Friday, September 29, 2006

Muslim Protests and the law

I think I can make Iain Dale's point graphically.



Suppose a placard like my hypothetical creation above had been held aloft opposite this actual protest:



It actually seems pretty certain that there would have been more police trouble for a call for deification of a long dead Byzantine Emperor than there was for calls for the death of the Pope.

I think this is largely a result of having enforcement contingent on how nutty the people you wind up are (the protests by the Islamists were going to piss off quieter souls) as the method for assessing such offences is how likely the situation is to turn nasty. This would appear to be the legal enshrining of the same principle which said that the Danish cartoons should not have been published because the Muslim world would respond dangerously. The system is set up to make offending someone more of a problem if they are quicker to take offence and more likely to turn violent in response.

This set up causes huge problems because it gives in to the unpleasant instincts of extremists and, if it goes unchecked, could leave our society chronically unable to defend its values. It creates an awful incentive to react noisily or violently to minor upsets. It provides a legal advantage to those who do not wish to adopt the tolerant attitude which should be required of citizens of a liberal state.

Unfortunately, finding a policy solution to these problems is a more of a challenge than identifying them.

1 comment:

edmund said...

very good post I don't think the problems are taht great frankly in dealing wiht this- the solution is to make clear taht there have to be standard standards for breach of the peace-and if muslim radicals overrerat thrown them in jail not those who criticise them. This is not limited to that eg the christian (whose since died) who was thrown in jail for holding up a biblical quotation in an area with some homosexuals in Bournemouth.