Liberals, secularists, atheists often claim that their secular democracies uphold freedom of speech, whereas Islam doesn’t (and they are correct that Islam doesn’t).
As evidence for the superiority of secularism, they point to the fact that people in secular countries are free to criticize the president, prime minister, or ruling power.
Their view seems to be premised on this simple formula:
A country has freedom of speech if you can criticize the ruling power in that country.
But this formula conceals a critical fact about secular democracies.
Secular democracies allow criticism of the ruler ONLY if that criticism does not threaten the ruling power. If the criticism does pose a threat, then that speech is quickly suppressed.
This is very clear in the history of the West and even in the writing of liberal thinkers like JS Mill. Mill said:
“Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided that the end be their improvement.”
Anyone who does not agree with the Enlightened principles of liberalism is by definition of Mill and secularists more generally a barbarian. And the liberal state is justified in silencing the speech of barbarians, or even indefinitely detaining them or “neutralizing” them, i.e., killing them.
This is how the Enlightened colonial powers dealt with Muslims throughout their colonies. Anyone who opposed British, French, or Dutch power was deemed a “fanatic” threat who was to be crushed. And yes, these colonies were managed by liberal secularists. JS Mill, Alexis de Tocqueville, and other “fathers” of secularism were either colonial administrators themselves or advisors to the colonial project!
These practices have continued to this day. Whether we want to talk about CVE/Prevent programs aimed at Muslims, or we want to talk about government disinformation boards, or we want to talk about tech censorship, these are all secular tactics for suppressing speech.
The liberal state has, in fact, become extremely sophisticated in its ability to censor speech and silence illiberal voices. But, again, this is not new.
Liberal states have always been masters at controlling speech and this is because the existence of liberalism requires mass censorship. Liberalism is so contrary to fundamental human nature that it requires massive technological and institutional control over the population in order to guarantee its persistence.
How funny it is that atheists and secularists want to tout this oppressive system as some kind of savior for the human race!