When the issue of having gays and lesbians *eligible to adopt children crops up one frequently finds people saying: “what about the child’s right to have a mother and father”?

This question is erroneous by nature.

First of all, there is no such right. Unfortunately, for various inevitable reasons such as parents who are deceased, imprisoned or not fit to raise their own children, some children are going to be deprived of living in a traditional family.

None of these is the fault of the state or some public institution thus, unlike when real human rights (such as freedom of speech, or arbitrary arrest) are breached, an orphan or a child that for some reason cannot live with his biological parent, could not seek compensation.

Secondly, it is these kind of children that get adopted. If LGBT people become eligible to adopt, no one is going to snatch children from happily married heterosexual couples to give them to homosexual couple to bring up.

All things being equal, if I had to be born again, I would like to be brought up by a heterosexual couple. The reason for this is that stigma on homosexuality still exists in much of the world and this is likely to have some effect on me (such as bullying at school).

But if my choice was between being brought up in say, an orphanage, without the individual attention a child desperately needs, or by a loving same-sex couple I would choose the second without a moment hesitation.

In a nutshell a child adopted by a homosexual couple is not going to be deprived from living with a mother and father any more than he already is.

*Contrary to popular belief, adoption is not a right. The prospective adoptive parents are assessed (thoroughly, one must say) and if it is deemed in the best interest of the child, they will be allowed to adopt. At present, homosexual couples are not eligible to adopt. In other words, for some children living in an orphanage, there are homosexual couple that have the potential of giving them a better life, that can’t even file the application.

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In the aftermath of the riots by Muslim extremists following the publishing of the “Innocence of Muslims” video on Youtube, one could see mixed reactions, on online networks and discussions.

While in Malta everyone condemned the violence, opinions still varied. On one side some implied the extremists’ responsibility was somewhat diminished because the video really was offensive and shouldn’t have been published. This was not only the reaction of the most vocal Imam in Malta but also that of non-Muslims who somewhat sympathized with these extremists because they would have opposed a publication that insulted their own beliefs. On the other side, some took the opportunity to blame Muslims in general and expected they should collectively be held responsible for the savage reaction of a tiny minority. A third view, held mostly by conspiracy theorists and neo-Nazis blamed Israel, (though what they really meant was Jews – once again, collective responsibility) for deliberately provoking the Muslims for their own ends.

I find all these views worrying. I believe that everyone is responsible for his own actions and only his own actions. In other words, the savages who stormed the embassies have only themselves to blame. No one forced them to do it as much as a girl wearing a mini-skirt isn’t forcing anyone to rape her. His choice, his responsibility. At the same time, the responsibility should be held only by the extremists themselves, not all Muslims.

What I noticed during all this saga is that there are mainly three sides who are trying to take advantage of the situation. All of them extremists and happen to be much more similar to their opposing sides than they would like to admit. These are:

1) The Zionists, who are most powerful in the US and Israel
2) The Muslim extremists whose stronghold is the Arab countries
3) The far right whose power, albeit limited, is on the increase in Europe

All side use “the other” as an excuse for their own extremism. The Muslim extremists use Palestine as an excuse to hate Jews. The Zionists use Muslim extremists as an excuse to hate all Muslims and justify invading Iran. The far right on the other hand, usually forms temporary alliances with one side or the other, depending on what their pet hate is (for instance while Malta’s Norman Lowell frequently praises president Ahmadinejad of Iran for denying the Holocaust, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands calls Israel “a beacon of light in an area of darkness and tyranny”).

If you exclude these three groups, there are the rest of us. Decent people who may disagree on where of freedom of speech should be limited, but are not motivated by hatred for one side or another.

The problem is that the three categories are trying to polarize people to their side by spreading hatred and fear of “the other”. This is extremely dangerous especially at a time where nearly all the world is suffering economic turmoil. Also at a time when a war between Iran and Israel is looming, a war that as Ahmadinejad himself is already threatening, may trigger World War III.

When it comes to these extremists, our role, (us being those who cherish freedom and democracy), should take only one stand, that is refusing to be dragged into any of the three sides.

And if, God forbid, a war between Israel and Iran breaks out, our role as peace loving people, is to pressure our governments to keep out of it. It will be crazy fanatics fighting crazy fanatics, and irrespective of whoever wins, the whole world loses.

The relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims is probably the biggest problem Europe is facing only second to the economic crisis. A problem that exists mainly because we have been fooled. Tricked by a handful of extremists into choosing sides.

The extremists on one side are the Islamists with right-wing extremists on the other. Most of us who are left leaning have been too respectful to the Islamists’ “cultural rights”, while those with right wing tendencies tend to see extremists on their side as “having a point” even though they may not completely agree with their tactics.

We, the moderates, the absolute majority have been doing it all wrong. Unlike other issues such as economical and environmental where our differences are healthy in a democratic environment, on this issue we need to unite because we have a common enemy that is becoming extremely dangerous in our continent. It has already claimed hundreds of innocent lives and can lead to rising tensions that can get our of control.

The enemies are the extremists – on both sides – because even though they hate each other bitterly, their similarities are striking.

In spite of our differences, we the moderates should speak one uncompromising voice to these people. If you permit me, I will suggest the attitude we should take.

Towards the Islamist:

“You hate freedom of speech, yet you abused it left, right and centre. No, you don’t have a right to agitate people, tell them to hate others and even murder them. Neither do you have any “cultural” right to mutilate your daughter’s body or imprison your wife.

 

You have insulted practically everyone and we don’t give a shit if you feel offended. If you insist on giving sermons of hatred, you’ll soon be delivering speeches to the rats and cockroaches in a cell in solitary confinement”

 

Towards right-wing extremists:

“Snatching the veil from a Muslim woman or painting swastikas on Mosques isn’t going to make your cock and longer, so get over it.

 

Just in case you happen to actually believe that you are harming Islamists and helping your country, then you’re even more stupid than I thought. You’re not hurting the hateful Imam but helping him. He may look offended but in actual fact he’s enjoying every single moment of it. You are justifying his claims that we the infidels are a nasty bunch and deserve to be killed. You are scaring his wives of the cold world outside and allowing him to abuse them more at the comfort of his home. Idiot!

 

That said, I still believe the main cause of your hatred is your own sexual inadequacies”

Needless to say these arguments are very simplistic since this is a blog not an academic study. One has to keep in mind that these extremists come in various forms. Not all right wing extremists are violent thugs with swastikas painted on their faces while some Islamists manage to sugar coat their words and appear less threatening.

There are also various ideological differences amongst the extremists. Some right wing extremists don’t see eye to eye because of Jews (some ally with them because they consider them common enemies of Islam while others want to finish what Hitler started). They also differ amongst themselves on basis of nationality. On the other hand, Islamists come from different sects, most of whom don’t see eye to eye either.

However, despite this being simplistic, I do believe it is a good starting point on this crucial issue. Whatever we do there will always be unrepentant extremists. For those, the only solution is the strong hand of the law.

 

 

Already four years have passed since six arson attacks on people or organisations that opposed racism took place in a period of a couple of months. Doors and cars were torched, molotovs were thrown into people’s houses in a clear pattern. The victims had all spoke about, or published, material condemning racism in Malta.

No one has been brought too justice yet. This is scary in itself. It can indicate that the police have not done their job well enough. Or worse still, that the perpetrators are professionals. It isn’t that easy to repeat a crime six times in a few months and escape from justice.

These crimes were extremly serious. Unlike arson attacks which are a result of simple vandalism (which are already serious in themselves), these were done to cause fear on the victims. Probably the goal was that everyone opposing the perpetrators’ racist ideas shuts his mouth up. Luckily that goal wasn’t reached.

My fear is that people, the common law abiding citizens, do not realise how serious this crime because of their fears of migrants from Africa. Some may think the arsonists ‘have a point’ even if they disapprove on the methods they used.

I do not blame anyone who is worried about irregular migration. However I do want to send a message to these people. The mixing of cultures can cause problems, especially in a small island where its people are not used to it. However, no matter what these problems are, these are insignificant compared to, not only this explicit racism, but also the undemocratic harassment of people.

The simple idea of having people not expressing their views because they fear for their health and that of their families should be immediately discarded if we want to enjoy the liberties we already have.

A very controversial topic in Malta, at this very moment, is freedom of expression. I am all out in favour of people expressing what they believe in, and that includes people with whom I totally disagree on what they have to say. However, quite frequently I’m asked: ‘Does this freedom include hate speech?’ Treating this issue is very delicate. People’s freedoms are extremely important but so is the protection of those to whom the speech is directed. Where should one draw the line?

Let’s start with what in my opinion should not even be considered as controversial – shocking and vulgar language. I find it completely ridiculous to censor something (for example the play ‘Stitching’ and ‘Realta’s newspaper) just because it contains parts or articles considered as vulgar and shocking. Who defines what terms fall into this category? Some board of whatever authority?

More controversial is offensive language. Here we are not talking about ‘nasty’ words, but words deliberately used to offend others on the basis of religion, race, sexual orientation and others. Should a Maltese Imam who compared homosexuals getting married to marrying cats and dogs be censored or face legal sanction? What about right wing extremists who call black people niggers? I know many will disagree with me on this, but I don’t believe these people should be censored or face criminal repercussions. Definitely they should be condemned, and if they aren’t it means we’re in trouble. The offended parties have the right to file libel. However they should have all the right to say it without fearing the authorities.

The next category is however different. I’m talking about what is termed as ‘fighting words’. These are used to overtly or subtly incite violence on the victims. The injured party is not just offended but threatened and put in danger. Had the Imam called for individuals or groups to harass homosexuals, or right if rightwing extremists to make a call to harass ‘niggers’, the story would have been very different.

An email that had been circulating a while ago shows a group of extremist Muslims in the UK calling for violence against a Danish cartoonist. In my opinion it is unacceptable to let these people protest and call for such action, even getting police protection for it. They are not ‘offending back’ the person who offended them. They are instigating violence towards him and his country. Though their demands are futile, intention is clear and in my opinion the protest should not only have been halted, but the ring leaders should have been filed criminal charges.

Right wing extremists sometimes also jump the line when it comes to freedom of speech. An example is the BNP who are not only allowed to voice their words, but two of them have been elected to the European Parliament. They don’t like a multicultural England, they deny the Holocaust, and even minimise what Hitler did: ‘Adolf just went a bit too far’. Disgusting as it is, I believe they have a right to say it. What they don’t have a right to is, for example, making an alliance with the Ku Klux Klan, an organisation responsible for thousands of deaths during the last hundred years, all based on racial prejudice. Asking these people their vote, telling them ‘they have the same objective but will have to use sweeter words’ is legitimising the Klan’s violence. On that basis, yes definitely the BNP should have faced criminal sanctions, even been prohibited from contesting elections.

Something that fascinates me is the comments sent daily to the online version of the Times of Malta. Some people repeatedly voice their opinion on African migrants, not only condemning illegal border crossing, but exposing their hatred towards these people. None of them is censored and as much as I despise (or sometimes laugh at) what they say I agree they should be allowed to voice their opinion. However occasionally they do cross the line. I remember a particular comment going something like this (referring to migrants in Britain and Malta): ‘The BNP will in the end take control because they have the support of the Army. Same should be done here’. The threat here is not so subtle. The author is definitely not talking about just the Army officials’ vote.

This topic is extremely delicate, and the line between what is acceptable or not is extremely thin. Thus I would like to make some things clear:

1) Though one may think in what s/he reads here and in most of the media that the issue of censorship is related mainly to race, religion and political correctness, this is not the case. These cases are the most controversial, thus newsworthy. In reality censorship is more often used in the form of trying to silence people like Mr Joe Falzon, MEPA’s auditor who want to expose serious illegalities at the expense of the Maltese taxpayer.

2) What I wrote here is my personal opinion. It does not necessarily reflect what Maltese or EU legislation states.

3) There are a lot of gray areas. For example what about psychological harassment? A recent case of a homosexual who had his house intruded by someone who sprayed the words ‘No Gays’ is not, in my opinion just a case of vandalism and trespassing but a hate crime. There was a deliberate (and successful) attempt at causing fear in the victim, even if there was no overt reference to violence. Once again, the million dollar question is, ‘Where does one cross the line?’