If not free speech then what?

Free speech is absolutely vital for the sort of society in which I wish to live. I want a society where ideas can be freely exchanged, where they are judged on their merits alone and not on who supports or derides them. If we do not have freedom of speech then there can not even be debate on any other issue. This is something I’ve tried to defend throughout the history of this blog, whether it was calling out France for outlawing opinions, the UK for arresting people for harmlessly expressing their views or just arguing against offence being something we should be protected from. Now I need to do it again. Continue reading

Necessary criticism is not “Islamophobia”

There have been a long string of articles recently that have accused atheists, particularly the big names in atheism, of being Islamophobic:

Conversations about the practical impossibility of God’s existence and the science-based irrationality of an afterlife slid seamlessly into xenophobia over Muslim immigration or the practice of veiling. The New Atheists became the new Islamophobes, their invectives against Muslims resembling the rowdy, uneducated ramblings of backwoods racists rather than appraisals based on intellect, rationality and reason.

There are too many articles and too many angles of attack for me to read them all and respond here, however I’d point you to this post on Why Evolution is True which has rebuttals for 7 of the complaints raised in the articles. Continue reading

Quick links: Dawkins, religious freedom, blasphemy

It’s been a bit too long since I last posted but I just haven’t been finding time to write, today for example my Japanese started again and I never got around to all the revision I wanted to do. I do have some posts in mind but they take some time to write so to prevent this blog from stagnating I’m posting a few links to some things that you might find interesting.

First up there’s an interview with Richard Dawkins over in Playboy. It’s not the usual place you go for interviews with a well-known scientist and atheist but it does quite a good job.

Then just when I was finishing my post on religious freedom I came upon a similar piece written by Peter Singer. I’ve heard a lot about him but I haven’t seen any of his books in the shops.

Lastly I’ll share a piece about the effects of blasphemy laws. An 11-year-old girl from Pakistan could face the death penalty for supposedly burning a Qur’an. You can read the story by The Guardian or ABC News (on Yahoo!).

Updates: Aan and Nando’s

There’s not too much new about the Alexander Aan case but there are a few things I missed when I originally wrote about his sentencing. There seems to be some disagreement with what he wrote. I originally read, and quoted, “God doesn’t exist” but now I’m seeing “God does not exist.” Of course that’s not really that big of a difference and it’s probably not even worth worrying about since he probably posted in Indonesian and not English. A little more serious was that I missed part of his sentence. Not only was Aan sentenced to 2,5 years in jail but also fined Rp100 million (about US$10 600). This article has some information on the groups that are supporting him.

Back in South Africa, there has been positive news regarding Nando’s anti-xenophobia advert. If you remember it was banned by the SABC, DStv and e.tv and M-Net for supposedly having a xenophobic undertone and in case people misunderstood it. This week, TopTV announced that it would show the ad on a number of it’s channels. One of the positive knock-on effects of that decision is that DStv has now lifted it’s own ban on the advert. Hopefully the other channels will soon follow suit.

UPDATE: Not worth making a new post for this but Nando’s has said it’s no longer interested in showing it’s ad on DStv.

Aan sentenced

Alexander Aan, the Indonesian man who was facing up to 11 years for the crime of blasphemy has been sentenced today. He was sentenced to 2,5 years in prison. Aan’s “crime” was posting “god doesn’t exist” on Facebook.

Last month, Islamic groups in Indonesia threatened to cause chaos if Lady Gaga performed in the country, leading police to deny her a permit. The Islamic Defenders Front is reported to have said they were prepared to die to stop the concert.

A few follow-ups

A couple of times I have posted about an event that hasn’t yet been resolved. While it’s nice to hear about things as they happen there is the problem of follow-up. So I’ve decided to take this opportunity to address some earlier stories and what’s been happening there.

In my Valentine’s day post I mentioned that Alexander Aan was facing prison time and possible execution because of Indonesia’s law against blasphemy. I looked a bit to see if there was any progress but I didn’t find anything conclusive. About the best I can say is that Atheist Alliance International has been able to appoint Aan a lawyer. It’s not as good as him being cleared but at least he will have a chance. Continue reading