Little Red Blogger

This blog looks at radical politics(with a libertarian socialist slant), music and culture. Marx to Mises, Girls Aloud to Steve Reich...

Location: Wiltshire, United Kingdom

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Europeans are From Mars, Muslims from Venus: How we Get the Islamic World Wrong part II

Freedom of speech is presented your typical liberal as a costless, weightless, contextlesss state of being. This particular defined freedom is mans natural state of being that other people and entities suppress. The liberal sees freedom of speech as occurring in a relative vacuum. Circumstance, economic reality the social background in which the speech takes place are completely ignored. Freedom of speech like voting, representative democracy and many other parts of modern living is an artificial construct a convenient shorthand for a variety of different political and philosophical positions.

How then does this relate to the Danish cartoons and the West’s relationship with the Islamic world? From a Muslim perspective westerners exercising their ‘freedom of speech’ are doing so in a state of historical amnesia, as if the last 300 years of colonial domination and expropriation never took place. The Danish cartoonists seemed to have no awareness of the cultural context in which their images would be received. Without thinking they have reproduced many of the same orientalist stereotypes that have recurred many times throughout Europe’s love/hate relationship with Islam. Images of fanaticism, the uncivilised lesser other combined with a long shameful history of anti-Semitism and the Muslim reaction to these images and the fig leaf defence of ‘free speech’ is not only understandable but alas predictable.

When westerners accuse the Islamic world of over-reacting it is merely another demonstration of our historical blindness and inability to face up to our colonial past.The Danish cartoonists are obviously free in a technical sense to publish and say whatever they like, given the easiness of blogging for most westerners there are no real formal restrictions to speaking what’s on your mind. What the cartoonists were not free to do was to orchestrate how people would react to what they actually published. Being of a Libertarian bent free speech is taken as a given, existing it seems to be taken away.
What exactly is meant by the idea of ‘free speech’ is open to(much) debate. I am technically free to publish anything I like on this blog, tho’ if I start posting copyrighted images and text all over the place then various different corporate entities may start taking an interest in my speech and move to curtail this speech. If my blog was in Germany and I for whatever reason used Nazi imagery the long arm of the law would take a keen interest in what was being wrote and who was writing it. Freedom of speech in modern capitalist societies is curtailed in many different ways, try questioning how your workplace is run, answering back to your ‘superiors’ and you will swiftly find out how far the writ of free speech runs in reality.