06 Jun

Saying is doing

Mishal Husain, the fatuous (Muslim) radio presenter, said on The Today Programme this morning that a Muslim man unfurling the black flag of Islamic State in public and inciting his audience to support them should not be prosecuted “only for his words.”

But it is a very rare thing for words to be only words. Many words and their usage in context are also actions.

If I make a promise, I thereby do something as well as say something.

If I declare an oath, I do something

To shout “Fire!” in a crowded theatre is to do something: its purpose is to warn.

And if, by my words, I incite people to support a murderous organisation, I certainly do something.

(If you insist on the technical, philosophical term for these sorts of utterances, I can tell you they are called logical performatives or speech acts – because in saying something the speaker is also doing something.)

Ms Husain should be told than many of the most important of our actions are all in our use of words, in our speaking and in our writing.

That is why a slander or a libel is an offence.

It is why we all agree that we ought to keep our promises: because the words of my promise commit me to a particular action

You would think that  a Muslim such as Ms Husain would understand this – because presumably she believes that to blaspheme Allah – in words only - is a punishable offence?

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