terça-feira, 10 de julho de 2007

Johann Hari: «Free speech must apply even to the odious»


Late last year, I was invited on to a discussion on the Islam Channel with a man called Sajad Khan, who is a prominent member of Hizb ut-Tahrir. He had a nasal East London accent and a bluff populist style, talking about the "persecution" of Muslims here in Britain and offering pensive warnings of "cameras in people's bedrooms and bathrooms".
He started by attacking "secular liberal fundamentalism" which he said wanted to "impose" on Muslims "an alien way of life". I replied that secular liberalism is precisely the opposite of fundamentalism and imposition. We want you to be free to choose your own way of life, as long as it doesn't harm anybody else. If you want to spend all day in a mosque worshipping a God we don't believe in, we'll fight to the death to defend your right to do it. If you want to spend all day at an orgy, we'll fight to the death to defend your right to do that too.

But while secular liberals will defend your right to live your way, Hizb ut-Tahrir will defend your right to live one way - their way. I started citing articles of their constitution to prove this point. Article Seven says any Muslim who changes their mind about their religion should be killed. Sajad slithered around the subject.

This is "a stereotype", he said. Really? It's a stereotype to read your own constitution? Then he spluttered: "There are another 106 articles of the constitution, why don't you read them?" Because this one involves murdering vast numbers of innocent people, for starters. In the end he had to resort to ludicrous straw men: "You say we live in a liberal utopia here ..."


I think this row, in its own tiny way, offers some signposts for the Cameron-sparked debate about whether Hizb ut-Tahrir should be banned. Any organisation that plans imminent violence within Britain should of course be outlawed: al-Muhajaroun plainly fell into that category. The only legitimate restriction on free speech is where it involves a direct incitement to kill.


A true victory over Hizb ut-Tahrir will not come through banning them. It will come from ensuring that every one of their meetings is greeted by a picket of Muslim liberals and Muslim women - people like Ed Hussain - declaring loud and proud that when "they denounce Britain as a brothel and call for a Caliphate, they do it Not In My Name."»

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