Free speech is under assault everywhere around the world.
In Pakistan, Asia Bibi, a Christian mother-of-five, has been under the death sentence for the past six years for blasphemy â€“ her Muslim co-workers took offence she was drank from the same bowl of water as them (making it â€œuncleanâ€) and claimed that in the ensuing argument Asia insulted Mohammed, the accusation she strenuously denies. Two days ago her Supreme Court appeal has been postponed yet again. Her family lives in hiding, she has had a bounty put on her head (should she evade execution) and she has millions of her fellow countrymen baying for her blood. If you have a stomach for it, go to Twitter and look at the hashtag #hangasia where grown men are falling over themselves to slip on the noose. You kind of expect that of places like Pakistan but itâ€™s still sad and revolting.
Australian cartoonist Bill Leak will not be hanged, but he will be investigated for the local equivalent of blasphemy, racial hatred:
Bill Leak and The Australian are staring down a Human Rights Commission challenge under section 18C, 10 weeks after the cartoonistâ€™s provocative drawing led to a public debate over indigenous parental neglect.
Commission president GilÂlian Triggsâ€™s delegate, Jodie Ball, has written to the newspaperâ€™s lawyers to advise that allegations of racial hatred under the Racial Discrimination Act will be investigated.
The allegations are in a complaint by Melissa Dinnison over Leakâ€™s August 4 cartoon, which prompted widespread commendation and criticism for its blunt portrayal of a crisis in Aboriginal parentingâ€¦
Documents provided by the federal human rights body state Ms Dinnison has complained under section 18C because she says she has â€œexperienced racial hatredâ€ and been discriminated against as a result of the cartoon.
Her complaint states: â€œThe Australian newspaper has published and endorsed a cartoon depicting racial discrimination, racial profiling, and racially Âoffensive material. A series of cartoons illustrate hateful and derogatory material specifically relating to indigenous Australians, their relationships with their children, alcoholism and domestic violence.â€
And in the Netherlands, in a case I blogged about a few weeks ago while over there, The Hague district court has now decided that the Dutch politician Geert Wilders will after all stand trial over his â€œhate speechâ€:
Wilders’s remarks triggered 6,400 complaints, and criticism from within his own party.
Some 56 people and five organisations have registered as victims of the comments and at least 34 witnesses have come forward, judges have said.
Although judges on Friday allowed 40 claims to go ahead, they capped the amount sought as damages at 500 euros, dismissing the 21 other claims.
â€œRegistered as victimsâ€ â€“ all thatâ€™s wrong with the 21st century encapsulated in just three words.
The remarks in question occurred at a party rally two years ago when Wilders asked his supporters whether they would like “fewer or more Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands?” When the crowd responded “Fewer! Fewer!”, Wilders answered: “We’re going to organise that.”
Stating your partyâ€™s immigration policy is now considered a hate crime. Wrap your head around that concept: you cannot argue for a change in the ethnic make-up of the immigrant intake of your own country because that is racist and hateful.
Make no mistake, Wilders is loving it. The national election is due in March next year and the whole controversy is providing him with priceless free publicity, aptly illustrating all the political points he has been making all along about multiculturalism and the culture of rampant political correctness. To add insult to injury, the Dutch judiciary is quite politicised and the odds are high that Wilders will be sat judgment on by judges who are active members of political parties strenuously opposing him in the election. While his â€œoffenceâ€ potentially carries a sentence of up to 2 years in prison, no one I spoke to expects that to occur. But the sight of Wilders in an orange jumpsuit doing community service for the crime of expressing the opinion of a large part of the Dutch electorate, all during the election campaign, seems an almost heaven sent opportunity.
But sadly this is not a laughing matter.