British Prime Minister David Cameron has long been a target of civil libertarians criticizing his dismissive attitude toward basic rights and particularly speech and privacy rights in that country. As if to prove his critics right, Cameron has publicly made comments that can be best described as Orwellian and some have gone as far as describing as fascistic. In calling for new extensive powers, Cameron said “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It’s often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that’s helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance.” It seemed like a scene out of V for Vendetta as Cameron called on citizens to give up their rights to fight the threat of terror.
Saudi Arabia has given the world another bizarre example of life under the strict Islamic code and values of the Kingdom. The Talaee Al-Noor International School in Riyadh painted an inviting and playful rainbow image on its building. The Kingdom’s religious police quickly swooped in an arrested the administrator, fined the school $25,000, and ordered the facade painted over. The reason? Rainbows are seen as “emblems Of homosexuality.” It is not clear what the religious police will do with naturally occurring rainbows.
Retired general and former Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark has caused a stir with an interview with MSNBC in which he appeared to call for the establishment of World War II-style internment camps to be revived for “disloyal Americans.” Clark used the infamous American internment camps for Japanese, German, and Italian Americans as a model: “if someone supported Nazi Germany at the expense of the United States, we didn’t say that was freedom of speech, we put him in a camp, they were prisoners of war.”
The extensive move to remove the Confederate Flag from public and some commercial settings has raised serious concerns over both free speech and academic freedom. While the flag has been used as a racist symbol, it is also a historical symbol. According to one author, that distinction appears to have been lost by Amazon, which reportedly took done the book by Michael Dreese, a civil war author with six books on the conflict. Two of those books concern both the Union and Confederate battle flags and their roles in the Civil War. However, “This Flag Never Goes Down” (a book on the Confederate flag) was taken down by Amazon from its listed works.
There is an interesting story out of Chad where the country has outlawed the wearing of Islamic veils over the face of women. The country took the step after a suicide bombing by the Muslim group Boko Haram used a burka-wearing man. France has been criticized for outlawing full veils or burkas so the move by a country with a majority of Muslims is surprising.
We have previously discussed the crackdown on free speech in Russia, including examples of quasi-blasphemy prosecutions by the country. While we often see such prosecutions in Muslim countries, there is a growing trend in the West against free speech, particularly when deemed anti-religious or insulting to particular groups. The unholy alliance of Vladimir Putin with the Russian Orthodox Church has accelerated this trend as shown in the move to shutdown a popular atheist social networking page of “There is no God” on VKontakte. The site’s 26,000 followers woke up to notice that the site was shutdown after a ruling from a count in the Muslim North Caucasus region of Chechnya under the control of strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, a key Putin ally.
We have been discussing the intolerance shown by countries in the Middle East for free speech, particularly those Muslim countries applying the medieval Sharia law system. Abu Dhabi has again stepped forward to reaffirm its rejection of fundamental principles of free speech. Our Middle Eastern ally has jailed an Australian woman, Jodi Magi, 39, for merely posting a photo on Facebook of a car parked across two disabled parking spaces. She even blurred out the license plate (which most people would not do) in showing the rude conduct of some driver. The driver called police and Magi was arrested for on the truly moronic charge of “writing bad words on social media.” In bringing the charge, the prosecutors in Abu Dhabi confirmed that they are maintaining a faux legal system that recognizes neither basic rights nor basic logic.