POSTED BY Sundeep Dougal ON Feb 17, 2009 AT 19:00 IST ,  Edited At: Feb 17, 2009 19:00 IST

Johann Hari in the Huffington Post on l'affaire The Statesman:

... Every word I wrote was true. I believe the right to openly discuss religion, and follow the facts wherever they lead us, is one of the most precious on earth -- especially in a democracy of a billion people riven with streaks of fanaticism from a minority of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. So I cannot and will not apologize.

...The protesters said I deliberately set out to "offend" them, and I am supposed to say that, no, no offence was intended. But the honest truth is more complicated. Offending fundamentalists isn't my goal -- but if it is an inevitable side-effect of defending human rights, so be it. If fanatics who believe Muslim women should be imprisoned in their homes and gay people should be killed are insulted by my arguments, I don't resile from it. Nothing worth saying is inoffensive to everyone.

...The argument that I was "asking for it" seems a little like saying a woman wearing a short skirt is "asking" to be raped. Or, as Salman Rushdie wrote when he received far, far worse threats simply for writing a novel (and a masterpiece at that): "When Osip Mandelstam wrote his poem against Stalin, did he 'know what he was doing' and so deserve his death? When the students filled Tiananmen Square to ask for freedom, were they not also, and knowingly, asking for the murderous repression that resulted? When Terry Waite was taken hostage, hadn't he been 'asking for it'?" When fanatics threaten violence against people who simply use words, you should not blame the victim.

The solution to the problems of free speech -- that sometimes people will say terrible things -- are always and irreducibly more free speech. If you don't like what a person says, argue back. Make a better case. Persuade people. The best way to discredit a bad argument is to let people hear it. I recently interviewed the pseudo-historian David Irving, and simply quoting his crazy arguments did far more harm to him than any Austrian jail sentence for Holocaust Denial.

More of this must-read piece here

POSTED BY Sundeep Dougal ON Feb 17, 2009 AT 19:00 IST ,  Edited At: Feb 17, 2009 19:00 IST
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Daily Mail
Feb 19, 2009
05:21 PM
Agree fully. Don't apologize. It is stupid to say "I did not mean to hurt anyones feelings but if I did (inadvertently of course), I apologize".

Free Speech has to be an absolute concept as far as law is concerned. Society can come to an understanding and have unwritten codes (not law) of what is acceptable and what is not? But the law must give me the right to say freely and the other guy to also respond freely (including suing me for what I have but without destroying/threatening life, limb and property).

"They have been charged -- in the world's largest democracy, with a constitution supposedly guaranteeing a right to free speech -- with "deliberately acting with malicious intent to outrage religious feelings". I am told I too will be arrested if I go to Calcutta."

This Indian law is stupid. It comes from the mindset of the governing class (since the feudal and colonial days) that the governed adults are actually childish and need to be protected with a parental approach. It also comes from the fact that in 3rd world countries, the governing class fail to implement basic laws of not allowing folks to destroy life, limb and property as it is easier to arrest a person for just using words however hateful they might or might not be. As opposed to dealing with a mob (including some powerful religious/political/social leaders) who indulge in acts of destruction (by and large wanton).

Essentially, you have poor rule of law to start with and then you make laws, trying to make up for it but ironically make rule of law even more poorer.
Arun Maheshwari
Bangalore, India
Feb 17, 2009
08:59 PM
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