Neil D’souza’s thoughts on Charlie Hebdo and the Terrorists – This is not about Freedom of Expression
There is no absolute freedom of expression – anywhere in the world. There are generally content and conduct exceptions that make this freedom practical for civil society. Content exceptions include things like obscenity, incitement, defamation, perjury, harassment, false advertising, plagiarism, child pornography etc. Conduct exceptions (also known as time, place and manner regulations) include criminal violations such as disturbing the peace and disorderly conduct. Examples are time: limiting amplified sound to certain hours, place: prohibiting demonstrations at the emergency entrance of hospitals and manner: limiting the size of posters or flyers at posting locations. A more relevant exception: holocaust denial is illegal in most of Europe today to help combat racism and xenophobia (among other reasons). The point is that from time to time, we choose to make exceptions to the freedom of expression to benefit society as a whole. This does not take away from the freedom of expression and I think it’s time to reflect on the current global situation and be practical. The world is at war with Islam. To avoid generalizing, the educated few will be careful to narrow this group down to extremists or jihadists, but this becomes an irrelevant detail in the conversation. The War on Terror has created a deep amygdalic fear of Muslims that often manifests as hatred.
I think it’s time to stop hiding our hatred behind a half-understood right to freedom of expression. We need to consider legal means of restricting unwarranted incitement – at least for a period of time. This affects not only Islamic extremists, but also the non-Islamic extremists who retaliate, as well as the larger moderate majority who become more xenophobic in private as a consequence of all this violence. Simply getting angry about how intolerant Islamic extremists are will not change their behavior or anything else for that matter. The War on Terror has taught us that punishing them doesn’t help either.
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Picture: The table in the picture was created by Neil D`Souza on the basis of the following source: National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). (2013). Global Terrorism Database [Data file]. Retrieved from http://www.start.umd.edu/gtd