Sunday, December 24, 2006

Freedom of Speech in Iran

One of my favourite blogs, Austrolabe, which I urge everyone to bookmark, has an excellent dissection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust Denial Conference by the writer Amir. The first paragraph is especially telling on what it was all about:

The conference of ex-KKK leaders, trucker’s daughters, contrarian Jews, and innocent Canadian professors with tendencies towards career self-harm recently convened by the Iranian state to “discuss” the supposedly fake Holocaust has been cast by some as striking a blow for “freedom of speech”. (Of course, people promising dissenting views were banned from attending; even Iranian understandings of free speech have their limits).

Later, in the almost surgical procedure, Amir lists a couple of bullet points with explanatory quotes on the habits of Iran pertaining to freedom of speech: "good old fashioned censorship of books", "arrest journalists for criticising the state", "shut down newspapers that criticise the State", "ban students from attending university because they are 'outspoken'”, "blocked the New York Times internet site, Youtube and even Wikipedia" etc. etc.

In short, a mild totalitarian state (but don't jump up and down, George Bush -- this doesn't give you the right to "bring them freedom" as you're fit for the shackles of the Hague, and the Iranian people can manage without your cluster bombs and genocidal sanctions and they've recently shown Ahmadinejad that they dislike blusterers).

I recommend everyone read Does Iran support freedom of speech? in its entirety on the Austrolabe site. This Holocaust Denial Conference in my view is deeply abusive and disparaging to the Jewish minority in Iran who have one seat in the Majlis, and they might feel how Danish Muslims felt when the Flemming Rose attacked them with racism and Orientalism. Any centre which takes potshots at the minorities or slanders another people in the name of virtue and freedom proves nothing but that it is so fattened with all the power and authority that it can't even move to the window to see the Face of Freedom.

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