Letter to ST Forum by former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Letter to ST Forum by former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

SC

“Take care not to head down false path”

LAST Saturday’s letter by the European Union and French ambassadors to Singapore (“Freedom of speech: Europe has measures to curb abuse”) was meant as a rebuttal of a speech

I had made, an excerpt of which was carried in The Straits Times (“A practical not ideological approach to human rights”; May 4).

Ironically, the rebuttal provided further evidence of how, in pursuing an absolutist notion of free speech, the EU in general and France in particular have tied themselves into knots and courted grave trouble, as exemplified in the Charlie Hebdo tragedy.

The letter pointed out that France has strict laws against anti-Semitism.

This is certainly highly commendable, even if not very effective in practice.

But why throw the weight of the state against discrimination against one religion or group, while acquiescing in the systematic vilification of another religion, Islam, in the name of freedom of speech?

This is, at least, a stark inconsistency and a double standard, if not worse.

And, of course, terrorism is a global scourge.

But how is this relevant to my point that Europe has taken freedom of speech to ridiculous extremes? Do the writers mean to say that Charlie Hebdo’s lampooning of Islam had nothing to do with its being targeted, rather than, say, Le Figaro?

I take no joy in pointing out the inconsistencies of the European position.

But when a young Singaporean defends his vicious attacks on Christianity by appealing to the same extreme ideology of freedom of speech that has landed Europe in a dangerous conundrum, the false path that Europe has taken needs to be exposed and pondered by all Singaporeans.

Bilahari Kausikan

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