Religion in the public sphere, World affairs:

Fighting words that are not fought

posted by Sindre Bangstad

Some debates, it seems, simply do not disappear. The impassioned ongoing debates over freedom of speech and its limits provide a case in point. Rightly or wrongly, these are debates in which many Western ‘secular liberals’ have come to regard themselves as engaged in nothing less than a Kulturkampf against various threats to the freedom of expression, emanating first and foremost from religiously minded Muslims. This framing of the debate began with the Rushdie affair, in 1989, and has become, if anything, more prevalent since the cartoon crisis of 2005-2006. Indeed, it seems ever more evident that we face a future in Europe where the freedom of speech will be in constant tension and conflict with the freedom of religion and belief.

“Under what conditions does freedom of speech become freedom to hate?” Judith Butler recently asked. Here I will explore these issues in light of recent developments concerning the freedom of speech in Norway. I will argue that applying a cosmopolitan liberal approach to freedom of speech (i.e., along U. S. First Amendment lines) in a European context in which anti-Muslim and anti-immigration discourses are becoming ever more poisonous and pervasive risks underestimating the power dynamics inherent to the practice of free speech in contemporary Europe as well as overestimating the “mainstream” political and intellectual will to mobilize against the populist right-wing’s instrumentalized Islamophobia.

In an op-ed for The Guardian, Timothy Garton Ash recently argued that “for reasons both of free speech principle and political prudence,” Dutch politician Geert Wilders “should not be on trial for what he says about Islam.” Wilders, the leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV), is being prosecuted under Dutch hate speech regulations for his comparison of the Qur’an to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and for referring to the former as “a fascist book.” In opting to indict Wilders, Dutch prosecutors, according to Garton Ash, are “guilty of blurring the line between attacking the believers and criticizing [their] beliefs.” He argues for instead moving the struggle against contemporary European populist articulations of xenophobia from “the court of law” to “the court of public opinion,” calling upon “mainstream politicians and intellectuals” to mobilize in defense of the liberal rule of law and equal rights of citizenship for all individuals.

Similarly, Andrew March has argued that in a Europe that is often discriminatory and imbalanced in its approach to Muslims citizens, “Muslim minorities in particular have a strong interest in “securing a more fundamentalist and formalist culture of defense of free speech.” Garton Ash’s and March’s motivations for advocating more free speech in response to hate speech are not identical. Whereas Garton Ash invokes the “slippery slope” argument (by which “a purpose to protect individual human beings” turns into a ban on criticizing “any belief”), March makes the valid point that religiously motivated speech has the same innate capacity to injure as non-religiously motivated speech, and that the religious therefore cannot claim any special privileges in regard to protection against injurious speech. The slippery slope argument, most famously articulated by Ronald Dworkin, holds that since free expression is a necessary condition of political legitimacy in any democratic society, we risk unduly interfering with political legitimacy and ultimately undermining democracy if free expression is curtailed. Dworkin is a strong and articulate defender of what may be characterized as contemporary U.S. First Amendment understandings of freedom of speech in their most absolutist incarnations. Yet the available evidence from liberal and democratic countries with hate speech legislation quite simply does not support the contention that such legislation paves the way for more wide-ranging restrictions on speech.

March and Garton Ash do, however, share certain basic assumptions. The first is that the distinction between speech directed against religion or belief of any sort and speech directed at individuals professing a particular religion or belief is easily identifiable. The second is what can be broadly defined as a desire to universalize, or at least to “Europeanize,” an understanding of the freedom of speech rooted in the U.S. First Amendment. Under U.S. First Amendment principles, as elaborated by the U.S. Supreme Court in the course of the twentieth century, the only legitimate restriction of speech pertains to any utterance functioning as an incitement to “immediate” violence against particular individuals, if and when the listening audience is in fact liable to act upon such speech. This interpretation of the constitutional protection of free speech is an outlier in global and comparative terms. But in light of legal, societal, and political developments in the past decade, on the national as well as the supra-national level, European states, and Scandinavian states in particular, seem more and more to be turning toward contemporary U.S. First Amendment understandings of the freedom of speech. For now, formal legal protections against various forms of racist, hateful, or discriminatory speech instituted as a result of international conventions remain in the statutes of numerous countries. Under these conventions, certain restrictions on free speech are permitted under the condition that they are “prescribed by law” and “necessary in a democratic society.” In Denmark, for instance, The Free Press Society’s Lars Hedegaard was recently prosecuted successfully for racist speech. In France, TV personality Éric Zummour was convicted under similar laws. But in Norway, hate speech legislation is more or less a dead letter. For laws that are merely symbolic and seldom, if ever, applied soon lose both their effectiveness and their legitimacy.

The character of racism in Norway shifted significantly in the course of the 1990s, in line with developments elsewhere in Western Europe. The racism of biological markers was replaced by various forms of cultural racism, and overt anti-Semitism became anathema while more or less subtle forms of Islamophobia became palatable. It is noteworthy in this context that the figure of “the Muslim” as an embodied threat to everything from freedom of speech to gender equality and from gay rights to the sustainability of the welfare state means that Islamophobia in contemporary Norway has wide cross-sectional and cross-political purchase. Even overtly xenophobic and racist organizations in Norway now claim on their websites to be opposed to all forms of racism and xenophobia, and merely to be engaged, rather, in a “critique of Islam” and efforts to ‘stop the “Islamization of Norway.” With the tacit support of Norway’s political, legal, and intellectual elites, racism is narrowly construed as relating only to biological markers of difference.

In principle, more free speech and more open access to various media means an increased potential for Muslims to respond to popular stereotypes and stigmatization. And it is, in fact, by no means unusual for young Norwegian Muslims to do so. But to do so under current circumstances requires very thick skin indeed. In interviews with me, young Norwegian Muslims active in the mediated public sphere very often report receiving abusive and threatening letters and emails. At the same time, mainstream liberal editors, who act as gatekeepers to major media outlets, often have their own scripts requiring those who get privileged access to visible positions in the mediascape to play particular roles—specifically the heroic “secular feminist Muslim” and the vilified “conservative Muslim,” or, in other words, the Muslim woman in need of freedom (from “Islam”), and the Muslim man denying her freedom (in the name of “Islam”). “Power speaks only to power,” in J.M. Coetzee’s words, and to be able and permitted to express oneself in public does not entail actually being heard.

Furthermore, many Norwegian mainstream—and supposedly liberal—editors cast themselves as “critics of Islam”—some to the extent of regularly recommending Islamophobic “Eurabia literature” of various kinds to their readers. Their Kulturkampf against the threats to freedom of speech emanating from ‘Islam’ often invoke the 3.0 percent of Norway’s population that is of Muslim background as a stand-in for this generalized other. In these editors’ constant clamor to be at the forefront of the heroic struggle for the freedom of speech, the editorial restraint of mainstream media in the U.S. is often virtually absent. In a reversal of Enlightenment creeds, it is now the powerful rather than the powerless that the freedom of speech is expected to protect. Many of these editors have also expended much energy on attempts to publicly discredit and discourage use of the term Islamophobia in Norway in recent years. It was not entirely coincidental, then, that, in 2009, Norway’s technocratic and influential Foreign Minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, described the very concept of Islamophobia as “substanceless rant.”

In early January, 2011, the secular feminist Hege Storhaug, of Human Rights Service (HRS), in an op-ed in the mainstream liberal-conservative newspaper Aftenposten, by far the most influential newspaper in Norway, compared Muslims in prayer during a demonstration at Oslo’s University Square the previous year to “quislings.” Not to be outdone, Kent Andersen, a board member of the Oslo section of the populist-right wing Progress Party (PP), on a personal blog some weeks later, compared Islam to Nazism, and rhetorically asked his readers whether they thought that there could be “moderate Muslims”—as if there were ever “moderate Nazis.” The implication of such analogies, as Ian Buruma suggested in a 2009 New York Times op-ed, is that those who happen to believe in the Qur’an are like Nazis, and that an “all-out war against them” would therefore be legitimate. This is where Garton Ash’s approach would seem to run into some difficulties, for it is hard to see Storhaug and Andersen’s declamations as anything other than speech that deliberately blurs the line between a legitimate critique of Islam and hateful speech targeting individual Muslims. Andersen works in marketing, and, like Storhaug, has close links to some of the Progress Party’s most influential MPs. Once the Progress Party was on the fringes of Norwegian politics, but since 2003 it has governed the capital, Oslo, in a two-party alliance. In the parliamentary elections of 2009, the PP got a record 22.9 percent of the vote. Established in 1973 as an anti-taxation and anti-bureaucratic party, the PP first discovered the popular appeal of anti-Muslim and anti-immigration rhetoric in 1987.

Anti-Muslim and anti-immigration discourse has long been part of the political mainstream in Norway—effectuating what the late Tony Judt described as a “social democracy of fear.” Norway’s governing Labor Party has managed to remain in power, in a tripartite alliance of the center-left, by taking ever more stringent measures on immigration and integration, thus echoing the PP’s policies, if not their rhetoric, in recent years.

As a direct result of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) of 1966, Norway introduced a racism paragraph (135 (a)) into its penal code in 1970. In its current formulation, the racism paragraph may be used to penalize public utterances or symbols of a hateful or discriminatory nature based on attributes such as skin color, national or ethnic origin, religion or belief, or homosexual orientation and lifestyle. In spite of numerous racist incidents during the 1970s and ’80s, the paragraph was never much used. As a result of public utterances he made during a march in the small Norwegian town of Askim, in 2000, Terje Sjølie, a Norwegian member of Boot Boys, a neo-Nazi gang, was charged under the racism paragraph. In his speech, Sjølie proclaimed that “every day, immigrants rob, rape and kill Norwegians.” One year later, a gang of Boot Boys brutally stabbed to death Benjamin Hermansen, a fifteen-year old boy of mixed Norwegian-African parentage, in a southeastern suburb of Oslo. Hermansen’s murderer had been present at the march in Askim the previous year. On an extremely cold winter evening 40,000, Norwegians took part in a commemorative anti-racism march dedicated to Hermansen and his family; it was the largest demonstration ever held in the Norwegian capital. Nevertheless, in 2002, a divided Norwegian Supreme Court acquitted Sjølie of the charges brought under the racism paragraph. The Court’s majority argued that the freedom of speech overrode the right to protection from hateful and discriminatory speech. Various Norwegian civil society organizations appealed the Supreme Court’s verdict to the UN’s ICERD Committee. In 2006, the ICERD Committee found the verdict in the Sjølie case to be in violation of ICERD articles 4 and 6. Norwegian state officials have repeatedly asserted to the European Commision against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) that the Sjølie verdict would now be inconceivable. Yet, with the exception of the Norwegian Supreme Court’s 2008 conviction of Norwegian Neo-Nazi Tore Tvedt for having declared in a 2003 tabloid newspaper interview that Jews were “parasites whom we must cleanse,” there have been no successful legal prosecutions under the racism paragraph in Norway in recent years. Charging and prosecuting Norwegian citizens on the basis of hate speech against Muslims—as the Dutch and the Danish have recently done in the Wilders and Hedegaard cases—now seems relatively inconceivable.

Freedom of speech debates are often construed by free speech proponents and opponents as a zero-sum game—that is, it is assumed that one either is, or ought to be, for or against free speech. Here I must make clear that I am inclined neither to support blasphemy laws nor to defend the dubious concept of “defamation of religion.” Exempting the beliefs and practices of people whose beliefs and practices happen to differ from my own is not a way of demonstrating respect or treating others as equals. The public sphere is an impure place, and so it must be. The current “fetishism of law” makes many attribute the most magical of effects to the mere letter of the law. It is an open question, however, whether the law is an appropriate instrument in the regulation of expression. For, in plural and heterogeneous societies, it is doubtful that any Rawlsian “duty of civility” can be instilled through law, and the emergence of various largely unregulated social media on the web makes it even less likely.

When restrictions on racist, discriminatory, and hate speech were introduced in Europe, in the aftermath of World War II, it was because European political and intellectual elites had come to the conclusion that there had to be some such restrictions in place in order to prevent “fighting words” from turning into “fighting actions.” It is hard to see that when Islam is compared to Nazism, and ordinary Muslims to Nazis, it constitutes a mere “critique of religion” rather than hate speech. The last racially motivated murder in Norway took place in 2008, when a Norwegian-Somali Muslim father of six, Mahmed Jamal Shirwac, was killed. There is solid evidence from Germany to India and from Rwanda to Bosnia that fighting actions are usually preceded by fighting words. Even though history does not repeat itself, in the current circumstances, it would be prudent to uphold a modest defense of European restrictions on hate speech.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Printer-Friendly Version


5 Responses to “Fighting words that are not fought”

  1. avatar Andrew March says:

    Very nice essay. Quite persuasive. Would you agree that you are offering a “public order” justification for restrictions on speech or something more?

    It seems that you share and endorse the distinction between persons as citizens or subjects of social power, and persons as embodiment of everything they value; i.e., that you would be skeptical of arguments which reduce *all* speech about religions (and their symbols) to de facto speech about the followers of those religions since the religious themselves experience speech about their religion and its founders in immediately intimate ways. In other words, you seem to share Garton Ash’s concern not to collapse speech about ideas into speech about persons; you just want to emphasize the pervasiveness in Europe of vicious, hateful speech about Muslims as persons.

  2. avatar Michael Whisson says:

    The participants in the “debate” in Norway might well look more widely into developments in e.g. South Africa, which has a long history of demonising “the other.”

    The sense of cultural and intellectual superiority possessed by the earliest European visitors to the Cape was readily transformed into “Christian racism” whereby people who neither looked like the invaders, nor worshipped like the invaders, were doubly stigmatised—much as the Church in Europe literally demonised beliefs and actions which were not consistent with hierarchical Christianity. The heritage remains—and under the present regime, it is now much easier for a “white” to be convicted of “hate speech” than it is for a “black” e.g. it is officially worse for a “white” to call a “black” a “kaffir” than it is for a “black” to lead the singing of the “struggle song” “Kill the Boer, Kill the farmer,” at a time when many farmers have well founded fears of being attacked.

    Speech, especially when fueled by political and material advantage, is a powerful incentive to action. Some of the “black” townships have engaged in ethnic cleansing of recent immigrant communities. Somali shopkeepers have had their shops burnt out—with local businessmen fanning the flames of hatred and envy. Zimbabwean refugees from the Mugabe regime have suffered a similar fate—for “stealing jobs.”

    The generally resourceful and hard-working pioneers of immigrant communities almost inevitably find themselves in competition for jobs, homes and business opportunities with the least successful elements of the host community. Therein lies the root of the problem—and populist politicians readily leap at the opportunity to fan smouldering envy into flaming hatred. It is not enough for middle class clergy and ivory tower intellectuals to bemoan or rationalise. Consistent programmes of education to develop economic opportunities for the “least successful” as well as for tolerance of difference are basic to prevention as well as cure.

  3. Let me first thank Profs. March and Whisson for their comments, and apologize for having been unable to respond timely due to traveling. In response to March’s queries:

    (1) I am not sure whether what I have presented amounts to a ‘public order’ justification for restrictions on speech. What the late Tom Bingham in ‘The Rule of Law’ (2010) referred to as a ‘thick’ theory of the rule of law presupposes equality before the law. What much of the kind of speech I have referred to in my post does is of course to undermine that very equality, and quite deliberately so. So my argument would be closer to that developed by Prof. Jeremy Waldron in his 2009 Oliver Wendell Holmes lectures (‘Dignity and Defamation’), namely that hate speech restrictions may be required in order to protect the individual dignity of citizens as social equals and as bearers of human rights and constitutional entitlements. This does however not entail endowing individuals with protection against perceived slights or offenses for any religious beliefs or convictions that they may hold.

    (2) I share Garton Ash’s (and March’s, I would assume) concern about collapsing speech about ideas into speech about persons. If one holds critique of religions or beliefs to have a legitimate place in any liberal and democratic society (as I do), then a delineation would be of crucial importance to uphold. From an anthropological point of view, there is an inherent risk in not doing so as it may entail reproducing a version of Bernhard Lewis’ ‘homo islamicus’, i. e. an essentialized Muslim being whose thoughts and actions are over-determined by ‘Islam’—and one who is equally offended by various attacks on ‘Islam.’ Yet as pointed out by several authors (Ian Leigh, Eric Barendt) in a recent edition of Res Publica (17, 2011), Garton Ash’s operative delineation is from a legal point of view less clear-cut, and more difficult to work out in practice, than what Garton Ash seems to admit of. Leigh and Barendt demonstrate this to be the case both in European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) jurisprudence as well as in British jurisprudence on hate speech against religious individuals. For the collapsing (or at the very least, the blurring) of speech about ideas into speech about persons is, as Ian Buruma seems to imply in a New York Times op-ed which I referred to in my initial post, often undertaken by those who engage in such hate speech, and with deliberation at that. The greatest threats against equal rights of citizenship and the rule of law may not be the instrumentalized Islamophobia of European right-wing populists as such, but the silence of otherwise decent members of European political and intellectual elites in the face of the challenges that this entails. In Norway it is for instance quite apparent that mainstream political parties have failed in formulating concrete and positive visions for the future of an increasingly multicultural society, and have to a large extent been left with defensive reactions to, or an outright accommodation of, the bleak and negative visions of the populist right-wing of the future of such a society. Or in other words, advancing ‘the social democracy of fear’ which Tony Judt referred to, as the only response. (Please note here, that all mainstream political parties in Norway are in one sense or the other, by virtue of electoral necessity, social democratic). The predicament of mainstream parties here is of course also a reflection of the predicament of a technocratic politics geared towards opinion polls rather than actual policies in late modernity. I am therefore less optimistic than Garton Ash about the prospects of a mobilization against populist right-wing discourse in the context of Europe in which such discourses have become much more widespread and influential than they ever were since 1945, though I am encouraged by his recent efforts under the auspices of ‘The Group of Eminent Persons of the Council of Europe’ and its recent report, ‘Living Together: Combining diversity and freedom in 21st-century Europe, 2011′. Unlike Garton Ash, I happen to think that hate speech legislation in its modest and nuanced versions has a legitimate role to play in these matters.

    In response to Whisson:

    Having had the privilege of living and undertaking research in South Africa for some years, I would certainly concur with the view that there is much to be learned from South African experiences—and not the least from the vigorous defense of rights to equal citizenship and dignity for all South Africans by the South African Constitutional Court in the post-apartheid era. I say this, knowing fully well that formal rights are not the same as substantial rights in post-apartheid South Africa, and that minorities in South Africa (from immigrants to gays and lesbians) often continue to suffer horrendously from discrimination and hate crimes. The recent literature on xenophobia in South Africa does suggest that competition over limited resources in a society which still has one of the highest rates of socio-economic inequalities in the world is an important factor. However, with Joan W. Scott (The Politics of the Veil, 2008) I would argue that the situation of Muslims in Europe can be fully grasped only if the local context is taken into account. Norway is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita; has low levels of unemployment; comparatively low (albeit rising) levels of socio-economic inequality; and state finances relatively unaffected by the ongoing financial crisis in Europe. In other words, economics alone cannot explain why Norway has one of the strongest populist-right wing parties in Europe. And it is also noteworthy that the Progress Party’s discourse on immigration and integration in the recent decade has to a very limited extent focused on economics. One would in fact think that its discourses would have been far less influential across the political spectrum in Norway had this been the case.

  4. avatar Andrew March says:

    Thanks for the excellent response. So let’s take this standard: “Waldron [argues] that hate speech restrictions may be required in order to protect the individual dignity of citizens as social equals and as bearers of human rights and constitutional entitlements. This does however not entail endowing individuals with protection against perceived slights or offenses for any religious beliefs or convictions that they may hold.”

    Does this mean speech which originates anywhere in society by any person, or speech which rises to a level of pervasiveness and influence, or speech practiced by certain persons in official or semi-official capacities?

    If the first, which is the most ambitious and capacious interpretation, then where would the following kinds of speech fall when uttered by any member of society?

    1. Speech which describes homosexuality as an illness or abnormal or contrary to nature and not worthy of respect, never mind equality, in society.

    2. Speech which describes atheism as a perversion of man’s natural state and proper use of reason and the origin of all social evil. For that reason it is something which the state, in ideal conditions, ought to be deployed to suppress and roll back. The atheist has no grounds for complaint because her atheism is a form of ideological illness and her reeducation a form of emancipation.

    3. Speech which describes religion in general as a mass delusion and evidence of the believer’s failure of rationality. For that reason it is something which the state, in ideal conditions, ought to suppress and roll back. The believer has no grounds for complaint because her belief is a form of ideological illness and her reeducation a form of emancipation.

    4. Speech which justifies economic inequality in the following way: “The market generally works at a very high level of efficiency and rewards the talented. The talented own their talents, and their efforts. Those born with fewer, or less valuable, talents have no claim to treatment by society other than in accordance with their inferior talents. If they suffer in society it is simply a misfortune of their birth, i.e., their innate endowments which are as much a part of them as the superior talents of the better off.”

    5. Speech which justifies political equality in the following way: “The good and the bad are a matter of rational truth. Either a society is moving towards the good or it is moving towards the bad. Only the most superior people are capable of discerning the good. They are justified in exercising political power on the basis of their innate, not only acquired, superiority. As to the rest, it is ultimately in their best interest to obey the superior, but they are not usually able to discern this. So the superior class is justified in masking the true foundations of their authority and conniving to persuade the inferior that the regime is justified using whatever duplicitous devices they can concoct.”

  5. Prof. March raises some further interesting and challenging questions in his response. Whilst these warrant a much longer and more elaborated response, I will here attempt to respond in brief.

    In my response to March, I referred to Prof. Waldron’s ‘Dignity and Defamation’ as a valuable argument in favor of retaining hate speech restrictions under law in contemporary Europe. I do not think Prof. Waldron has meant to suggest that any speech which infringes on or undermines the equality of citizens in a liberal and secular democratic state qualifies as hate speech. In terms of its perlocutionary aspects, there is arguably a difference between the examples of hate speech that I cited in my initial post, and the examples of discriminatory/inegalitarian speech March cites in examples 1-5 in his latest response. Under existing hate speech provisions in Norway (the so-called ‘racism paragraph’, 135 (a) in the Norwegian penal code) hate/racist/discriminatory speech (or symbols) must be ‘public’ in order to be liable to criminal prosecution. This of course raises the question of how the ‘public’ is defined—but practice in this field has (to the extent of my limited knowledge thereof) entailed a use of quite restrictive definitions of the ‘public’. Or, in other words, the introduction of a legal threshold. So, utterances in the context of political rallies, statements in the media, pamphlets and so forth qualifies—but it is much less clear that the law would apply to hate speech in semi-public contexts such as in a pub or a café. To the extent that this law has been applied, actual legal practice suggests there is another threshold in that the language used and the contents of the speech would have to qualify as particularly dehumanizing or brutalizing of individuals endowed with the particular characteristics referred to. There is a distinction to be made between various forms of speech from public to private to political to artistic, as well as a gradation of speech from high-value to low-value speech. Finally, if we consider (with Tom Bingham’s The Rule of Law, again) that it is unpopular minority individuals that the laws of a democratic and liberal society are first and foremost in place to protect, then it is speech of a particularly dehumanizing and brutalizing kind uttered in public and reaching a significant audience which poses a challenge to the theory and practice of equal citizenship.

    I would like to point out that I am a social anthropologist by training, not a scholar of law or legal philosophy. I would argue that in a democratic society, it is ultimately for legal professionals to map out the delineation between what qualifies as legally protected free speech and what qualifies as sanctionable hate speech. I have not meant to offer a coherent theory and legitimation of hate speech legislation here. The problem I pointed to in my initial post is that in the absence of any application of such laws, and a societal context in which hateful speech becomes naturalized as a form of un-reflected and un-reflexive doxa (even to be found among legal, political and media elites), one might end up in a situation in which newspaper editors as well as politicians abandon any pretense of restraint when it comes to dehumanizing and brutalizing speech directed at comparatively powerless minority individuals. We are not yet there in present Norway, but when the leading mainstream newspaper in Norway allows its op-ed pages to be used to characterize Muslims in prayer as ‘quislings’—with all of the attendant connotations this has in a Norway, which was under German Nazi Occupation from 1940 to 1945—it is a disturbing sign of what a state of affairs a deontological and absolutist conception of freedom of expression may lead to. For all it’s worth, I am quite sure that, say, The New York Times, would never even countenance printing such egregious instances of abuse of free speech. I am of course well aware of the fact that law in and of itself cannot remedy this situation. In his time, the liberal champion of free speech John Stuart Mill warned about the ‘yoke of public opinion’. The ‘yoke of public opinion’ entails a situation in which conformity of opinion encroaches on individuals freedoms and rights. As Saul Levmore and Martha C. Nussbaum points out in their introduction to The Offensive Internet (2010), for Mills, purely emotive and bullying speech deserves no particular protection. Regardless of what kind of practical instruments one is willing to countenance in order to address the ‘yoke of public opinion’ with regard to Muslims in Europe at present, it is clear to me that the yoke must be cast off if the rule of law and equal rights of citizenship is to remain a virtue of European societies.

    Since there is a risk of such exchanges developing into mere casuistry, Prof. March and I may probably profitably pursue this discussion elsewhere in due course. In light of other pressing professional commitments, I will therefore now have to cede this space to others, with gratitude for the incisive and challenging comments I have hitherto received. These will no doubt be useful in my further work on these issues.

Leave a Reply

Please note: All comments will be approved by an administrator before they appear on this page.