The video is now published of the stimulating public debate at the University College Dublin (UCD) University on ‘Freedom of Speech vs Freedom to Insult’ held on 5th March 2015, between MDI’s Abdullah al Andalusi and Michael Nugent, the chair of the Atheist and Secularist campaign and advocacy group, Atheist Ireland. He is a reputable figure internationally amongst Atheist intellectuals and advocates, and was a lead campaigner against the Republic of Ireland’s law against Blasphemy.
In light of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and the subsequent arrests of people by the French government for expressing opinions critical of Charlie Hebdo, questions of what does ‘Free Speech’ mean?’ have been raised, including what are the limits of free speech, and should it be permissible to gratuitously insult and demean religious figures, beyond mere intellectual criticism. All sides of the debate believe that religion, as well as any other idea, can be subject to unrestricted intellectual criticism, however the key question is: should gratuitous insult that serves no intellectual purpose, be allowed?
The debate was an in-depth, intellectual, amicable but strongly argued on both sides – a great example to anyone researching the intellectual ‘cutting edge’ arguments of both sides of the debate. Both sides agreed on the common principles of restricting speech that incites community hatred against identity groups, but the debate hinged on whether this principle should be consistent and extend itself to groups that define themselves by religion and not just race, gender or sexual preference.