Why my website was banned in India
Date: 11 Dec 2006
Why my website was banned in India
By Rusty Shackleford
Two days after the Mumbai bombings last week that killed more than 180, the
government of India issued a directive banning 17 websites. These websites
were singled out because, according to the Indian government, they might incite
religious violence. The nine American websites banned by India are all
critical of the Islamist movement. Not a single website of Islamic extremists
justifying and even celebrating the Mumbai bombings has been banned.
Why did India ban these websites? And what is the larger meaning of this
action? As proprietor of one of the banned websites, I am in a unique position
to answer those questions.
The short answer to the first question is that we offended Islamists, and
India is afraid of its own Muslim citizens. The short answer to the second
question is that liberty may not be able to exist where there are large
populations of Muslims.
Some time ago, a false story began to be circulated in the mainstream press
that a detainee's Quran had been put in a toilet at Guantanamo Bay. Some
Muslims reacted by protesting, some rioted, and some were killed as a result.
This reaction was a clarifying moment for many of us. Islam, as understood
by many Muslims, is not a tolerant religion.
The very definition of tolerance is to allow that which we do not agree
with. The moment Muslims demand that their governments punish those who say,
write or depict things they find offensive, they reveal their intolerance.
So, the reaction of our websites was to make fun of this overreaction.
Oddly, mocking the intolerant is now considered a form of intolerance by many in
The specific reason for India's ban was that our reactions to the
Quran-flushing story could cause religious violence. Since it was only websites deemed
offensive to Muslims that were banned, we know precisely who it is that India
India's banning of our websites is completely rational. It is based on the
real fear of real people who do real violence.
I understand India's reason for banning our websites, but certainly don't
Giving in to violent threats is not, in my book, a winning strategy for
defeating the very people who are threatening you. Appeasement only works if your
goal is appeasement.
Further, banning religiously offensive speech kills two freedoms at once. A
nation cannot truly have freedom of religion if that religion is immune from
public criticism. A nation cannot truly have freedom of speech if blasphemy
becomes a criminal act.
India's actions lead us to suspect that it will not just be Islamic states
where religious oppression is the norm, but that any country with a sizeable
and vocal Muslim minority might also be forced, for the sake of domestic
tranquility, to ban blasphemy. And we believe that our fears are founded on more
than this one case.
While many Muslim countries in the post-Bush Doctrine era are moving toward
more liberalization, many non-Muslim countries are moving the wrong way. Some
criminalize religiously offensive speech, and nearly all of their leaders
bend over backwards to never say anything that could possible be construed as
critical of Islam.
If India and other countries hope that condemning speech critical of Islam
will appease their Muslim populations, they have greatly miscalculated. What
offends Islamists is not what we or others say, it is that they are not in
power to stop us from saying it.
Their ultimate goal is the creation of a state based on Islamic law. It is
only then, when it is Muslims who decide what needs banning, that they will be
happy. The real gripe Muslims have in non-Muslim countries is about power.
India, of all countries, should understand this. Both Pakistan and
Bangladesh were states founded because Muslims refused to be part of the secular
Indian state. India has fought wars over this. That war continues today in Kashmir
and on the streets of Mumbai.
India is said to be a secular state with aspirations of greatness. Its
recent actions show that it is neither completely secular nor ready for its proper
place on the world stage. This is all doubly sad because India is also a
natural ally against the cancer of Islamic fundamentalism.
It is India, not the U.S., which has bloody borders with Islam. Mumbai
should be a reminder to India who its real friends are and who are its enemies.
The move towards religious censorship by India is a mistake. A nation does
not cement its alliances by adopting the values of its enemies and rejecting
those of its allies.
Despite this slap in the face by India, I will continue to wish her
continued progress and prosperity. A wealthy India is an India better able to stave
off the attacks of the barbarians who are our common enemies at her gates.
India may have turned its back on us, but we should not be so petty as to
completely turn our backs on her.
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