Sunday, October 05, 2008

No platform for racism, sexism or homophobia?

I am a child of the mid-sixties, studied at a pretty left-wing university in the mid-eighties and have seen a shift in British politics whereby more women and ethnic minorities play a role in the governance of this country, and whereby the sexual orientation of an individual does not define his or her place in society in the way that it once did. That is not to say that society is entirely blind to the gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation of the individuals within it, nor that those previously under-represented groups remain anything other than under-represented.

However, I was brought up aware of the idea that, whilst the concept of free speech is entirely desirable, it is not obligatory to provide a platform for racism, sexism or homophobia. Irfan Ahmed's blog entry earlier this afternoon treads perilously close to homophobia, perhaps even steps over the line. Publishing such comments on a Liberal Democrat blog aggregator risks discrediting all of us, and posting such comments under an avatar which is the Party's official logo is, in my mind, unacceptable, and I have muted his blog accordingly. If clarification is forthcoming, and is satisfactory, I reserve the right to reverse my stance.

I might have taken the step of complaining about the matter to Ryan. However, I think it unreasonable to place him in the position of having to make decisions of censorship, and therefore place my view before my fellow blogging colleagues for their consideration accordingly.

I do not believe that any blogger, regardless of his or her views, should have the ability to propagate their views curtailed. However, it is not their right to have such views further propagated by groups or individuals who do not support and, indeed, condemn them.

6 comments:

strmrgn said...

I think his post steps way over the line especially this bit – “I think the Conservatives could only beat the Labour Party in having a more gay Cabinet!”

Yes we are all entitled to our opinion, but why exactly it matters what sexual preference a member of the cabinet, or even any one in the country has, is beyond me.

Jennie said...

I've had Irfan muted for ages. His inability to spell, punctuate, etc., makes his blog painful for me to read, and thus I don't read it.

strmrgn directed me to the post, and I was shocked, to say the least...

Hopefully he'll retract.

jamesshaddock said...

I don't think the post is intentionally homophobic, more a satirical comment that has missed the point

Stephen Glenn said...

Thanks for this post Mark I composed a comment on Irfan's blog last night and re-read before submitting it and realised I needed to calm down considerably before revisiting him.

It is not the first time I have felt uneasy with comments of that nature on his blog and I think it may be that he has yet to be exposed to the swathe of diversity that exists in our party, bear in mind he is only a teenager still.

However, it appears he is not going to retract but surely an edit of the original post to clarify things is the least that any good blogger would do.

Julian H said...

We may also want to note that on this thread Irfan posted comments as follows:

"Saj used to call the Conservatives a "gay and friendly party" and now he is among them!"

"being Gay is banned in Islam you can not be a Muslim and be a Gay!"

LJH said...

Mark - I was at the UEA too, although a year or two after you, and the 'no platform' row was still going strong then. The words still have the power to make my chair shoot back at least a yard from my computer desk, it would appear ;- ))

I was fascinated recently to realise that, some 20 years on, we're fighting exactly the same battles but in a totally different arena - one we possibly couldn't have imagined back then.

I suggest taking a look at the following link, where a feminist blog from the US tackles the subject of how far it should go in engaging with hostile opinion: http://www.feministing.com/archives/011339.html. The debate in the comments thread took me right back to Norwich circa 1988 and raises many of the same issues.

Not sure how far this helps with tackling Mr Ahmed and his views, but it's a deeply interesting topic. I've seen so many good blogs and forums ruined by the need to be 'fair-minded' and 'balanced' in the comments. Reading some of the recent comments on Lib Dem Voice makes me wonder why that organisation pays good money for bandwidth for the benefit of Cameron-promoting Tory trolls...