From Pakistan to Iran to Saudi Arabia to Egypt to Nigeria to the United Kingdom, Muslims scoff at our rhetoric about free speech. They point to European laws against questioning the Holocaust…. Hate speech laws go further. Germany punishes anyone found guilty of “insulting” or “defaming segments of the population.” The Netherlands bans anything that “verbally or in writing or image, deliberately offends a group of people because of their race, their religion or beliefs, their hetero- or homosexual orientation or their physical, psychological or mental handicap.” It’s illegal to “insult” such a group in France, to “defame” them in Portugal, to “degrade” them in Denmark, or to “expresses contempt” for them in Sweden. In Switzerland, it’s illegal to “demean” them even with a “gesture.” Canada punishes anyone who “willfully promotes hatred.” The United Kingdom outlaws “insulting words or behavior” that arouse “racial hatred.” Romania forbids the possession of xenophobic “symbols.
This is spot on, and a real problem I have with my native land. Just last year someone in the UK was locked up for tweeting a truly nasty thing about Fabrice Muamba as the soccer player laid near dead on the pitch. Hideous things that I would hope never comes out of any mouth or typed on any computer. But worse than the words was the reaction.
To ban speech, to limit what people are allowed to say, is not to eliminate speech. Rather banning hateful speech empowers it. Better to have even the most hateful words out in the public so we all know it exists than to let it fester underground.