I don’t normally write about current events, but this week a few statements of such remarkable stupidity have come to light that I can’t help but repeat them. Counting down from least to most ridiculous, here they are. Keep in mind that these quotes are coming from major media sources which I happened to have read in the past week. Links are provided, but I do not have any better data than that and of course cannot comment on whether they are accurate translations for those coming from foreign (ie: not English, classical Latin, or ancient Greek) languages. No doubt stupider things were said this week, but I’m not counting YouTube comments.
#3: “I call upon these countries and say: Yes, freedom of expression is there, but you should make laws regarding people insulting our Prophet. And if you don’t, then the future will be extremely dangerous.” – Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, Pakistani railroad minister. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-19687386
Bilour is calling upon the western world to enact laws against saying bad things about Mohammed, in the wake of the violence throughout the Muslim world that started last week. This is the least ridiculous of the comments because it actually raises some good questions about the idea of free speech and expression and whether some limitations should be applied to that. Here in Canada, for example, we have laws against hate speech. This may be a necessary evil, as unfortunately people do not always respond to bigoted hatred as more degrading to the bigot than their targets. However, such limitations are a slippery slope at the same time. I hope we never see the day when anything that could be construed as mildly offensive is classed as hate speech, just as I hope we never see the day when criticizing the government falls into that same category. Still, Bilour’s proposition is beyond laughable: no pluralistic democracy is going to create a law to protect the reputation of one religious figure. This exception is the fundamentally silly part, as he seems to be suggesting that freedom of expression is all fine and good so long as no one is saying anything bad about the things he likes.
#2: “The angrier Western media gets, the more we realise we are moving in the right direction.” – Kamran Daneshjou, Iranian minister of science, research, and technology. Retrieved from http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/09/201292211424417429.html
Beyond the concerning issue being presented here by al-Jazeera which suggests a limit on women’s educational choices in Iran, I am not sure that Daneshjou is using the best means to measure the success of his policies. So, if the western media happens to find it a little disconcerting that women in Iran are having their educational opportunities limited, this means that they are doing the right thing? I wonder if the Iranians would be willing to use this policy for other matters? Perhaps western newspapers should start running angry stories about how Iran is such a peace and freedom-loving place and see if reverse psychology has any effect. I can’t help but wonder at the efficacy of the government that bases its policies on how they are viewed in foreign media sources and not on better data. Of course, I don’t seriously believe that this is how the Iranian government runs the country, but Daneshjou’s statement is still pretty stupid.
#1: Sign guy protesting at the French embassy in London.
This is a good one and really needs no introduction. “How awful that freedom and democracy thing is! If there was no freedom and democracy I wouldn’t have to bother protesting about how I have a right to protest!” I’m guessing he just associates “freedom and democracy” with “the west” and doesn’t really know what those terms mean. Or the sign might just be satire held by one of Europe’s radical anti-Muslim crowd. It’s impossible to tell from the picture, but on the surface it just seems really stupid.