We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Freedom of speech

It does exactly what it says in the tin. You either have it or you do not… and judging by many of the letters to the Telegraph, many on Britain would rather you not have it. In response to an interesting article by Charles Moore, we see…

Sir – I have been a regular reader of your newspaper for more than 25 years. I am very concerned to read Moore’s article: it is offensive and flawed. It may cause racial disharmony among four million British Muslims at a critical time.

Dr. Basil Adam Shihabi, Consultant Physician, Secretary General of the British Iraqi Medical Association, Stevenage, Herts

For a start, ‘Muslims’ are not a race, they are a religion. But that aside, if I wish to poke fun at the muslim religion, or any equally daft belief in invisible imaginary friends, I will damn well do so. At least the good Doctor is not calling for Moore to be prevented by law from saying what he wishes and that is an important thing to note. The fact Dr. Shihabi is free to respond in the Telegraph is proof enough that the deck is not stacked against him.


Sir – Moore entirely misses the point about the proposed law against inspiring religious hatred. It is not aimed at those who laugh at religion or scorn it. It is aimed at the “kill the infidel” brigade.

Michael Gorman, Guildford, Surrey

What we have here is a touching naivety about the nature of states and laws in general. The law may be aimed at the “kill the infidel” brigade (I have my doubts) but that means other remarks which disparage and insult the muslim faith will be illegal and to just assume ‘people like us’ (as opposed to ‘them’) will not have the law enforced against them is preposterous.

Making insulting remarks about any religion is like shooting fish in a barrel but the right to say what you will is vastly more important than some imaginary right to not to be offended. Without freedom of speech the whole damaged edifice of liberty really is in the gravest peril and if not enough British people realise that then we are in serious, serious trouble.

6 comments to Freedom of speech

  • And such laws are likely to have little effect on the “kill the infidel” brigade. Those prosecuted will be by definition those who expose their disapproval of medieval fanatacism in a public forum, not something an effective infidel-slayer would be likely to do, unless of course he is a Muslim, and thus protected.

  • Dear BBC, East Grinstead, Friday. I feel I really must write and protest about that freedom of speech. My husband, in common with a lot of people of his age, is fifty. For how long are we to put up with these things? Yours sincerely, E. B. Debenham (Mrs).

    Dear Freddy Grisewood, Bagshot, Surrey. As a prolific letter-writer, I feel I must protest about the previous letter. I am nearly sixty and am quite mad, but I do enjoy listening to the BBC Home Service. If this continues to go on unabated …Dunkirk… dark days of the war… backs to the wall… Alvar Liddell … Berlin air lift … moral upheaval of Profumo case … young hippies roaming the streets, raping, looting and killing. Yours etc., Brigadier Arthur Gormanstrop (Mrs).

    Is there any point in reading letters from the readers? Besides for the humorous value, that is.

    (But sometimes, as in this case, it gets rather depressing, really.)

  • There’s a malady here that some starving indergrad could parley into a PhD with only a bit of effort, say, 200 pages or so.
    It involves people who flee adversity, only to vote it in where they flee to. We have legions of Californians who departed their state, only to vote in the very rubbish that ruined California in the first place. We, and you, and, it appears, evryone else, have Muslims, who fled the persicution of the mullahs, wherever they came from, only to isolate themselves and create new mullahs to persecute them.
    Perhaps you, crackerjack wordsmith that you are, could write this up, and steal that starving undergrads last chance at a state-sponsored professorship. deHavillands Syndrome. Perrys Psychosis. Lots of neat-o names spring to mind.
    This sort of clinically interesting pathology should not go in uninvestigated, in hopes of finding a cure, short of armed border guards, or a designated hunting season.

  • It is all far too late.

    The pass was sold in 1976 with the passing of the Race Relations Act which criminalised incitement to racial hatred.

    The new law is little more than a belated tidying up operation.

    Once you accept the principle that inciting hatred of racial groups should be criminalised, why not religious groups? Or short people? Or gays. Or whichever is the favoured group du jour.

  • Tom Penn

    I would like to accuse the BBC of inciting racial hatred.

  • John

    Muslims aim to place Islam beyond the pale of criticism.
    Their friends may imaginary and invisible, as Perry states, but they are nontheless very, very real. Passing laws will do nothing to help.

    The only way to fight and defeat these “imaginary and invisible” firends is to arm yourselves with like. Being a believing Christian in no way tarnishes “mes lettres de noblesse” as Libertarian. Besides, having the’ right ‘imaginary’ friend helps keep you sane and helps keep things in perspective.

    Obviously Islam, since it knows no moderation, is based on a defective imaginary friend, but one which it wishes to impose on everyone, including recalcitrant libertarians…..unless, of course, you’ve got ‘yer own imaginary friend with which you can fight back!

    Sometimes, unfortunately, existence is ALL ABOUT imaginary friends.

    So retrograde, eh?