Newspaper Editor Gets Three Years over Muhammad Cartoons

Reporters Without Borders reports from Belarus:

Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the three-year prison sentence passed today by a court in Minsk on Alyaksandr Zdvizhkou [var. Alexander Sdvizhkov], former deputy editor of the weekly Zhoda, for reprinting cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that first appeared in a Danish newspaper. He was found guilty of “inciting racial hatred” under article 130 of the criminal code at the end of a trial behind closed doors.

That would be the same Belarus where one can buy anti-Semitic tomes such as Convicting Those Who Slaughter Russia (which quotes The Protocols of the Elders of Zion), and Stalin’s Testament, which carries a special endorsement from President Alexander Lukashenko – whose recent Borat-like ruminations on how the city of Bobrusk was a “pig sty” on account of the Jews living there led to an international outcry. Other books in similar vein were noted by the Simon Wiesenthal centre in August; meanwhile, the head of the country’s Pentecostal Union has complained that state television featured his church in a documentary on “destructive cults”.

So why the rather hypocritical crackdown over the Danish cartoons? Lukashenko’s increasing links with Iran are a doubtless significant factor; however, Reporters Without Borders notes that internal politics are also behind the prosecution and jailing:

Zhoda was linked to Alyaksandr Kazulin, who ran against President Alexandre Lukashenko in the March 2006 presidential election. Lukashenko was very critical of Zhoda and Kazulin in a televised speech during the campaign, calling Kazulin a “hoodlum.” The economic supreme court closed Zhoda down on 17 March 2006.

Interfax adds that:

The Belarusian Supreme Court closed Zgoda in March 2006. The newspaper was headed by Alexey Korol, an activist of the Belarusian Social-Democratic party Gramada. The newspaper’s February 18-26, 2006 issue published an article titled Political Creativeness, which was illustrated by a number of cartoons, including those depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

According to Belarusian News:

The case was opened in February 2006 following a complaint by Ismail Varanovich, mufti of the Spiritual Association of Muslims in Belarus. However, the mufti said ahead of the trial that he did not demand criminal punishment for the journalist.

The same source names the judge in the case as Ruslan Aniskevich; he was in the news a few months ago when he took over the trial of five “Young Front” youth opposition activists when the appointed judge refused to take part. Charter 97 quoted a witness at the time:

…in the court room people can hear fairly well how hundreds of people were chanting “Freedom!” outside the court. The defendants, the Young Front members, are quite self-possessed, while the judge, Ruslan Aniskevich, and his assistant, on the contrary, look very frightened…

That case ended in finings, and harsh words from US Ambassador Karen Stewart, who observed the proceedings.

It should be recalled that Lukashenko doesn’t just object to the Muhammad cartoons; he’s also thin-skinned about his own image being taken in vain in satirical drawings, and “offending the honour of Lukashenko” is a criminal offence. The cartoon below is one of several that have led to arrests.

Nepalese Leaders Praise Rev Moon

From the UPI:

The Parliament of Nepal, constituted one year ago on Jan. 15, 2007, made history Wednesday. Cooperation between civil society and the government broke new ground as the first-ever function organized by a non-government organization was held in the Parliament Secretariat Hall of the Sighhadurbar.

The Universal Peace Federation partnered with the Ex-MP’s Club to hold a conference on the theme, “Toward a New Paradigm of Leadership and Good Governance for Peace in the 21st Century.”

Of course, the UPI and the Universal Peace Federation have something in common: the person behind it. This individual was praised by Nepalese PM Girija P. Koirala, who sent a message due to ill-health:

…he thanked the UPF founder, Dr. Sun Myung Moon of Korea, for his “stupendous work” in Nepal over the last several years.

…UPF-Nepal has held a series of six conferences, called the “South Asia Peace Initiatives,” that have brought together monarchists, Maoists and members of the Seven Party Alliance to dialogue on issues and modalities of Nepal’s ongoing peace process. Elections are scheduled for April 10.

Further plaudits are reported in The Rising Nepal:

Minister for Foreign Affairs Sahana Pradhan…hailed the role of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), the organiser of the programme in promoting peace in different parts of the country and hoped that the discussions and inputs at the conference would be able to encourage all to bring about lasting peace.

Addressing the programme former Minister for Education and President of the Ex-MPs Club Ram Hari Joshi said that the UPF believes in the ideal of “One World One Family” and the Club too supports such form of organic unity of mankind.

“The need today is to have leaders having respect for religion so that peace would prevail,” Joshi said.

World & I (a Moon publication) has some more background:

Over the past two years, the Universal Peace Federation of Nepal (UPF-Nepal) has held a series of high-level discussions and public events that have engaged representatives of the royal government, leadership and membership from the main opposition parties, and even Maoist rebel leaders.

Today UPF-Nepal is the only NGO that has active ties with the leadership of all the political parties, representatives in all seventy-five districts of the country through its Ambassador for Peace program, a student organization with offices in ten cities working on at least a thousand campuses (including vocational training centers, two-year colleges, and universities), and, since the end of last year, its own newspaper. The Universal Times, an English and Nepalese biweekly, is published expressly “to contribute to building a peaceful Nepal,” according to UPF-Nepal’s national leader, Ek Nath Dhakal…

Pan Macmillan Afraid to Publish Tom Cruise/Scientology Book in Australia

Looks as though you don’t have to be a Saudi billionaire to hinder the distribution of a critical book. From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Pan Macmillan will not print a local edition of the book Tom Cruise, An Unauthorised Biography in Australia due to legal concerns, a move that has been labelled an act of censorship.

But the book, which alleges that Scientology played a major role in the breakdown of the marriage between Hollywood superstar Cruise and Nicole Kidman, will still be imported for sale at independent bookshops.

Scientologists have denied claims by the book’s author, Andrew Morton, that Kidman was threatened with blackmail if she spoke out against the controversial religion.

…Two major book retailers, Dymocks and Angus & Robertson, have also said they have legal concerns about the book and will not import copies directly from the US publisher, St Martin’s Press.

However, the US edition will be available from independent bookshops.

I looked at the history of Church of Scientology legal threats (and worse) against journalists back in November.

Hat tip: Bulldada Newsblog

Conservatives Ditch “Lionheart”

An update on the website of Phyllis Chesler:

Once I posted my interview with Lionheart, some readers insisted that Lionheart is a member of the British National Party which is a fascist, neo-Nazi, Holocaust-denying political party. People in the UK, the USA, and in Israel feared that although Lionheart’s freedom of speech in cyberspace is crucial, and that telling the truth about Islam should not lead to anyone’s arrest—that it was equally crucial that freedom-fighters and democrats not inadvertently make alliances with fascists.

At first, I thought that these well-meaning people were wrong about Lionheart. And why? Because I asked him outright if was a member or supporter of the BNP and he passionately denied that this was so. He insisted that he was an anti-racist who had friends of many ethnicities And then, a British blogger sent me the following snippet from Lionheart’s blog.

A pro-BNP screed from the blog follows, probably found the same way I discovered the shocking truth: by mystically typing the words “Lionheart” + “BNP” into Google. Why Chesler was unable to do this is unexplained. We might ask the same about this CBN News report:

…Some conservatives are refusing to support [Paul] Ray [aka “Lionheart”] because of allegations that he is a member or supporter of the British National Party. The BNP is a white supremacist party. Ray reportedly denies membership in the BNP and insists that he is being slandered.

Perhaps CBN doesn’t have the resources to find out for sure? (BTW, we all know what the BNP stands for, but it now eschews public “white supremacist” positions, for strategic reasons) Also looking sheepish is the Jawa Report:

[11 January]: As to the charges that Lionheart is a supporter of the BNP, I’ve seen no evidence of it…

[14 January]: I’ve been defending Lionheart against the accusations that he’s a BNP supporter. Maybe I was wrong?

“Lionheart’s”/Ray’s support evaporated when his BNP sympathies were picked up – and denounced – by LGF; he responded by denouncing LGF as “a traitor, nothing less than the equivalent of a Second World War Nazi collaborator who would have been shot”, which turned out to be biting off rather more than he could chew. He quickly apologised, and quietly removed his pro-BNP blog postings – alas, too late.

There are a couple of lessons here. Firstly, the easy one: that whatever the real dangers of Islamism, hatred of Islam is the first refuge of the scoundrel in the UK and the USA, and as long as you avoid explicitly stating your support for an unambiguously far-right political party you can easily gain the uncritical support and sympathy of lazy conservative pundits who are willing to jump aboard almost any anti-Muslim bandwagon, no matter how foul or preposterous the rhetoric (although there is a free speech issue worth keeping an eye on). The fact that Ray managed to botch such an easy path to blog-glory doesn’t reflect very well on his abilities.

There is also, though, a more difficult observation: we can see a general human failing here, as well as a conservative vice. People want to hear voices that confirm their view of the world, and it takes an effort to consider critically those with a message that seems congenial – I wouldn’t claim to be perfect here, and I can think of a fair few unworthy characters who enjoy standing in certain “liberal” circles, thanks to a bit of “anti-imperialist” ranting.

So, what next for Paul Ray? Bedfordshire on Sunday has some clues:

Paul Ray, who ‘blogs’ as ‘Lionheart’, left Britain for an undisclosed location in the Middle East two years ago.

He claims he was receiving death threats which made it impossible to stay in his home town of Luton.

Since leaving Britain, he has regularly updated his blog with news and opinions on subjects such as the heroin trade, Islamic fundamentalism and police corruption.

Bedfordshire on Sunday understands that Mr Ray has been intending to return to Britain for over a year, in order to make preparations to emigrate officially and permanently.

Somehow I doubt supporters of the BNP are welcome in Israel, if that’s where he’s heading off to.

Canadian Human Rights Commission Under Fire over Free Speech

Certain Muslim groups in Canada appear to be doing everything they can to ensure that their enemies enjoy publicity and sympathy, by going after them on inquisitorial “hate speech” charges brought through the Human Rights Commission. The Economist reports:

The criminal code has hate-propaganda provisions, but using these requires convincing a prosecutor. The bar is much lower for Human Rights Commissions and their tribunals. These were set up to deal with discrimination on grounds such as race or sex in jobs, housing or services. Even the man who inspired them, Alan Borovoy, a civil-liberties lawyer, is dismayed at their misuse to limit free speech. The tribunals can only levy small fines and give an order to desist. But the proceedings involve steep costs for defendants, whereas plaintiffs pay nothing if the commission decides there are grounds to proceed.

The Economist notes the case of Mark Steyn, the rightwing US columnist who recently had a typically alarmist “Muslims want to take over the world” piece published in a Canadian magazine, leading to a complaint from the Canadian Islamic Congress. There have been a number of other cases resulting in finings, and even criticising the process can get you into trouble: there was recently a court decision confirming that the description by Paul Fromm (a member of the Canadian far right) of an HRC lawyer as an “enemy of free speech” and as a waste of tax money amounted to defamation.

Also now making waves is the case of Ezra Levant, a right-libertarian called to account by the HRC for reprinting the Danish Muhammad cartoons in his now-defunct Western Standard magazine. Levant’s appearance at the HRC was videoed, and is now available at YouTube, in a number of segments. Here’s the first:

Levant is known for his strong support of some kinds of free speech, as was seen in December:

A protest planned for Friday afternoon in Calgary to condemn alleged violent and racist postings has been cancelled after an apology from the Western Standard magazine.

The comments appeared on the Shotgun Blog of the Western Standard website.

The entry, dated Dec. 5 and written by a user calling himself ‘Templar,’ said, “there is no such thing as innocent Muslims.”

Templar went on to write, “They must all be killed. All of them.”

…Levant, who no longer owns the website or the Western Standard name, said he doesn’t personally agree with the comments, but argued they should be protected as free speech.

However, according to conservative Canadian website Dust My Broom, he takes a rather different tack when it comes to other forms of expression; in particular, public criticism from former employees:

One of the articles of interest in Fast Forward Weekly was titled Lowering the Standard – Ezra Levant’s controversial right-wing mag is gone. Will anyone miss it? (October 25th, 2007). Read it then come back.

A week later a letter was written to Fast Forward Weekly by a former employee… Apparently Ezra contacted the rag to get an apology and retraction for the article and the published letter, didn’t get it and is now suing Fast Forward Weekly for the Lowering the standard article and letter writer [Merle] Terlesky for a combined total of $100,000 for libel.

Dust My Broom had republished the letter, but then removed it, fearing liability. I’ve read it via Google cache; it contains general criticisms about how Levant ran the magazine which look to me to be within the reasonable cut-and-thrust of fair comment. Of course, this response is not surprising: Saudi businessmen, Russian oligarchs, and right-libertarians are united in their fondness for using aggressive libel threats to squash critical scrutiny. I can think of a couple of right-libertarian examples from the UK; the name Paul Staines comes to mind.

Lancaster Hate

One of the websites I monitor on a regular basis so that others don’t have to is that of Irene Lancaster, an average UK academic (now based in Haifa) who managed to launch a successful media career propounding the view that critics of Israel are motivated by anti-Semitism and a wish to collude in a Muslim takeover of the UK. Despite the bizarre extremity of her rhetoric (she once accused the Bishop of Chester and his staff of “Jew-hating for kicks” and, inevitably, of being “like Hitler”), Lancaster is described by the intellectual Roman Catholic magazine The Tablet as “one of the United Kingdom’s leading Jewish academics”, and she was recently ranked by the London Times as number 28 in the “Most Influential Religious Blogs” category. Given Lancaster’s nasty and rambling manner of discourse as revealed on her blog and the comments she scatters around various websites (her formal academic work, on medieval Jewish texts, looks competent enough, although it is hardly broad or extensive enough to make her worthy of the Tablet plaudit), one can only assume that some kind of philo-Semitic stereotyping is at work in which Jews are inherently associated with intellectual and analytical ability, and that therefore to recognise her prowess must reflect well on one’s own wisdom.

I blogged on Lancaster back in August, but I’ve tried to avoid raising the subject again, despite coming across jaw-droppingly stupid utterances on an almost daily basis, and despite having had a couple of encounters with her in the comments section of Ruth Gledhill’s blog. However, sometimes I have to indulge myself, and a couple of days ago I noted her support for “Lionheart”, an extreme Muslim-hater who endorses the BNP (although I’m sure Lancaster wasn’t aware of the BNP link).

I also like to keep a note of the various people she attacks so bitterly. The latest targets of her wrath are Paul Vallely, who contributes to the Church Times, and his wife:

One of the [Church Times]‘s most prominent contributors is also Associate Editor of the Independent, as well as being the husband of the BBC’s head of radio religious broadcasting. I had glimpsed this personage once on a visit to the BBC studios in Manchester, and would not like to have crossed her on a dark night – no, not at all!!

Lancaster, from my own experience, has three rhetorical strategies for dealing with opponents: there are accusations of anti-Semitism, and arguments from authority – her links to public figures like George Carey and Andrew White, her academic credentials, and her position as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (which isn’t particularly difficult for an academic with the right connections to get, by the way). She might also suggest that as middle-aged Jewish woman she is being bullied, and I suspect that this is why she feels the need to make absurd insinuations that her opponents might be prone to physical violence.

Paul Vallely’s wife is the third person she’s tried this with. Previously she has said she might take up an invitation to meet Stephen Sizer, a pro-Palestinian vicar, but would be “sure to take a body-guard”. On another occasion it was Guardian columnist Giles Fraser, of whom she stated “he turned up at my house on one occasion without prior consultation… I can’t help feeling that one of these days he may need a lawyer himself.” Strangely, she had told the story before, but rather differently: she originally claimed that Fraser had been brought to her house by a mutual acquaintance to “apologise” to her for something (This is also rather unlikely to be the full story. See my previous blog entry for further details).

Meanwhile, Lancaster has also recently complained about a Muslim academic getting a peerage:

It was just one of those inane BBC programmes in which three people sit around talking, dismissing Muslim terror and extremism as nothing to do with religion per se, but only with culture. Whitewashing (excuse my French) and appeasement, naturally…And, no wonder York’s Muslim professor of politics is a member of the House of Lords.

Although Lancaster does not deign to tell us, this is Haleh Afshar. Given that Lancaster’s moment of fame as a media pundit seems to be passing, might this – along with catty comments about the BBC’s head of radio religious broadcasting – be a bad case of sour grapes?

London Childcare Conference Considers “Ritual Abuse”

Staying with Private Eye, the latest issue also has a report on a keynote talk presented recently at a conference of London childcare workers by psychoanalyst Valerie Sinason, on the subject of “ritual abuse and Dissociative Identity Disorder”. The Eye observes:

The prospect of Sinason converting London’s childcare workers to a belief in the existence of ritual abuse and a dubious mental disorder is alarming – especially as the initial Satanic panic in the early 1990s was spread largely through conferences for childcare workers. (1)

The Eye is always good at keeping an eye on this kind of thing. Back in September 2006 it revealed that Sinason had tried to become involved in the investigation of the “Adam” killing, a few months before that it noted the continued existence of a

network of believers across the UK among professionals and assorted therapists who work with children and adult “survivors” who reinforce each other’s convictions that what they now term “ritual abuse” exists, through literature, websites, conferences and training courses.

One exponent, Sarah Nelson, who claims that “1,650 people in Edinburgh had been involved in satanic ritual abuse” had a booklet on child sex abuse published by the Scottish Executive.

I blogged the final unravelling of the old “Satanic abuse” cases in the USA and the UK here.

(1) “The devil’s in the detail”, Private Eye 1201: 29 (11-24 January 2008)

Corn Balls

Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov isn’t the only person to have managed temporarily to shut down websites in the UK by issuing a libels threat against an internet service provider; in 2006 a campaign group named GM Watch lost its service for a week after challenging the methodology of a study which purported to show that more people preferred genetically modified corn over the ordinary variety. The libel threat, and moves against other sites, came from one of the researchers, Shane Morris, whose actions led to condemnations by British and Irish politicians. Private Eye magazine now has an update (helpfully – and gleefully – reposted by GM Watch), which includes a hilarious quote from Morris:

no website was attempted to be shut down, as any changes made to anti-GM websites were their decision based on complaints regarding specific wording claims that were requested to be changed.”

So there. Morris only “requested” to have critical material removed, on pain of a libel action, and any compliance was the merely “decision” of websites or service providers that wanted to avoid be bankrupted under the UK’s notoriously skewed and oppressive libel laws. No threat to free speech there, then.

But what does this have to do with religion? Not a lot, so here’s a picture of the Aztec corn god Centeotl to make up for it:

Whether he would approve tinkering with the DNA of corn is not known.

Incidentally, nothing so far seems to have happened following the Policy Exchange’s promise last month to pursue a libel action against the BBC “relentlessly, to trial or capitulation” for daring to broadcast evidence that undermined the credibility of a PE report on Islamic extremism in the UK

Chesler Praises Pro-BNP Blogger

“should be knighted by the Queen and all London should give him a parade”

I didn’t actually want to write anything about “Lionheart”, the British Nationalist Party-supporting blogger who claims to be under threat of arrest in the UK for anti-Muslim tirades made on his sewer-like blog. However, as someone with a particular interest in free speech issues, I didn’t want to be accused of ignoring a “hard” case, and so I made some observations here and here (more accurately, I didn’t want to accuse myself – I doubt anyone else cares what I think one way or the other).

However, I now find myself drawn to a third posting on this unwelcome subject, as various conservative figures continue to make hysterical claims about the UK and offer not just support for “Lionheart’s” free speech, but warm endorsements of his project. We’ve seen Atlas Shrugs and Irene Lancaster already; today is the turn of Phyllis Chesler:

Islamist rule over the UK may, alarmingly, be on its way. Today, the British police want to question and/or arrest the British blogger known as Lionheaert. His crime? Turning his life around as a young school dropout and petty drug dealer and emerging as a believing Christian who opposes the drug plague in his hometown of Luton and who views the Pakistani Islamist and al-Qaeda control of the drug trade in Luton as both criminally and politically dangerous. For this, Lionheart has been charged with “stirring up racial hatred”—which is a crime in the UK.

In fact, we don’t know why exactly he has been accused of “stirring up racial hatred”, but we can be sure it wasn’t simply for complaining about “Pakistani Islamists”. Sadly No has gathered some particularly inflammatory and sanguinary quotes from the blog that may be the real cause, although we can’t be sure. Chesler herself avoids any quotations from the blog; perhaps through laziness, perhaps because they are rather off-putting. It should also be noted that he hasn’t been “charged” – as EU Referendum observes, the arrest is probably an “‘administrative’ device” needed for a formal record.

Chesler continues:

Ironically, what is said in mosques and madrassas and on protest marches all over the UK is never considered to constitute a “racially” motivated hate crime. As George Orwell understood, not all pigs are equal.

A more appropriate Orwell quote here might be the ironical “Ignorance is Strength”, since Chesler seems eager to demonstrate her own lack of knowledge – one of Abu Hamza al-Masri’s 2006 convictions was for just the offence of “inciting racial hatred”; other Islamists have been jailed on similar grounds.

Chesler goes on to suggest that “Lionheart” “should be knighted by the Queen and all London should give him a parade”, and she commends his “‘stirring’ and highly informative articles”. Naturally, there is no word about his open support for the British National Party, which he expresses in those very articles. The BNP, it should be noted, a thuggish organisation whose leaders have only laid aside a long history of Jew-hating in favour of Muslim-bashing for strategic reasons (even Melanie Phillips understands this).

There follows a cozy interview between Chesler and “Lionheart”, in which he talks about his religious faith, but avoids repeating his belief that “the Living God is on the side of the BNP”. Interestingly, he also claims that he is being supported by Glen Jenvey, who has featured on this blog in the past, and who has links with the weird VIGIL Network.

Of course, none of this means that Chesler or “Lionheart’s” other admirers actually share his enthusiasm for the BNP, or that they would go along with other things on his blog, if they actually read it in detail. More likely, they’ve simply seen a situation that can be spun as a story of Muslim conspiracy and liberal “oppression”, and decided to make the most of it. I don’t claim to know whether they are truly as ill-informed as they appear, or whether they simply assume that their target readership will be too stupid to notice or too lacking in intellectual integrity to care.

UPDATE: Looks like Chesler is to the right of Little Green Footballs: although LGF headlined its piece as “UK to Prosecute Blogger for Criticising Islam”, in an update the author notes the BNP connection and adds that “I am not supporting what Lionheart says on his blog”.

“Lionheart” is rather sore over this:

Little Green Footballs you are a traitor, nothing less than the equivalent of a Second World War Nazi collaborator who would have been shot because of his treason – I am sure there are many who would have obliged!

One wonders if Chesler and Lancaster and “Lionheart’s” other supporters will concur…

Bloggers on Lionheart

Sadly No has the full low-down on “Lionheart”, the BNP-supporting blogger who claims to be facing arrest over anti-Muslim statements on his blog (I blogged this here). One of the team has waded through Lionheart’s ramblings; it appears that despite his claim not to be in favour of violence, he is actually rather sanguinary:

I personally would be more than willing to go to the North of England and do what needs to be done for the mothers and children caught up in this Moslem savagery that needs to be eradicated and I know I am not alone in that respect.

…There are gangs of Moslem rapists and murderers walking the streets terrorising our society…Do we give in like most of Europe and accept the Islamification of our Nation? Or do we stand up and fight with every last drop of blood declaring ‘No Surrender’ no matter what the cost? A few summer riots will probably be the spark that lights the British fury that no British government or police force will be able to quench. Go quench the army of Islam before you pick on the British defenders of our lands.

…This is the Islamic enemy my community and country is faced with and the Moslem enemy which has forced my community into ‘Dhimmitude’. Things can only get worse from now unless action is taken and this Pakistani Moslem community’s actions are stamped out.

Meanwhile, the news that someone who wants us to “quench” Muslims in the UK “with every last drop of blood” is to be arrested under public order legislation dating from 1986 has led to further hysteria about “Eurabia” and how this is all a conspiracy to silence the “truth” about how British Muslims are all evil and involved in a conspiracy to take over the UK. Here’s Atlas Shrugs:

Atlas readers are familiar with the a brave heart, Lionheart. He has been a warrior on the war on the jihad in the UK and exposed the drug running that funded Islamic jihad in Britain and posted on the tsunami of sharia enveloping his beloved country. The Brits have submitted to Islam and they mean to shut down anyone who speaks for freedom, justice and liberty.

Meanwhile the absurd Irene Lancaster (whom I’ve blogged before) sees this as a sign of the “total and utter dhimmitude of Great Britain”:

…Then we have this – a blogger threatened with arrest for describing how his home town of Luton has been taken over…

Archbishop Cramner is less enthusiastic about the man, but he blames “cultural Marxists” for the arrest and suggests that Lionheart’s use of Bible quotes and display of “the flags of England and Israel” might be the reason he was targeted.

There are also attempts to link Lionheart’s arrest with the default libel case victory in London of Saudi businessman Khalid bin Mahfouz:

What is clear is that there is a consistent and concerted effort being carried out by the apologists for and enablers of Islamic terrorism to stop the spread of information about them, their activities, their beliefs, and their goals from being written about in the popular press…

As I noted a few days ago, Alyssa Lappen and Jed Babbin both managed to miss the point of the bin Mahfouz case spectacularly: such is their monomania, it became a story of “Muslims and multiculturalists” attacking free speech and “imposing Sharia”, rather than of a wealthy individual using restrictive libel laws that have benefited all kinds of powerful people for decades.

Personally, I would like to see the UK introduce protections for free speech along the lines of the American First Amendment. However, the historic fact is that in most democracies free speech has been balanced against other factors deemed to be socially desirable. Thus some countries have laws against Holocaust denial, to prevent Nazi revivalism; some have laws against blasphemy, to prevent inter-religious strife and to keep the wrath of God at bay; some have laws against mocking the monarch, to avoid possible civil disturbance caused by undermining the established order. Unless you have a society where free speech is treasured as absolute virtue in itself, as we see in the USA, this is hardly a surprising state of affairs. Since intercommunal hatred and prejudice against ethnic and sexual minorities are clearly social evils, the easiest response is (or at least seems to be) to limit freedom to express views that might tend to provoke these things. Thus Mark Steyn faces investigation for anti-Muslim views in Canada, a Swedish pastor gets sentenced to jail for attacking homosexuality (so much for “Euarabia” there, by the way), and French journalists get fined for the “racial defamation” of Israeli Jews (ditto). And in the UK, we see the (failed) prosecution of the leaders of the BNP. Of course, those of us who have a more “American” view of free speech will see such laws as counter-productive and confused and tending towards other evils that must be opposed, but that’s the context in which they come into existence and are applied; conspiracy theories about Muslims and “cultural Marxists” miss the point.

UPDATE (10 Jan): More today.