In the Western world, we often reference freedom of speech as one of the bastions of our “enlightened,” society. Anyone, regardless of their beliefs, religion or political leanings can state their views, protest and scream to the heavens – that’s what makes freedom so wonderful.

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Attributed to Voltaire (but he probably didn’t say it)

However, the spectre of racism through generalisation is rearing it’s ugly head again as people seek a solution to the unmitigated horror of continued attacks by Muslim fundamentalists. On Australian television, presenter Sonia Kruger stated that she agrees with Donald Trump, and would like to see immigration from Muslim countries suspended. As expected in a reasonable society, these comments were met with condemnation, mockery and anger from most people, including Australian Muslims who continue to be vilified for other people’s actions. But Kruger’s response to this outrage is interesting, and raises a point about one of the cornerstones of democracy. She posted on Twitter –

“Following the atrocities of last week in Nice where 10 children lost their lives, as a mother, I believe it’s vital in a democratic society to be able to discuss these issues without automatically being labelled racist”

Despite the idiocy of condemning an entire religion based on the actions of a few, this is an important point which has come up time and again over the last few decades. Civil rights for African-Americans, gay rights, women’s rights and other hot button topics that rightly create passion in those that believe in them, also serve to demonise and silence those who are opposed. While to me, it may seem that equal rights for all people are the basis of a free and happy society, that is simply my belief – it doesn’t make me right. Kruger, Trump and everyone else has the same right to their opinion, and to communicate it without being assaulted on social media, in what is a case of genuine bullying, or trolling.

I can’t help but think that this is a case of the terrorists getting what they want. Watching us defend our freedoms in a divisive and undemocratic fashion, essentially destroying what we hold dear. While a simplistic view is often seductive, it’s important that we also look to ourselves and engage with each other in a fashion that is less representative of thugs, and more of those who hold freedom in high regard.