Friday, July 8, 2011

Free Expression vs. Intolerance?

A recent piece at the Huffington Post seems to be a little more muddled and confused than usual. The authors, Esposito and Lalwani, seem to have difficulty differentiating intolerance from discrimination and persecution, which are by no means synonymous.

They start out relatively clear about there being a fine line between free speech and harassment.  Initially, they appear to endorse the right of expression even when it is hateful. However, they derail their own line of reasoning when they get to "the stunning verdict in Geert Wilder's acquittal." What really makes it stunning? Wilder did not physically attack or harm in any way any individuals. His speech was reprehensible but well within the bounds of the free speech/expression Esposito and Lalwani previously defended.

This odd disconnect does seem to stem from the very first sentence. The notion of "defamation of religion" is absurd. Not only does religion neither need nor deserve protection it is also impossible to objectively determine what constitutes such defamation. Who gets to say what rises to the level of defamation? In my view a number of Huffington Post writers, like Rabbi Boteach, routinely defame atheists.

Esposito and Lalwani also seem to ignore the difference between individual believers and the specific religion they follow. They are not the same. The rights of an individual whether it relates to religion or not should never be violated. A religion is not a person and should never be treated as if it is. Religion has no rights. Only an  individual has rights.

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