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Words, like bullets, do injure: let's talk about freedom

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News cycles may operate at a heady pace, with us moving to the next event with lightning speed. But like many others, my mind can’t move from last Friday’s terrible events in Christchurch. The individual stories are too hard to release from memory’s grip. Like Hosne Ahmed who shielded her wheelchair-bound husband Farid from bullets. He lived, she perished. Or the unknown man whose last words were “hello, brother” as the gunman walked towards the door of the mosque. And three-year-old Mucaad Ibrahim. A tiny child made the target of a truly heinous act.

Three-year-old Mucaad Ibrahim was killed in the Christchurch massacre. Credit:AP

Public debate this week has rightly focussed on what speech should receive the benefit of being classed as “free speech”. But before we move to that, can we respect another freedom: the freedom to go about your daily life without fear and humiliation? Can a person visit a place of worship and simply pray in peace? Can a woman wearing a hijab walk down a street without worrying about having to wipe someone else’s spit from her clothes? Can parents drop their kids off to school without being humiliated by a slur about their faith flung from window of a passing car? Or can people be free of being used to score political points or ratings for a media outlet?

That’s the freedom I want to focus on. Our responses now are critical – not just........

© The Age