Moderation policy

The Forum is for you to comment and discuss what you have read in A Long Night and related issues.

I believe in free speech because it is only by open and vigorous discourse that human thought can advance. That way we can try to build a better and freer society where no one is excluded. Censorship is a tool tyrants use when they don’t have logic or justice on their side.

I have decided to make The Forum a moderated site and comments may be removed or delayed in certain circumstances in the interests of justice and to make sure that this remains a good place for people to share ideas. I am not able to “edit” comments. I can only either allow them or remove them entirely.

Although justice and the law often coincide, that is by no means always the case. Anti-blasphemy and anti-sedition laws, for example, are unjust. This moderation policy is based on justice. These are the reasons why a comment may be removed or delayed:

  • Language which is likely or seems intended to cause hatred, violence or injustice against any living person or group of people (except me) will not be tolerated. That does not mean you can't criticise or even mock ideas or beliefs or non-belief and that includes "hurting people's feelings" or "offending" them. You must not incite anyone to treat anyone unjustly or stir up hatred against people because of what they believe or don't believe or because of who they are.
  • If you write in a language other than English the moderation process may take longer because I have to translate it first to understand what it is about and that can take time. Your comment will remain in the original language. As translations become available in other languages I will be opening forums in those languages too. If anyone who supports the values of secularism wants to help with translation, please let me know. I am particularly keen to get A Long Night available in the major languages of the “Muslim world” such as Urdu, Farsi, Arabic, Turkish and Bangla. An Indonesian translation is already in progress.
  • If what you say is ambiguous and difficult to understand or is just insulting or abusive to other people and wasting time without making a serious point I will delete it. Please take time to review what you have written. Write in complete sentences and try to avoid repetitions or acronyms that people might not understand. Develop your argument carefully and check your spelling and basic grammar so that your meaning is clear. You owe it as a basic courtesy to your readers. If you are going to use "rude" words remember that you may undermine your own credibility unless the words are necessary to emphasise a point that really needs emphasising that way. Either North American or British spelling or sentence construction are valid. Remember that I cannot edit your comments.
  • I may remove comments which merely repeat what other people have said. If a lot of people comment about something in particular I may set up a poll to register readers’ feelings on that issue.
  • If people want to threaten me personally; advise me about the fate of my soul or describe what they would like to do to me then I will set up a separate page where everyone can all enjoy browsing through their "advice" and imaginings - but only if the comments are not boring.
  • If the words you use are someone else's and you do not attribute them or if you try to pass off their words as your own that is plagiarism. Plagiarism is intellectual theft. Comments which appear to be plagiarised will be deleted.
  • Chain emails and most advertising or similar spam will be deleted. Possibly some book, website or magazine promotion may be OK if they promote science, education and secular enquiry.
  • It is difficult to check the copyright status of images, so images should not be included in your comments. 
I hope you will agree that those limitations do not impede free speech and do not amount to censorship. I look forward to reading your comments.

Rafiq Mahmood