Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Australia Outlaws Criticism of Islam

From the Washington Times, an article that compares the fates of terrorist hostage Douglas Wood, who was freed, and two Christian pastors in Australia who said unkind things about Islam.
What a twist, then, that this same week, in that same corner of Australia, just as Mr. Wood was exulting in his renewed pursuit of life and liberty, two of his fellow Aussies, Christian pastors Danny Nalliah and Daniel Scot, were finding their own such pursuits derailed, not by vicious criminals in Iraq, but by civilized state statute. Mr. Wood could breathe freely in Australia and speak his mind once again; but Pastors Nalliah and Scot have been ordered by a tribunal in the state of Victoria to make public statements against their will, their conscience and their faith: namely, to apologize for their teachings on Islam, and to promise never to so teach again.

As the first to be convicted of vilifying Islam under Victoria’s “1984”-style Racial and Religious Tolerance Act, these men have vowed to go to jail rather than surrender their freedom of speech.

What is car-wreck fascinating here is Judge Michael Higgins’ conclusion that simply pointing out what the Koran says now constitutes outlawed speech in Victoria. During court proceedings, when Mr. Scot began to read verses from the Koran that denigrate women, a lawyer for the Islamic Council of Victoria, the plaintiff, cut him off, explaining that reading such verses aloud is itself an act of vilification. How, wondered Mr. Scot, can it be vilifying to Muslims in the room when I am just reading from the Koran?
Americans are much more inclined to protect free speech than citizens of pretty much any other nation.

But there are people here who would pass “hate speech” laws and outlaw criticism of politically correct victims and doctrines. Indeed, the administrations of many universities have passed “speech codes” banning speech that might be deemed “offensive.” These have fared badly in court, but the impulse to censor remains strong.

If these laws and codes protected all people equally, it might be just a little tempting to support them (but still not tempting enough). But in fact, it’s only politically incorrect speech that ever really gets outlawed.

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