A day to stand up for free expression

24 January 2012 - 11:25 By Bruce Gorton
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Access denied. File photo.
Access denied. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

This year has already seen some highly disturbing moves by some religious people to squash the rights of everyone else.

Cranston, Rhode Island, has been a hotbed of American Christians doing the typically American Christian thing and threatening to beat up, rape and/or murder a sixteen year old girl called Jessica Ahlquist because she took her school to court over a prayer mural, and won.

When a group supporting her wanted to send her flowers, all four flower shops they contacted in the area refused because she is an atheist.

Salman Rushdie had to cancel his visit to India after death threats over his book “The Satanic Verses” so other writers at the festival took a stand and read from the book. They got arrested.

In Israel, a Haredi sect spits on children and tries to force women to sit at the back of the bus. That is correct; these jerks are still telling Rosa Parks to get to the back of the bus.

There is an Islamist sect gaining serious strength and becoming increasingly dangerous in Nigeria that is actually called Boko Haram – books are evil.

A 17 year old in England, Rhys Morgan who is famous for his staunch opposition to quackery, is currently being threatened with expulsion from his school because he had a picture from the webcomic Jesus and Mo on his website. The Queen Mary College in which One Law For All spokesperson Ann Marie Waters was to give a speech was cancelled due to threats.

An Islamic student got up in front of the stage, took footage of the people there, and then said he knew who was who and where they lived. Islamists calling for such disruptions headlined their call “Who gave these kuffar the right to speak?”

It is only January the 24. We are 24 days into the New Year and already we are seeing stories like this.

These are direct attacks not only on the freedoms and rights of atheists and skeptics, but on everybody, everywhere. These are attacks on the basic human right to disagree, the right which is fundamental to all the others.

For too long fear has been treated as not simply a valid alternative to argument, but a superior one. For too long authoritarians of every stripe have told us, “Your facts are rendered irrelevant by our fists” and caused chaos, destruction and war through their violence.

As South Africans, of every faith and none, of every alignment and none, we stand against this privately in our everyday lives. We know that our rights begin in the rights of others, because we have seen what happens when that principle is cast aside.

On the 11 of February, One Law for All is arranging a rally to stand up against this. What do you intend to do? Are you prepared to stand up and say “We give this kuffar the right to speak”?

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