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Make a pledge, but not one that limits speech

Sadly, the Muslim peace body launching an anti-extremism declaration and asking foreign speakers to sign a statement promising to limit their speech in certain ways is actually seeking to limit free speech. Free speech is a dominant tenet of a free, democratic society.

Free, open exchange of ideas is encouraged, especially in universities. Free exchange and debate of ideas are fundamental to discernment.

Couldn’t the Irish Muslims themselves, who are promoting the above pledge to be signed by foreign speakers, be themselves considered foreign speakers in some circumstances?

It is frightening to think the seeds of extremism are so powerful that they must be hidden away.

To ask visiting speakers to sign such a pledge is an unacceptable democratic practice. It even smacks of a certain isolationism, of hiding away to protect ourselves. What the extremists preach and teach and how they use the Koran to support this teaching must be exposed and challenged repeatedly by words and by actions.

We must not isolate ourselves from them and their deeds, as gruesome as they may be.

Extremists will only be defeated by exposing what they really are.

Our young minds, Muslim or other, are not so weak as to be mesmerised by false prophets, but these young minds must be cultivated, and nurtured in a free, fair, and educated environment. This is the pledge we should make. As Gandhi is quoted as saying: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Joyce Anderson
Co Cork


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