There are three kinds of intelligence: one kind understands things for itself, the other appreciates what others can understand, the third understands neither for itself nor through others. This first is excellent, the second good, and the third useless.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I return!

Finally from seemed like an age in the cold, bleak and harsh country that is Russia. But still, despite it's apparent grimness, the country really is quite spectacular and i hope to do a full write up about it very soon. In the mean time however, here is a picture of me at red square.
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Sunday, February 12, 2006

A first

Whilst browsing through my photo's i stumbled across a picture i'd completely forgotten about.
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As insignificant and unimpressive as it looks, this is actually the very first time i saw mount Everest, ever. Awe inspiring no matter what the distance.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Freedom of speech is one of the strongholds of a democratic government, without such free speech we are likely to be locked into mistaken policies until the point comes when we can no longer correct them, something that has happened in Britain regarding the matter of immigration. We all know, the cost of expressing reservations about the growth of Muslim ghettos in our cities was - at the time when this might have been avoided - far too great to take the risk, far too politically incorrect. Now we must live with the consequences, and believe me, they are only just beginning.
That said, we ought also to recognize that freedom of speech does not mean the freedom to produce images, however offensive, or to make insulting gestures. Or, as a result we run the risk of loosing all sense that icons of faith must be respected, however ridiculous they may seem.
A faith is not a system of intellectual beliefs; it is a way of life. And the symbols of that way of life are like portraits to the believer. Family pictures which stay on the wall and the desk, defining the place where we are, the place that is ours, the home that is sacred and not to be defiled. Those who stamp on them are not regarded kindly.
The condition of the public discussion that we need is respect. That means that we must respect the icons of the Muslim faith, even if we think them ridiculous, indeed more so if we think them ridiculous. The cartoons that have precipitated the current crisis were worse than a mistake: they were an act of sacrilege, like stamping on the crucifix or spitting on the Torah. This is not a contribution to free speech at all, it’s simply an obstacle to it.

That said, we still need to remind Muslims of the ground rules of democratic protest. You don't respond to this kind of insult by calling for an international "day of anger". No Christian or Jewish leader would dream of responding in such a way. The very duty of a religious leader is, after all, not to inflame anger, but to protest in a spirit of forgiveness.
There is, in the Muslim culture that is growing in the modern world, a dreadful attachment to double standards – an assumption that you are free to express the most violent hatred, incitement to violence, and group antagonism, including attacks on embassies and the symbols of peaceful coexistence, while condemning all invasions of the sacred Muslim space as intolerable breaches of the law. And there is a meager retreat from confronting this, which can be witnessed by our government's absurd attempt to outlaw religious hatred - which was not directed against Muslims but supposed to appease them. We have only one weapon in the confrontation with Islam, and that is the law as we have, over a thousand years, defined it.People who incite violence must pay the price, and we need to bring home to Muslims that incitement is not the right response to provocation.

Where we go from here, however, is anyone's guess. The public debate that we so much need is not going to occur until things have simmered down, and we all know that moderate Muslims are in a quandary, should they ever veer close to the alleged crime of apostasy. Maybe the debate between secular society and Islam has to take place with only unbelievers representing the Muslim side. And in fact that is what is happening.

Freedom of speech does not mean freedom to offend or provoke.