3 February 2006
Right to criticise
Sir, The right of people of faith to disseminate and preach opinions, even when these are offensive to others (such as when some Christians and Muslims preach homophobia and the unequal treatment of women, or the anti-Western/Jewish/Christian rhetoric of Islamic extremists) is resolutely defended by those who hold the opinions and is also protected by law. However, the general right of free expression, which includes the right to satirise or criticise religious belief, is increasingly threatened by frenzied protests, demands for censorship or outright intimidation.
The furore generated among some Christians over "Jerry Springer The Opera", the outrage of some Sikhs at Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s play Behzti at the Birmingham Rep and the fatwa against Salman Rushdie show that this worrying mindset is present among members of different faith groups.
Perhaps this is an aspect of religious belief worth criticising or drawing a cartoon about? It is certainly deeply troubling for those of us who hold freedom of speech to be one of the defining and most precious tenets of a liberal, secular democracy.