June 19, 2009

On freedom of speech

From William Jelani Cobb's blog americanexception.com:
In 1989 the Iranian regime put a contract on Salman Rushdie's head because he wrote a book. In 2009 millions of Iranians took to the streets with freedom of speech as a prominent demand. Progress, perhaps.

Two years after Ayotollah Khomeini of Iran declared a fatwa against Salman Rushdie for his novel The Satanic Verses the author made a surprise appearance at Columbia University at a forum on the First Amendment.

Maybe he was ahead of the curve.

"Free speech is a non-starter," says one of my Islamic extremist opponents. No, sir, it is not. Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself.

Jelani Cobb then quotes from the speech Rushdie delivered at Columbia back in 1991, wise, brave stuff, and with a big hat tip to americanexception.com I'll quote a bit more. Salman Rushdie at Columbia:
"Our lives teach us who we are." I have learned the hard way that when you permit anyone else's description of reality to supplant your own -- and such descriptions have been raining down on me, from security advisers, governments, journalists, Archbishops, friends, enemies, mullahs -- then you might as well be dead. Obviously, a rigid, blinkered, absolutist world view is the easiest to keep hold of, whereas the fluid, uncertain, metamorphic picture I've always carried about is rather more vulnerable. Yet I must cling with all my might to . . . my own soul; must hold on to its mischievous, iconoclastic, out-of-step clown-instincts, no matter how great the storm. And if that plunges me into contradiction and paradox, so be it; I've lived in that messy ocean all my life. I've fished in it for my art. This turbulent sea was the sea outside my bedroom window in Bombay. It is the sea by which I was born, and which I carry within me wherever I go.

"Free speech is a non-starter," says one of my Islamic extremist opponents. No, sir, it is not. Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself.

BBC enlisting new satellites to broadcast in Iran

How to set up a proxy for Iran citizens

From NIAC:
If anyone is on Twitter, set your location to Tehran and your time zone to GMT +3.30. Iranian Security forces are hunting for bloggers using location/timezone searches. The more people at this location, the more of a logjam it creates for forces trying to shut Iranians’ access to the internet down! We must help them! Cut & paste & pass it on! Go Humans!!!
And this, from the Guardian via NIAC:
Previously, he [Mousavi] was revolutionary, because everyone inside the system was a revolutionary. But now he’s a reformer. Now he knows Gandhi – before he knew only Che Guevara. If we gain power through aggression we would have to keep it through aggression. That is why we’re having a green revolution, defined by peace and democracy.
The leader of the free world [and that phrase takes on special resonance in times like these] said today that we must bear witness to the "incredible demonstrations in Iran," the "hundreds of thousands of people who believe their voices were not heard and who are peacefully protesting and seeking justice." President Obama recalled the words of another American leader, who said:
When our days become dreary with low hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.

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