Thursday, January 15, 2004

Here's the civil-rights case of the week. Seems that a gentleman named Mohamed Kamal, who is the Muslim imam in the city of Fuengirola, wrote a treatise in which he asserted that according to the Koran a husband has the right to hit his wife under certain circumstances. Kamal wrote in his 2000 book, Women in Islam, as the answer to the hypothetical question, "Does a man have the right to hit his wife?", that Mohammed himself warned women not to marry abusive men, but that a man could hit his wife if he did so while not in a fury of anger, if he did not hit her in "sensitive parts", and if the blows were not hard or painful.

Kamal was charged with incitement to violence against women and convicted yesterday; he got fifteen months in jail, which will be suspended, and a 2000 euro fine. This is only the second conviction in Spain under Article 510 of the Spanish Penal Code, which basically says that provoking "hate crime" violence is illegal. The first conviction was that in 1999 of the notorious Nazi apologist Pedro Varela, who ran a bookstore here in our lovely barrio of Gracia selling all kinds of poisonous rhetoric; he got five years for advocating genocide but the sentence was suspended. I think the bookstore has been shut down. By the way, all 1668 copies of the imam's book will be confiscated and presumably destroyed.

I dunno. I'm a First Amendment kind of guy. I don't like idiot bookstore owners selling Nazi propaganda or seventeenth-century-minded Muslim imans informing their faithful the conditions under which it's OK to whack your wife around. On the other hand, should we stop people spreading ideas that we know to be evil but that others don't? That's awfully unhealthy for a democracy.

I guess I'd come down with this criterion: If it can be proven that a book or newspaper provoked an actual person to commit actual violence, then we can get the writer and/or publisher for incitement to violence. But you've got to wait and see if something illegal happens or not before exercising prior restraint on printed material.

No comments: