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 world.  
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 
condone it.  
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. 
Everlasting Hatred: The Roots of Jihad  @