Monday, November 21, 2005

On freedom

Having perused some of the comments to my last post on this subject, I would still like to point out some pretty fucking fundamental things. Let's reiterate, for starters, the OED's definition of freedom.
freedom (noun)
  1. the power or right to act, speak, or think freely.

  2. the state of being free.

  3. (freedom from) exemption or immunity from.

  4. unrestricted use of something: the dog had the freedom of the house.

  5. a special privilege or right of access, especially that of full citizenship of a particular city given to a public figure as an honour.

I have highlighted the first because it is the most important; all of the others spring from that definition. So let me just reiterate that first one.
freedom (noun)
  1. the power or right to act, speak, or think freely.

Right, is that subjective? No, it is not. The ultimate state of freedom is to be able to do what you want, completely. All cultures curb absolute freedom to a degree: I should not be allowed to murder a shopkeeper because I consider his broccoli to be too dear. That impinges on his freedom to charge what he likes for his broccoli.

MatGB adds in the comments:
What to you (and I, for that matter) is a repressive regime is to them a regime that allows 'true' muslims to worship uninterrupted by women not 'covering their modesty', etc.

No. No. No.

What Islam does is to engender a regime that tells all, whether they believe in Allah or not, how to dress and behave. There is, and I would really like to stress this, no scope for moral relativism. Our culture allows people to believe or not. Our culture allows people to dress or not. Most importantly, our culture allows you to practise your own beliefs and not to force other people to do the same.

Islam does not. I think that some people may have got the wrong end of the stick in my last post, so I shall restate my position.

Those people who are bombing innocent people in the name of Allah are not freedom fighters: they are not fighting against a regime that stops them doing what they wish to do, or believe what they wish to believe. They are attempting to establish a regime that does that. The July 7 bombers were not fighting against a regime that stopped them from practising their faith; they bombed us to demonstrate their support for a regime that does that. Note, please, that freedom is the power to do such and such a thing.

I maintained that these people were fighting for power, and I simply cannot see how anyone can gainsay that argument. They are fighting for the power to impose an order that they believe in. The "Resistance" in Europe during the Second World War—that bog-standard argument "clincher" of the pro-Islam Lefties— were freedom fighters because they were trying to overthrow a regime which, demonstrably, allowed less freedom than the one which they had previously enjoyed. Islamists are not fighting for freedom, since the society that they wish to create is demonstrably less free than ours, i.e. it allows people to the power or right to act, speak, or think freely to a lesser extent than our current regime does.

People seemed to imagine that I was making a philosophical point: I was not. All philosophical arguments render down to semantic arguments, and are therefore pointless*. I am arguing against the attempted imposition of a deeply illiberal regime. An illiberal regime, by definition, allows less freedom than a liberal regime. We live in a liberal society in which we allow people to do what they want, provided that they do not impinge catastrophically on the lives of others.

Those who fight for Islam do not. They fight for a regime that cuts the heads off schoolgirls and murders thousands of innocents all over the world.

I don't really care what we call these people: Tiny Judas's argument is essentially a philosophical—and, therefore, semantic—one anyway. What I am really saying is that his argument, and those in the comments, are really about moral and cultural relativity.

And moral and cultural relativity, my friends, you can stick right up your fucking arse**.

* If anyone wants to challenge me on this, please feel free. You will become swiftly aware that I am right.

** But note that I will not call for your execution for doing so.

(UPDATE: Welcome to readers of the ever-incandescent Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler.)

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