condemned and investigated.’ [Something Is Rotten in the State of Denmark, Tarek Mishkhas, Arab News]

    Likewise in other parts of Europe that boast of freedom of speech, it is illegal and punishable by prison for anyone to question the holocaust or brandish Nazi symbols in public. A university professor in France was sacked because he made a research questioning the magnitude of the Holocaust. At present at least 4 well known historians are currently in prison in Germany and Austria for writing and speaking about the Holocaust, and the latest historian to be sentenced for 3 years in February 2006 is the British national, David Irving, because he denied that the Nazis killed six million Jews, and said those who died succumbed to diseases. Therefore, it surely makes more sense for the champions of free-speech to challenge this censorship, than to experiment with the sanctities of Islam.

    Europe’s sensitivity to offensive speech and expression extends beyond that which offends religious groups. In December of 2005, a series of posters marking the Austrian republic's 60th anniversary were put up in the capital Vienna, and were part of the government-funded project called ‘25 pieces’. Some of these posters depicted nude models wearing masks of Jacques Chirac, Queen Elizabeth and George Bush in sexual positions. These posters created an outrage in Austria and were asked to be removed. The Austrian chancellor, Wolfgang Schussel, condemned these posters as ‘highly tasteless’, He said, ‘It has nothing to do with art… The borders of good taste and reasonableness have been crossed by a long way’. It should be noted that while nudity in itself is not a problem in these societies, yet the majority of Austrians found the posters as harmful to their nation’s relations with the other western nations, and therefore they did not accept the argument of ‘artistic freedom of expression’. The posters were seen by the majority of Austrians as offensive, tasteless and nothing more then pornography. Surely, no one likes to be at the receiving end of the others ‘free speech’.

    But then again where is this sound judgment, when condemning similar outrages against Islam, like the action of the one who made a short-movie showing naked women with semi-transparent shrouds praying while the Qur’aan is recited and their bodies are painted with Qur’aanic verses in Arabic. This too is offensive, tasteless and nothing more then pornography.
    Is there no better way to highlight a social problem, except by insulting the religious scriptures of the Muslims, ridiculing God and mocking the veil? This is neither good advice, nor is it freedom of expression but primitive, vulgar criticism, in line with Scandinavia’s crude porn-culture.

Taken from As-Sunnah Newsletter -


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