Freedom of speech, even when we don’t like it

Mayor Phil Goff bowed to pressure from the local Muslim community into cancelling the venue for Lauren Southern and Stephen Molyneux to speak at the Bruce Mason Centre in Auckland. New Zealand Federation of Islam Associations president Hazim Arafeh said, quote:

“[She] abuses her right of freedom of speech. She’s just going to give a talk in which she’s just going to insult all of us.”

“I don’t think insulting Muslims comes under free speech, that’s an abuse of freedom of speech.” End of quote.

It is highly unlikely that the Canadian duo would personally insult any of the Muslim community. After all, they wouldn’t even know who the individuals are, nor do they have a history of stirring up violent behaviour.

Goff was very quick to placate the Muslim community but incurred the wrath of the promoters of the Canadian visitors and also the Aucklander’s who want to hear what they have to say.

Martin Bureau, AFP | A picture taken on October 27, 2016 shows the facade of the Bataclan cafe and concert hall, one of the targets of the November 13, 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris.

On the other side of the world, Jean-François Copé, the mayor of Meaux, near Paris is demanding that President Macron ban a performance by Muslim rapper Médine at the Bataclan theatre, the scene of an ISIL attack nearly three years ago which killed and injured hundreds. Copé said, quote:

“It was “intolerable and completely mad” to allow Médine to perform at the Bataclan. He demanded that President Emmanuel Macron ban the concert.” End of quote.

Médine who is of Algerian descent, has denied that he is an Islamist, but his denial contradicts his lyrics and the facts.  Quote.

“Medine, 35, also co-authored a 2012 book “Don’t Panik” with a leading French academic which they said was an attempt to take the heat out of the French culture war over Islam.

His record company also sells a line of T-shirts bearing the legend: “I’m Muslim. Don’t panik.”

But he became the bete noire of hardline secularists after 11 people were killed in a jihadist attack on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in January 2015, only a week after his “Don’t Laik” song was released, a play on the French word for secular.

In it he said, “Let’s crucify the secularists like at Calvary… put fatwas on the heads of these idiots.”

The rapper later admitted that “he went too far” in the song.

Medine said the song was to “secular fundamentalists what Charlie Hebdo cartoons were to religious fundamentalists”.  End of quote. 

The rapper Medine

Medine also said, quote

“Can we let the extreme right dictate what concerts go on and our freedom of expression?” End of quote.

It seems likely that Médine’s gigs will go ahead because French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said that “freedom of speech” has to be respected.

Freedom of speech works both ways, and much as it must pain the families of those murdered in the Bataclan attack, Medine should be allowed his gigs, just as Southern and Molyneux should be allowed to speak in Auckland.


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The subject evoked in the collage is the debating of political issues with friends in a public place

Pablo Picasso
Glass and bottle of Suze (after 18 November 1912)
pasted paper, gouache and charcoal

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