Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain towards the end of January 2018 for about a month
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Friday, 3 February 2006

We in the UK are generally pretty tolerant ...

... and people can say more or less what they like most of the time. It's taken us a long time, several hundred years, to reach this position and inevitably things are said sometimes, or images drawn, that offend some group or other in our society. We have even modified to some extent some of our laws to take account of the views of some of our non-indigenous citizens (for example, rules about exceptions to wearing certain kinds of headgear by employees in specific circumstances to comply with their religious beliefs); this seems fair enough as once a person becomes a citizen then his/her point of view about something has every right to be fed into the mixer of 'public opinion' to allow public policy to keep up with overall public sentiments.

However, this is basically a pretty free and open society and one of the fundamental freedoms we have come to accept, and insist upon, is the right to express our views in freedom. This is non-negotiable and extends to those who don't happen to like the publication of images depicting the Prophet Mohamed, or indeed Jesus Christ or other 'sacred' personages - they are perfectly free to express their disapproval for such publication, provided that it is done in a peaceful way. Threats of violence or intimidation by some to achieve their objectives (to ban publication and/or to demand an 'apology') are simply not acceptable. Period.

It so happens I have not taken the trouble to hunt on the internet for the images which appeared first in Denmark (months ago!) and then more recently in several other European countries. So far no British newspaper has taken the decision to publish them here. Coupled with our generally tolerant attitude one of the other things that generally speaking characterises a lot of British people a lot of the time is our instinctive respect for the feelings of others, so I can quite understand why Editors of various national newspapers have chosen not to publish - partly not to offend those who say they would find this objectionable, but because they realise that the bulk of the readership would also find it somewhat disrespectful to offend gratuitously those who are Moslems. But this is a VERY long way from saying that most British people would accept for one second the notion that it was FORBIDDEN to publish them. I may not agree with every word Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, is quoted as saying here, but I think in summary what he is trying to say is similar, as is this Telegraph editorial.

If a British newspaper does in due course choose to publish these photographs then there will be no obligation for anyone to buy a copy, or to read it. My advice to people who might be offended - just ignore it.

My comments apply equally to the controversy raised recently over the theatre production 'Jerry Springer - The Opera'. I probably wouldn't have paid good money to go and see it in a theatre, but I did watch it on television and found parts of it quite amusing, even if I found the constant profanity somewhat wearing. Similarly with the publication some years ago by Salman Rushdie of 'The Satanic Verses' - a truly turgid book I have to say, but nevertheless I think it would have been quite wrong to try and stop it being published, any more than I think it would be wrong to prevent the expression of views I find odious by people such as the BNP or some people within the Muslim community such as Iqbal Sacranie, or people within the Christian community such as Pope Benedict XVI or some of the Catholic and Anglican [Arch]Bishops.

A lot of people say they enjoy living in the UK. So do I (apart from the weather in winter, of course). Part of my enjoyment flows from the relative freedom and tolerance we enjoy here. So to my fellow British citizens, some of whom may be devout followers of religions such as Islam or Christianity, the only possible response can be:.

This is a democracy where freedom is valued.
Get used to it!

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