Freedom to Read week begins this year in Canada on February 26th and runs through March 4th. As a librarian, I support the right to intellectual freedom and stand firmly opposed to censorship. As to what is censorship, I find the following definition of what constitutes censorship formed by the American Library Association the most comprehensive and inclusive:
Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons—individuals, groups or government officials—find objectionable or dangerous. It is no more complicated than someone saying, “Don’t let anyone read this book, or buy that magazine, or view that film, because I object to it! ” Censors try to use the power of the state to impose their view of what is truthful and appropriate, or offensive and objectionable, on everyone else. Censors pressure public institutions, like libraries, to suppress and remove from public access information they judge inappropriate or dangerous, so that no one else has the chance to read or view the material and make up their own minds about it. The censor wants to prejudge materials for everyone. (American Library Association)
The critical point in this definition is the fact that “the censor wants to prejudge materials for everyone.” Continue reading →
Gavin Boby, a lawyer from the United Kingdom, and leader of the Law and Freedom Foundation is on a speaking tour in Canada. He is due to speak at the Ottawa Public Library tomorrow evening. Mr. Boby is a controversial figure as the Law and Freedom Foundation provides a free legal service for those who oppose mosque developments. Through his foundation he claims to have stopped the construction of 16 out of 17 mosques across Britain. Mr. Boby objects to the construction of mosques on the grounds that mosques act as bridgeheads within Western society for the advance of Islam. Mr. Boby maintains:
A mosque is not merely a place of worship. Islamic doctrine requires the application of Islamic law within its geographical reach. As homosexuals, Jews, and those attached to freedom of speech discover, Islamic law claims supremacy over the conduct of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It mandates violence against those who resist it. British common law is clear that there can be no justification for: the preaching of sedition; claims that women, Jews, homosexuals or non-Muslims are inferior and can be abused; the call for persecution or murder of Muslim apostates. Continue reading →
There is no such thing as bad publicity it is often said. Is this so? Personally, I think there is such a thing as bad publicity. Let me recount a recent incident by way of an illustration. A student at Carleton University, where I am employed, Arun Smith is his name, has generated a great deal of publicity for himself in pulling a truly stupid, petulant stunt on campus, basically an act of petty vandalism. A campus group, Carleton Students for Liberty, set up an installation in the University Centre, calling it the “Free Speech Wall” on Monday January 21st. Passersby were free to jot down their thoughts. Mr. Smith, a student politician seeking election to the Carleton University Students’ Association, took exception to the installation and destroyed it over night. He proudly confessed to doing so on his facebook page claiming free speech ““illusory concept” and that “not every opinion is valid, nor deserving of expression.” This has since been picked up by the press and blogosphere giving the previously obscure Mr. Smith considerable public attention. The bulk of this attention has been less than flattering to say the least, but this does not concern the erudite, ahem, (he has been studying as an undergraduate student seven years now), Mr. Smith. Presumably he thinks he stands to gain from his new found ignominy. He may well have increased his standing among the politically correct elements on the Carleton campus, but across the wider society both on and off the campus, judging by the comments left on the restored installation, he is seen as a fool.