In Islam's ongoing war on the truth, it's not the hate that is reviled, it's recognition of the hate: "Since the Iranian fatwa against The Satanic Verses and the deaths that resulted when Salman Rushdie’s publishers, translators and booksellers were targeted, writers have learnt to avoid potentially inflammatory topics in Islam and other religions." Yet no one cares when imams preach "potentially inflammatory topics in Islam": hatred and violence against the kuffar. Only when anti-jihadists report on what they said does it become "hate speech." And now, as the self-censorship that this book discusses continues to advance in the West, sharia blasphemy law is being enforced at the UN under the guise of "hate speech," with willing help from the Obama Administration.
What this really is, in the ongoing onslaught of deceit and obfuscation, is the restriction of free speech in Islam's war on the West. Muhammad said, "war is deceit." They call "defamation of religion" and "hate speech" anything that tells the truth about Islam and jihad.
Jonathan Heawood weighs up Nick Cohen's book about censorship Telegraph (hat tip David W)
Of course you can read this book if you want to. But, as the Observer journalist Nick Cohen argues with passion and wit, there are many important books you cannot read, not because they have been banned but because they have not been written. Their authors have been forced into self-censorship through fear of violence, financial ruin or death.
Pre-publication censorship is rare in today’s world. But there are many other ways of silencing writers. The most effective is fear. For all the advances of secularism, democracy and new technology, the forces of religion, wealth and the state continue to suppress ideas and information. In fact, as Cohen argues, censorship has become more powerful over the past 20 years, not less.
Since the Iranian fatwa against The Satanic Verses and the deaths that resulted when Salman Rushdie’s publishers, translators and booksellers were targeted, writers have learnt to avoid potentially inflammatory topics in Islam and other religions. Even romantic novelists have been the subject of threats, as Sherry Jones found to her cost when her sentimental treatment of Mohammed’s wife, Aisha, was rejected by Random House in the United States because an academic reader had described it as a “declaration of war” on the feelings of Muslims. After a brave independent publisher, Martin Rynja, took on the book in the UK he too was attacked – petrol was poured through the door of his family home by extremists, though their plot was foiled by the police. The book did not even oppose Muslim orthodoxy; Jones simply mixed Mohammed and romance in what was deemed to be an unholy cocktail.
Cohen blames this form of suppression on the Islamist threat – what Christopher Hitchens called “an ultra-reactionary mobocracy”. If he is angry about Islamism, Cohen is incandescent about the liberal fellow travellers who condoned this new and violent form of censorship. However, it is not always clear who these liberals are. Yes, there were intellectuals and writers who refused to give unqualified support to Rushdie during the fatwa – but John le Carré, Hugh Trevor-Roper and Roald Dahl could hardly be described as bleeding-heart liberals. Meanwhile, large numbers of more obviously liberal writers such as Harold Pinter, Homi Bhabha and Lisa Appignanesi stood shoulder to shoulder with Rushdie. They are not mentioned here. Cohen’s thesis – that the postcolonial or anti-American strain in contemporary liberal thinking blinded its adherents to the illiberalism of Islam – does not accommodate evidence to the contrary.
Similarly, on financial censorship, Cohen presents a lone voice, deploring English libel law as an “under-explored form of censorship”, despite the fact, as he has to acknowledge a few pages later, that a national campaign for libel reform has attracted huge public support and led to a Government Bill on the subject. Libel is a problem here not only because of the underlying law but also because of the cripplingly high costs of mounting a defence. Cohen attacks the “timidity” of campaigners (of whom I am one) for not advocating the American approach to libel, which exempts public figures from legal protection against damaging untruths. This element of American law is unique in the world, and there are good reasons for avoiding it (who is a public figure, anyway?) Meanwhile, Cohen ignores serious work being done inside and outside Government to reduce the chilling effect of libel costs.