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Back in June 2017, the British public watched in horror as a North Kensington Tower block went up in flames. 72 people died as a result of the accidental fire, the majority of which were ethnic minorities. This terrible tragedy has since been weaponised as a political football and understandably provokes a lot of emotional response from the general public.
As Guy Fawkes celebrations were in full swing in the UK, it was reported that a group of men had created and burned a card mock-up of the Grenfell Tower block. This was then filmed and posted on the internet.
Running a globally successful social network such as Twitter can be tricky business. On the one hand, you want people to think you are the ‘free speech wing of the free speech party’, yet on the other hand there are some complicated international laws to navigate.
In case you are one of those tedious types who thinks it’s even remotely interesting to remind people that “Twitter is a private company and they can do what they want”, save your breath. I know.
Now that’s out of the way, perhaps we can talk about the implications of Twitter’s approach to free expression. Private business or otherwise, we should not underestimate the influence Twitter has on politics, news and society. In fact, what is said on Twitter often IS the news. And as a result, we should be able to discuss whether a leading facilitator of global communication supports free expression or does not.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that ‘defaming’ the Prophet Muhammad “goes beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate” and “could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace”.
The ruling was passed against an Austrian national referred to as ‘E.S’ in reports. Mrs. S, born in 1971 held two seminars in 2009 entitled ‘Basic Information on Islam’.
Referencing Muhammad’s marriage to 6 year old Aisha, Mrs. S was reported to have said “Muhammad liked to do it with children” and “… A 56-year-old and a six-year-old? … What do we call it, if it is not paedophilia?”
I was very pleased to be at the Battle Of Ideas this year to speak about religion. The festival itself consists of many, many, (many!) public discussions and debates with an emphasis on inviting the audience to have their say by challenging the guest speakers.
My panel was titled ‘From Bakers to Burqas: Religious Freedom Today’. I aim to make audio of the full panel available soon, but for now you can hear my opening remarks below.
I was at the National Secular Society’s Bradlaugh Lecture a few weeks back to record Gita Sahgal’s lecture on the rise of Hindu Nationalism.
You can watch that in full below, now.