Freedom of Expression Is Built on the Right to Offend
Byline: CHRIS ALLEN
Should we have the right to offend? I ask this not because I was personally offended by Joe Kinnear's swearathon. Nor even because I offended my partner by licking my knife in a restaurant. I ask because there just seems to be a lot of people getting easily offended.
Being almost twenty years since Rushdie's The Satanic Verses was published could it just be deja vu?
No but there are some coincidences.
I was at an event for 50 "leaders" - I was included in this so use the term loosely - last week in Whitehall that sought to consider 'security and community cohesion' (a euphemism for extremism and terrorism, natch).
While many clearly focused on this, a few were voicing their plans to protest against the publication of The Jewel of Medina, a Mills and Boon-like account of one of the Prophet Muhammad's wives, Aisha. Possibly because of their offence at this, they seemed to have forgotten the clear lessons learned from some of the protests that followed the Satanic Verses and Danish cartoons debacles.
A few days ago, I also read how others were offended by a London exhibition by the artist Sarah Maples.
Described as the next Tracey Emin, Maples, who was raised as a Muslim, has caused offence by using one of her paintings - depicting a Muslim woman cradling a pig - as the advertisement for the exhibition.
Maples has categorically stated that she does not want to offend, arguing that her work actually explores the confusion that many young Muslims face in contemporary western society, not least about what it means to be a "good" Muslim.
Given that the offices of the publishers in London of The Jewel of Medina have already been firebombed, it seems that some of those protesting have missed the irony that their actions are also offensive.
Which exactly highlights the point. While some are offended by knife licking, others are offended by paintings they dislike. …