Uncompromising Freedom of Speech
Jun 28, 2012

Uncompromising Freedom of Speech

A German Salafist Muslim Group (Salafists generally considered an extremist variant of Islam) is causing controversy with a plan to distribute some 25 million German language Korans. That something specific could even be done about this is not clear given the strength of German freedom of expression laws, but this has not stopped their politicians and media from complaining vociferously.

All such issues induce one thought from me: bring it on. The battle for ideas in society ought not to be fought by stifling or complaining about those who offer ideas we disagree with or find repugnant. It is best won by putting the ideas on the table, arguing your respective cases, and letting the best ideas survive as the dominant memes.

The cases for secularism, for pacifism, for inclusiveness, and for empathy are strong. We should not be so scared by the thought of violent religious ideologies that we think our ideas cannot compete and cannot win. Nor that our case is not strong. Nor think that things like veracity of one's arguments don't matter in the grand scheme of things. I am neither particularly scared or perturbed by the idea of a Muslim group trying to aggressively proselytize for their religion.

And so I repeat: bring it on. I don't suggest the battle for ideas is ever easy, but it is a winnable one, and, perhaps more importantly, is the only acceptable tool available to us. Intimidation, coercion, and brainwashing, however effective these tools may be, are simply antithetical to the goals of the secular humanist. I have never been convinced by arguments that we should, for tactical reasons, compromise our principles and, surely, freedom of speech is a core principal to be held.

There is also a strategic argument here. Over the course of history, secularists, skeptics, scientists and the like have been viscously persecuted. The freedoms of speech, expression, and association were hard fought for and hard won. They allow for the publishing of this blog with near complete immunity. Should these freedoms ever be revoked, it is likely that people like me - publicly critical of religions - would be among the first to be censored. We should have zero tolerance for any semblance of erosion of these freedoms - both at the level of tactics and that of ideology - even if those freedoms are being egregiously employed by those we vehemently disagree with. To these people, there is a single response necessary: bring it on.

Thoughts on this post? Comment below!

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Anonymous said...

Groups can donate whatever they wish to the local library. Those interested can come in and browse. However, the choice should be to come in and look, not have someone give you a book you have not asked for. I find this especially true of school settings. Put one or two in the library, but don't hand one to every kid as if it were a text book. In a classroom setting, "choice" is not really present.

bazie said...

You don't, of course, have to accept the book you didn't ask for. And certainly schools and libraries are quite a different situation from people giving out books on the streets.

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