Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Mr. Bean Stumbles Onto The Truth

Mr. Bean is gravely serious. The British sitcom character who brushes his teeth using the spray from his windshield wipers while driving to work, took to Westminster yesterday to petition for the British Parliament's opposition to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill - a proposed British law to outlaw the "incitement to religious hatred."

And that's a real life setting that we're not accustomed to seeing the British Dean of the Daft and Prince of Pratfalls in.

But this time Rowan Atkinson acquits himself without incident and convincingly makes a case for the fundamental right of free speech and the dangers of censorship, arguing that a truly tolerant society is one that is

"open, and vigorous, not one that is closed and stifled in some contrived notion of correctness."

But the British Muslim community is supporting this legislation, citing a climate of "fear" in the wake of the Global War on Terror and the murder of Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands. And MPs representing inner city Muslim communities see this legislation as a way to win back support that has evaporated because of Blair's support of the Iraq war.

With a Labour government that also prefers to prosecute the victims of home invasion crimes rather than the perpetrators, Atkinson is right to be alarmed, but doesn't quite go far enough:

“Their dilemma must be understood and I appreciate that this measure is an attempt to provide comfort and protection to them but unfortunately it is a wholly inappropriate response far more likely to promote tension between communities than tolerance."

Which brings us to the core question surrounding this issue: Shouldn't we be promoting critical discussion of religiously-based intolerant practices, such as honor killings, suicide bombings, beating of wives, stoning of homosexuals, female circumcision, fatwa-sanctioned murder of heretics, say "divorce" three-times divorce, and other delights of radical Islamist culture?

Paul Cook, a British-based Christian activist, weighs in:

"there is a real danger that this law could be used by extremists to silence organizations like ourselves from highlighting the persecution of Christians and other human rights abuses which occur within some religious communities."

Bingo. The designation of "religion" and "tolerance" shouldn't be used as a protective shield against public scrutiny and criticism, especially when elements of that religious tradition are antithetical to the notion of tolerance and promote barbaric practices that contradict the underlying values and morals of the host society.

So Mr. Bean didn't trip over his words, but he helped us stumble into the truth.

Now, under the Labour government, if you're the victim of a home invasion burglary, you hand over the silverware. If the perpetrator is a religious terrorist, you hand over the jewelry as well.