Freedom of speech is our most important freedom. Without it democracy cannot function properly and advances in thought are hampered. Today in the “West” freedom of speech is seriously threatened, from several directions. Islamic fundamentalists are terrorizing cartoonists who draw pictures of their religious figures. Those critical of Islam have also been threatened. Newspapers are engaging in self-censorship due to a pervasive climate of “political correctness”. Students are demanding “safe spaces” at universities to protect them from ideas they may be troubled by. At the same time, “Western” governments are trying to pass ever more authoritarian laws which increase their ability to control their populations.
What are the causes of this trend? I would argue it is the result of declining average intelligence of “Western” populations combined with the growing numbers of followers of the Islamic religion in our societies. Islam is a brittle religion, it does not stand up to scrutiny, and so Islamic societies exact harsh punishments on those who try to criticize or publicly leave it. These punishments are in fact stipulated in the core Islamic texts. As the numbers of Muslims in our societies keep growing, Muslim voices demanding protection of their religion from criticism are getting louder. Our governments are fearful that growing tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims will lead to a breakdown in law and order, and so they are acquiescing to these demands.
Although it is tempting to think that in the short term these policies will be effective in maintaining law and order, I believe that in the long run they will have a very bad effect on freedom of speech in general. If the situation we are in is a temporary one, then these policies may be more justified as a temporary measure. However unless they are coupled with a comprehensive and effective strategy to reduce the influence of the Islamic religion in the “West”, then our situation will not be a temporary one, but in fact will continue to deteriorate.
I will be examining the UK government’s policy responses to this situation in detail in future articles.