Stories about free speech

Season six of Girls is a game changer. Here’s why.

The first thing that struck me about season six of Girls was how it wasn’t about the girls anymore. The show was no longer about the undeniable bond between four girls that stood unwavering through time. In the very first episode, Hannah (Lena Dunham) says to Paul-Louis (Riz Ahmed) – having him in the episode was enough for me to like it – that she only knew her friends by what they didn’t like. How odd is it to not know what your friends like? How odd is it to relish in that fact? She smirks as she says this and man, ...

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It isn’t hate speech for Yiannopoulos to say “feminism is cancer”, it’s just how he feels

In May of 2016, Ben Shapiro resigned from Breitbart News because it was a “propaganda outlet for Donald Trump”. That same month Shapiro posted a joyous announcement on social media, saying that his wife had given birth to their second child. With infinite gratitude to God, we're overjoyed to welcome to the world our new baby boy, who arrived at 10:30 this morning! — Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) May 8, 2016 In response, Milo Yiannopoulos, a Breitbart mainstay Tweeted: “Prayers to Ben who had to see his kid come out half-black. And already taller than he is!” The Tweet included a photo of a black infant. ...

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Dear PEMRA, on behalf of all Ahmadis, we urge you to stop taking notice and start taking action

On Thursday, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) “took notice” of the telecasting of “provocative” content by NEO TV and 92 News targeting the Ahmadi community. It released a statement to the effect that the complaint had been forwarded to its Council of Complaints and the television channels had been notified. This is a commendable action by the media watchdog and one hopes that the “notice” will be followed by stern action. PEMRA has a reasonable 24-point code on what constitutes hate speech which it has not effectively implemented in the past. It is time it started doing so. To provide some background, NEO TV, in its program Harf-e-Raz and Channel 92 in its show Subh-e-Noor had both telecast content that branded Ahmadi’s as “traitors to ...

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The story behind my film, Maalik – From the horse’s mouth

Maalik is in the midst of a huge controversy; all kinds of motives are being attributed to my film and, although everyone is entitled to their own views, I thought a straight narrative from the one who knows Maalik the best may help. A brief intro before going further: I was born in Quetta and proudly call Balochistan my home. I am ethnically a Punjabi and my ancestral roots may be connected to a village near Nankana sahib in the district of Sheikhupura, near Lahore. Being a common man, I have little use for title, surname and caste and I have never used my ...

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Spare us the crocodile tears. Please stop. Khurram Zaki is dead. Do something.

Khurram Zaki is dead. The ‘unbearable lightness’ of intimidation and murder in Pakistan has manifested once again. The eulogies are pouring in; speculations are rife about who is behind the assassination of yet another liberal social activist and on social media a familiar war of words has commenced. Despite the fact that one bright light after another is being summarily extinguished, it appears that self-righteousness is still the prime mover of the national discourse. For the legion of Google scholars and keyboard Jedis, it’s all or nothing; either faith in its entirety must be indicted or the blame must lie elsewhere. ...

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Why is Junaid Hafeez still languishing in jail?

Located in the south of Punjab, Rajanpur is the poorest district of Pakistan’s largest province. Over half the population lives below the poverty threshold and two-thirds lack a primary school education. It was into this bleak rural landscape that Junaid Hafeez was born and where his edifying story begins. At the age of 16, he had completed a Secondary School Degree with an ‘A1’ score – the top percentile among all students. In 2003, he was at the top of his class for his Intermediate (two year College) Degree in Premedical Studies. In 2009, while pursuing a joint degree in English Language and ...

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Why is it blasphemous for a child to question an adult’s decision?

The worst nightmare for a Pakistani parent is when their child shows an affinity towards anything related to art, music or the performing arts. Unfortunately, our parents are programmed to believe that to have a successful career, it is important to choose a field of study that leads to a positively stable career. Keeping that in mind, you can just imagine what my parents’ reaction was when I told them I was interested in pursuing a career in film-making. Now my parents are not the conventional Pakistani cookie-cutter parents. Both of them are educated and have very independent lines of ...

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Why do Muslims play victims of free-speech but make excuses for apostasy and blasphemy?

The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), as reported by The Express Tribune on September 1, 2015, initiated a nationwide campaign to ‘create awareness about the religion (Islam)’ by displaying billboards that, as ICNA spokesman Nadeem Baig stated, hopes to,“raise awareness about the faith and to dispel myths about the Muslim Americans”. The billboards contain messages such as how Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) supports ‘peace, social justice and women’s rights’. Photo: Islamic Circle of North America Facebook page Yahoo News also covered ICNA’s crusade and the comments section got flooded by anti-Muslim vitriol. Such comments demonstrate that Islam has a poor image in ...

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Does Charlie Hebdo really deserve the Freedom of Expression Courage Award?

On August 2nd, 2006, the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo’s front page depicted a sobbing Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The caption read, “Mahomet débordé par les intégristes.” (Muhammad (PBUH) surrounded by fundamentalists) The thought bubble added, “C’est dur d’être aimé par des cons.” (It’s tough being loved by morons.) The target? Sociopaths who, rather than committing acts of charity in the name of Islam, choose evil and violence. Charlie Hebdo mocked these extremists, yet never condoned or incited violence – the only legitimate limit on speech. In 2011, radicals firebombed the offices of Charlie Hebdo, yet Hebdo continued to publish, culminating in the infamous massacre of January 7th and ...

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What separates Charlie Hebdo from The New York Times?

Let’s say you had a new neighbour. You knock on their door and say, “Hey there, welcome to the neighbourhood. I live next door. Oh, and by the way, you look like a pig. And is that your mother behind you? She looks like a fat old donkey. Dinner at my place tonight?” You certainly have the right to say all that. But should you? And what purpose will it serve? And though I would not punch you if you ever said those things to me, I would do one thing other than simply closing the door behind me – I would use ...

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