Tuesday, 27 January 2015

In which a former Bradford Lord Mayor Mohammed Ajeeb fails to understand free speech.

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I like Mohammed Ajeeb, he's like the progenitor of Bradford's Pakistani Labour politics and most of the time speaks with wisdom. I did once point out that he knew absolutely nothing about marketing (which was true) and now I will point out that we don't, as he suggests, need a new definition for free speech:

At a human level priding ourselves with ignominy is a camouflage for moral sanctimony. In these extraordinary times when different definitions of freedom of speech are banded about, there is pressing need for a more agreeable new definition. Perhaps this difficult task could best be undertaken by the world organisation like United Nations.

All this is suggested because Ajeeb wants people to stop being rude about the founder of Islam, Mohammed. Now, leaving aside the self-evident fact that Mohammed is pretty dead and clearly not upset by cartoons, there isn't any way in which you can 'redefine' free speech without making it 'not free speech'. This is because the definition is really straightforward - you're allowed to say stuff. The 1st Amendment to the US Constitution is a good guide:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

There you have it, Ajeeb - you can gather, worship, speak and go about your life freely. That is called civilisation and should be our aim - that we place restrictions on speech is because some choose to kick out at peace and freedom, to cry out the you shouldn't be allowed to say that. If we must change it is to banish such people so we can live in a world where speech, worship, assembly and trade are free.

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