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-[[Freedom of Expression Stance]]-The FOSIS stance on Freedom of Expression
- FOSIS stands in favour of freedom of expression, and firmly believe that this must be upheld on all campuses in the UK. The only exception to this should be where the freedom of expression incites to violence.
- We believe that freedom of expression is crucial for a diverse range of ideas and views to be presented and will provide a sincere platform for discussion and debate. Universities, whose students have long been at the forefront of change and facilitating debate, have an important role in leading this. Freedom of expression and tolerance for diversity allows for constructive challenge from a range of views and thereby meaningful progress for our society; restriction of opinion is unjust and leads to dissent.
- We also believe that freedom of expression should take place on a number of levels, from the political to the religious, the cultural to the scientific. Freedom of expression should be consistent at all levels of expression.
- In order to facilitate discussion we also encourage a civic principle of speech to be sensitive to the existence of diverse opinions. This does not define the right to freedom of expression, nor legality, nor rights. Such a principle should enable one to discuss Zionism without being anti-Semitic, and should enable one to discuss Shari’ah without being Islamophobic. This principle should be led by citizens, and encourages that constructive discussion is promoted while incitement to violence is outlawed.
- Why freedom of expression?
a. We firmly believe that only minimal success will ever arise from restricted debate while real progression comes from the challenged but triumphant diverse opinions that are judged based on merit, by citizens. Students have a special role to lead on such progression.
b. We believe the criteria to whether freedom of expression should be restricted should be based on a simple test on whether there is incitement to violence, or not.
c. Freedom of expression lies at the heart of a functioning democracy. It is a fundamental tenet of democracy to allow the critique of leadership, of mainstream thought, to provide alternative discourses for thought and progress. Leaders, with confidence, should allow this debate take place. And Universities must not be hurdled from facilitating debate, with students at the fore.
d. There exists a myriad of valuable diverse opinions within diverse communities. A binary code of “good” or “bad” for judging freedom of expression in Britain is unhelpful as it oversimplifies the issue. An individual may hold hostile opinions holding that “smokers are an immoral people”, for example, and smokers may want to see him banned; but the same individual may be a highly successful activist against violent gun crime. Diverse opinions exist in communities and for individuals themselves.
e. If we are to truly win in the battle of ideas over controversial ideologies, including extremist ideologies, such arguments should be open to scrutiny in a public sphere. When legitimate challenge of controversial opinions is restricted, the freedom of a people may be crushed, but their opinions remain. Indeed, restricting freedom of expression for a controversial view takes it underground – where debate and challenge is restricted, and the evolution of controversial views can go unchecked.
- History has proved that society has benefited greatly from the controversial voices of those who dared to speak out; from Socrates who defied the state in favour of higher moral law, to an unrepentant Galileo for his scientific conviction cried “the Earth does move!”, and to the beloved Jesus and Muhammad, upon them be peace and blessings, in their quest for One God in the face of massive oppression. The fervour of change through freedom of expression should be actively facilitated, not restricted.