Among the groups that I saw at the Toronto march was a contingent of elementary school teachers. As most people know, the great majority of elementary school teachers everywhere are women. As women, they have experienced more than their fair share of discrimination, pay inequity, and even violence in the workplace. But should teachers have the right to protest and then to bring their views and opinions into their classrooms? It might depend on the views and how they are expressed.
As the former director of education for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, I have had to stand up for the rights of people I don't like very much, people who say and write things that I had hoped never to hear or read. But I have also taken the opportunity to let them know that, just because I will fight for their right to free expression, I have no intention of respecting what it is they say or represent. I am going to use MY free speech to let the ugly, abusive, and racist people out there know that they are wrong.
What Iranians lived in that time -- what they channeled through their intellectual salons and prison letters, their dreams and childhood memories -- felt to me like an epic novel, replete with calamities and reversals, crescendos and epiphanies, and a sweeping arc of history that cut through its core.
Suddenly, I became aware that this comment thread had opened a window for me into the American ideal of freedom and how virulently many Americans support the First Amendment without any consideration of the violence that hate speech causes. I realized that the concepts of inclusivity, diversity and multiculturalism that I had studied were not the first things on these people's minds. I began to think that these concepts didn't figure into their equation at all.
Freedom of expression has cost my husband, Raif Badawi, his own freedom. As we speak, he is locked inside a small cell in a remote prison in Saudi Arabia; a country where censorship prevails. A country, my country, which views women as second class citizens. A country, my husband's country, that he so loves -- all of its land, its women and men, his love of his country, which extends right up to the doors of Shura, which is set on ruining the aspirations of an entire people. A country where the young are choking in a whisper that should be a scream.
So much has been written about the cartoons published in the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. But should main stream print media re-publish them? What if children see the images? What then? Or, alternatively, should we actively show them to our children? If we want our children to live in a democratic society, we had better teach them that freedom of expression has two ends to it.
The folks at Charlie Hebdo did. They had the courage to embrace and use their rights to say how they felt. Playing like a loop in my head, was the fact that the shooting at the Paris office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was the act of absolute cowards. Has society taken for granted the fundamental right of free speech and expression that allows us to voice our opinions? I don't care about religious affiliations, they don't change my opinion. I do, however, care to speak about the freedoms that were so maliciously attacked Wednesday.
Hollywood has forgotten that as much as copyright can be an engine of free expression, it may also be a vehicle for its suppression. Hollywood studios should recognize that the more power they have to ensure that their content can't be accessed without their consent, the more vulnerable they become to be targets of threat and extortion by those who do not like their content.
There have been complaints about the three Ottawa doctors who won't prescribe the birth control pill. They don't prescribe it partly out of religious conviction, but also because they believe it's bad medicine. Research shows plenty of evidence against the pill. If conscience is overturned and doctors who disagree are forced to prescribe it, this will ironically mean the provision of inferior care. Using hearts and minds together is what conscience protection allows for. Does anyone actually want anything less in their doctor?
The University of Calgary recently reversed the guilty verdict of seven pro-life students who were found guilty of non-academic misconduct for setting up a display with graphic photos comparing abortion to the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide. The court decision has been heralded by some as being a victory for free speech on campus. But it's not.
An article published in the Globe and Mail last week lulled readers into thinking that India is struggling to contain a growing Hindu fascist movement, carelessly employing reductionism and omission to present a distorted view of a country that is gaining economic and cultural importance for Canada.
Less than a generation ago, Canada was a world leader when it came to the fundamental democratic freedoms of assembly, speech and information. So perhaps it is time for us Canadians to wake up and smell the suppression -- no longer are censorships solely the purview of tin-pot dictators in far away regimes.
This societal need to prosecute potty mouths and anything deemed offensive has become a popular trend in Canada. Most recently this has been transcended into anti-bullying laws introduced in legislatures all over the country.We have to be careful about legislating offensiveness. We cannot allow the government to decide what subjective comments are acceptable and which should land you in prison. Britain is taking steps to restore absolute freedom of speech, so should Canada.
Afifa Luaibi wrote a substantial article I found on an Arabic website. Nothing is revealed about the personal details of the writer, but the article reveals a lot about her very progressive thoughts, which are bound to ruffle some feathers in the Middle East, but which constitute a breath of fresh air in the ongoing debate about Muslim women and their rights.
The most retrogressive segments of Muslim society often angrily conclude that reformist Muslims only speak from a position of ignorance when questioning orthodox religious practice. Progressive Muslims are ignorant, self-serving, heretical, and hypocritical according to these conservatives, who consistently accuse revisionists of being fifth columnists with nefarious ulterior motives.