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article imageOp-Ed: Western hypocrisy over freedom of expression

By Alexander Baron     Sep 15, 2012 in Politics
As protests by angry Moslems continue throughout both the Islamic and non-Islamic worlds over a blasphemous cartoon about the Prophet, a young Moslem in Bradford has been convicted of "sending a grossly offensive communication".
This is not a crime story, rather it is pure politics, at least that is how it must seem to the world's Moslems following the recent release of a film about the founder of Islam that takes blasphemy to a whole new level. The case of Azhar Ahmed was reported here last May. Now he has been convicted of the crime of which he was accused.
Okay, the deaths of six British soldiers in Afghanistan was not something anyone should have celebrated, but what did he actually say? The offending Facebook post can be found here.
No threats, no rants against named individuals, simply soldiers should die and go to Hell. Isn't that what the churches have been telling us for centuries? Isn't that what the Bible says? If you kill people, you will go to Hell? And what do soldiers do? What about their commanders: George W. Bush and Tony Blair, and now Barack Obama, the man who jokes about predator drones killing the Jonas Brothers?
Juxtapose this brief rant with the film Innocence Of Muslims and the blasphemous cartoons row of a few years ago, which many people defended on the grounds of free speech, and young Ahmed doesn't sound quite so bad, does he? It is easy to see how naive Moslems could interpret this as a double standard, which it is. Of course, it is not only Moslems who are dragged into court in Britain for committing such non-crimes, and in this connection we may mention the ludicrous John Terry affair.
Can a Facebook posting of this nature ever warrant a criminal investigation much less a criminal conviction? Of course it can. There were those idiots last year who posted messages during the riots, messages which earned them severe prison sentences, but Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan were shouting fire in a crowded theatre. Azhar Ahmed was merely venting his spleen.
In the United States, members of the odious Westboro Baptist Church have made a practice of picketing funerals, and they have been defended by Libertarians on free speech grounds. Azhar Ahmed did not picket a funeral, and although his comments were in extremely bad taste, he has been criminalised for expressing legitimate dissent, however undiplomatically he expressed it.
The great irony is that in a very broad sense, the vast majority of Britons and Americans agree with him. Our troops should stop killing and stop being killed; bring them home, and if Afghans, Iraqis, or anyone else want to kill each other, let them do so without the complicity of Western governments.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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