To say or not to say ? that is the question !

It’s been a while since my last post, and over the period of my hiatus, there have been developments across the world that has once again bought into foray the question of free speech. First, there was the arrest of a Bangalore based techie, who was reportedly operating a twitter account that sold ISIS propaganda. Next, we had the Australian CafĂ© attacks by an Iranian born nut who was provoked because” nobody” would listen to what he had to say and finally, the tragic events at Paris that killed the crew at Charlie Hebdo.

All of these incidents are instigated by the very notion that there is an unwritten rule in the history of this world where our species cannot communicate to one another if it intends to offend, hurt or ( taking a leaf out of Spielberg’s  ‘Minority Report’)- can cause a crime to occur. Essentially, these in my opinion collectively define aspects of ‘Right to Free Speech’. If the proponents of free speech feel so strongly about it, they should understand that it goes both ways- It allows a Charlie Hebdo to draw the Holy Prophet, while it also allows at the same time for ISIS to spell out their agenda freely. I therefore feel these self-styled liberals should think before taking to the world, the idea of free speech. 

They argue that the Holy Prophet was depicted in artworks very freely till the 13th century and I agree to that. But where I beg to differ is to equate that with the shameful depictions of any belief as done by the likes of Charlie Hebdo to those 13th century depictions.  I’m all for satire, but there is a line that needs to be maintained. It’s the same line that brings respect to communities and prevents lawlessness. Every religion in the world gives its definition to this “line” and I can therefore understand when atheists start talking about the irrelevance of this line. What I cannot tolerate are the hypocrites who have boundaries when it comes to religion but speak of no boundaries when it comes to speech. 

Accordingly, one of the most pressing concerns for free speech is very simply, who defines this line? While that’s an easy question to answer in communities that are strictly orthodox, it becomes a complicated issue when we attempt to answer this question for a world stage with multiple opinions, beliefs and principles. The solution in my opinion was summed up very crudely by a journalist I recently met: “Free speech is like farting. You do it in your personal space and people who like that sort of thing will follow you there. It’s not something to share in a public arena. “On the other side of the table, it is also essential for the people who get easily offended to understand that the world we live in is today governed by multiple ideologies. The only way to keep yourself shielded is to embrace the way the world is changing and build tolerance in your communities. If only both sides had understood this, the unnecessary killings over the last few weeks could have been avoided.

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