This is the speech I delivered almost in its entirety in my capacity as special commentator, along with Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy, at Monday night's semi-final in the intra-university Next Generation Debates series at Auckland University. I say "almost in its entirety" because a gaggle of Muslims became very vocal near the end of my speech and demanded, successfully, I be stopped at once for having gone over my allocated time. The point at which I was shut down is noted in the text below.
What a member of Young New Zealand First called "magnificent pandemonium" followed, with epithets flying back and forth, Dame Susan waiving her right of rebuttal and storming off from the table we were both sharing.
“That this House would ban religious symbols in public.”
I’m a libertarian. As a rule I don’t believe in banning anything ... except banning. I don’t believe in banning religious symbols in public, even though I’m an atheist. [At this point the lights went out, and I declared myself a Believer. Then they came back on.] I often repair to the immortal maxim derived from Voltaire: “I disagree with what you say but I defend to the death your right to say it.”
What a magnificent sentiment!
Article 13 of our Bill of Rights says:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief, including the right to adopt and to hold opinions without interference.
Article 14 says:
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.
Article 15 says:
Every person has the right to manifest that person's religion or belief, in worship, observance, practice, or teaching, either individually or in community with others, and either in public or in private.
I agree with all that.
Unfortunately Article 4 makes it clear that this Bill of Rights can be trumped by legislation contrary to it, meaning the whole thing is a sham!
So that’s the first thing I’d do before worrying about the display of religious symbols: remove Article 4 from the Bill of Rights so that it really is a Bill of Rights.
Second, I’d abolish Dame Susan. Nothing personal! I’d just abolish the office of Race Relations Commissar and with it, the entire Human Rights Commission, to which I routinely refer as the Human Wrongs Commissariat. This cossetted coterie of taxpayer-supported fascists of the left just want to impose their precious, prissy, puritanical Political Correctness upon all of us. They’re our Thought Police, prattling on about diversity when they’re attempting to outlaw the most important diversity of all, ideological diversity and make their Political Correctness compulsory. Everything in their universe would be either illegal or compulsory. In my universe they’d have to find real jobs and the legislation that set them up would be repealed.
You see, that legislation already contains provisions that violate our Bill of Rights.
Article 131 of our Human Rights Act says you can go to jail for making insulting comments about someone’s race or country of origin!
So there was this Irishman, Englishman and Scotsman … oh wait, we can’t go there.
So there was this Iraqi, Iranian and Pakistani … of my, we most certainly can’t go there!
So much for: Everyone has the right to freedom of expression ...
I hate to break it to you, but there is a right to insult. The way to deal with a racist is to shame him with reason, not to jail him. Freedom of expression includes the right to say offensive things. It doesn’t include a right never to be offended.
There is certainly a right to say things that will be construed as insults by those intent on being insulted even though they’re not intended to be.
And this gets us close to the nub of the issue.
This is the Age of Umbrage, the Age of Offence-Taking. All chance of debate on any matter of substance is instantly closed down nowadays as soon as some some two-bit totalitarian, some shrieking Social Justice Warrior, some pompous PC Thought Policewoman whines, “I find your statements offensive.” For these latter-day Inquisitionists, the only thing that gets them out of bed each day is to find something to be offended by and be a victim of. Racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, White Privilege , income inequality … you name it. To them, the best response I know of was uttered by comedian Stephen Fry, who said, and I shall quote him exactly: Quote—“It's now very common to hear people say, 'I'm rather offended by that.' As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more than a whine. 'I find that offensive.' It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. 'I am offended by that.' Well, so fucking what!" Unquote.
The stifling pervasiveness of this infantilism, the mindless absurdity of campus “safe zones” where one’s “sensitivities” won’t be “triggered” by “micro-aggressions,” is such that free speech is all but dead. It has been killed above all by those institutions that once were its proud bastions, the media and the universities. Here I want to salute as noble exceptions the students at Otago University who just voted down a ban on “offensive” costumes at their annual party by their purported representatives, the Otago University Students Association. The OUSA had issued a list of forbidden apparel, including anything depicting Nazis, Arabs, Bill Cosby or Caitlyn Jenner. The students rebelled. A referendum was held and 67% of participants voted against the prohibitions. Congratulations, Otago students. But look out. Big Sister Susan is watching you!
We all know what the real moot is here tonight. Not the generic banning of religious symbolism in public, but the specific banning of Muslim religious symbolism. There’s no issue with Christians or Buddhists or Sikhs or Hindus or Jews wearing their drag and bling in public. There is an issue, because of everything that’s going on in the world, with Muslims covering up their faces. But had the moot been, “That this House would ban the burka,” this debate would not have been allowed to proceed. Muslims would have taken offence, Dame Susan, even though Islam is not a race and hence not within her purview, would have instigated prosecution proceedings against NZ Initiative, and we’d be having to launch a campaign to “Free Oliver Hartwich!”
But we should be able to debate banning the burka. What’s going on in the world does make it an issue.
Ordinarily, as a libertarian I’d say wear whatever drag and bling you want; just don’t force me to wear it.That’s my default position. In the case of Islam, however, there’s one significant consideration that might cause me to depart from that position. That is, elements of Islam have declared war on us, in accordance with their Holy Book, and are waging that war with a brutality we never expected to see revisited in the twenty-first century. These are sub-human barbarians who want to take us back to the stoning age. They want their evil superstition to be mandatory for everyone in a world-wide caliphate. In free countries they take advantage of freedom of speech to hold up signs saying, “Death to the Infidel!” “Freedom of speech go to hell!” "Man-made law go to hell!" “Massacre those who insult Islam!” “Behead those who insult the prophet.” Like the Human Wrongs Commissariat, they don’t believe in the right to insult, and they behead away with impunity.
In war, all bets are off. You don’t have to extend peacetime freedoms to those you’re at war with. In WW2 England people were not free to wear Nazi regalia in public, or hold Nazi demonstrations, or advocate publicly for Nazism, and neither should they have been. We’re not obliged to extend freedom of expression to any enemy who is seeking by violence to take ours away, and to kill us. We must not assume that because no Muslim in New Zealand has ever committed a terror attack, none ever will. I would hope that “reasonable” non-violent Muslims are cooperating with authorities in monitoring for signs of violent ones. My contention, though, is that “non-violent Muslim” is a contradiction in terms, given the number of injunctions in the Koran along the lines of “slay the infidel wherever ye may find him” and the odious violence that is Sharia Law. My position is that “non-violent” Muslims are by definition not Muslims at all, even if they consider themselves to be. [At this point, shouting by Muslims got very loud, and they demanded I be silenced at once since I had gone overtime. Unfortunately the organisers capitulated, and asked that I stop immediately, notwithstanding my protestations that I was almost there. The following lines of my speech were not delivered.] Now I wouldn’t put any bans or restrictions in place just yet, except one: on further Muslim immigration while Jihad is going on anywhere in the world. I would put Muslims on notice that I reserve the right to put other bans or restrictions in place, and expect them to understand that and cooperate.
So, ban the burka? Not right now—there'd be no particular point as best I can tell—but we'd be within our rights to do so and there could be a point quite soon.
The overarching thought I want to leave you with is that we should be able to at least debate this matter without the spectre of the Human Wrongs Commissariat hanging over us.
PS: If there’s anyone I haven’t offended here tonight, I apologise.