‘Religion deserves fearless disrespect’

‘Religion deserves fearless disrespect’

Author Salman Rushdie, above – who had a fatwa placed on his head after publishing The Satanic Verses in 1988 – yesterday made a statement about the attack on the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead.

On Twitter, he wrote:

Vive Charlie Hebdo!

And in a linked statement, Rushdie said that:

Religion, a medieval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry, becomes a real threat to our freedoms.

This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today.

I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity.

“‘Respect for religion’” has become a code phrase meaning “fear of religion”, Rushdie concluded.

Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.

This was artist Banksy's response.

This was artist Banksy’s response. You can see how other artists responded here.

Referring to the Rushie affair, Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, wrote:

Restrictions on criticising or satirising religion, especially Islam, have hugely increased since Salman Rushdie was burned in effigy and driven into hiding over The Satanic Verses in 1988. That he was reviled and those attempting his murder not even charged showed Governmental contempt for freedom of expression.

The abolition of (Christian) blasphemy in England in 2008 became irrelevant with the introduction of protection from criticism or mockery of all religion when ‘religiously aggravated offences’ were criminalised with a seven year tariff. These offences dangerously go beyond protecting protect individuals to protecting their beliefs.

The extremists try increasingly to terrorise us into silence and often the state conspires with them, blaming the victims for ‘bringing it upon themselves’.

But in an open society, free expression is more important than any religious dogma. Without free expression, our democracy will not function, as it does not in many Muslim countries. Religion will be permitted to go unexamined, even when it is a threat to life and limb.

We must stand together and refuse to be cowed into silence by the threats of terrorists and the cowardice of politicians. We cannot, as a society, place religion beyond the reach of satire or critical examination.


The closest the UK has to Charlie Hebdo is the satirical magazine, Private Eye. Yesterday it editor, Ian Hislop, above, issued a statement about the Paris atrocity. Among the casualties were four of France’s most celebrated political cartoonists Jean Cabu, Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier, Bernard “Tignous” Verlhac and Bernard Maris.

Hislop said:

I am appalled and shocked by this horrific attack – a murderous attack on free speech in the heart of Europe.

I offer my condolences to the families and friends of those killed – the cartoonists, journalists and those who were trying to protect them. They paid a very high price for exercising their comic liberty.

Very little seems funny today.

And, collectively, French people, stood in their thousands in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo, and declared: “Not afraid”.


Meanwhile, it is reported here that Muslims around the world have condemned the shooting.

19 responses to “‘Religion deserves fearless disrespect’”

  1. Ivan says:

    I seem to have spent the last 24 hours seeing variations on two discredited arguments:

    1) The she was wearing a short skirt and therefore asking for it argument (Charlie Hebdo were being provocative); and

    2) The no true Scotsman argument (no Muslim would do this, Islam does not allow it).

    The fact that I find my self wanting to scream is aggravated by the fact that these arguments are appearing in newspapers that were themselves too cowardly to publish the “offensive” cartoons back in 2005/6 but were and still are too cowardly to admit to this as being the real reason.

    We can only hope that they finally see how their craven behaviour left Charlie Hebdo hopelessly exposed and they therefore try to redeem themselves by finally getting together and acting en mass to publish today what they should have done back then.

  2. Broga says:

    @Ivan: The idea that some ignorant murderers can decide what others can draw is beyond ludicrous. Some lines on a page, taken to represent a prophet whose appearance is unknown anyway, can lead to multiple killings is religious belief leading to insanity. These murderous louts take into their own stupid heads to decide for the rest of us what is right and what is wrong.

    I haven’t noticed any comments from the Archbishop of Canterbury, RCs Top Cats or Chief Rabbi. Would criticism offend against multi culturism. I may have missed the comments as I have other things to do apart from watching the news. If so, I take my comments back.

  3. Rob Andrews says:

    Fundamentalists don’t give a hoot
    They don’t argue–they shoot
    No matter what ideological species. (all absolute beliefs)
    Fundamentalists are feces
    Deserving a boot in the snoot


    They’ve crossed the line. This is a war! The presidents of european countries mast make clear that you live under secular democracy or you must leave.

    “What Muslims need is to bring whiskey and women together in the same room at the same time”–Congressman Charlie Wilson

  4. barriejohn says:

    Broga: According to one of their most well-known spokesmen, the publishers brought this upon themselves by their “intolerance” and “narcissism”.

  5. Broga says:

    @barriejohn: Well, isn’t that a lovely comment. He lacks the guts to say what he really thinks so he equivocates. In my earlier comment I should have written ecumenicalism not multi culturism although I think strictly ecumenicalism applies to Christians.

  6. AgentCormac says:


    As so many times before, Bill Donohue again shows himself to be a despicable and utterly callous excuse for a human being. He sides with the religious zealots of a competing label because he too fears free speech. Because he too doesn’t want anybody questioning or criticising religion. Because he too is afraid of ideas. Instead of acting like a puffed-up playground thug he should, just for once, be hanging his head in shame.

  7. HVillar says:

    Only religion can create situations like the following. We should respect that :-)

  8. AgentCormac says:

    For those who want to show their support for freedom of speech, Howies (truly excellent and incredibly ethical clothing brand) have been quick off the mark to print some special T-shirts. 100% of profits from the sales will go to the charity Reporters Without Borders, which works to protect journalists around the world from forces which aim to censor them, or worse. Grab yourself one and wear it with pride.

  9. Broga says:

    @Agent Cormac: Thanks for the tip. There is a Howie’s shop near me. My son is a fan and recommended them. I have bought a few items from there. I’ll be back soon.

  10. PeteSykes says:

    “What mean and cruel things men can do for the love of god.” – W Somerset Maugham

  11. Dan says:


    Archbishop of Canterbury:

    “This is an act of the most extraordinary brutality and barbarity. This violence is demonic in its attack on the innocent, and cowardly in its denial of the basic human right of freedom of speech.”

    Chief Rabbi:

    “The cover of one controversial issue of Charlie Hebdo in 2012 depicted an ultra-Orthodox Jew pushing a wheelchair-bound Muslim, labelling both as aspiring to immunity from mockery: it satirised both my religion and Islam together. I found this cartoon and other material they have published offensive, but this does not in any way dilute or diminish my outrage and anguish at today’s massacre.”


    “In a statement the Vatican condemned the shootings as a “double act of violence, abominable because it is both an attack against people as well as against freedom of the press”.”

  12. AgentCormac says:


    barriejohn linked to that same article on the previous ‘News round-up’ thread and it made my blood boil when I read it then. You can only hope that the editors of USA Today made the calculated decision to give Choudry enough rope to hang himself, rather than simply providing his odious, apologist views with the oxygen of publicity. However, at a time when it is so important that the outraged voices of moderate muslims are heard very loudly and very clearly, it seems to me to be a serious mistake to give this hate-monger an international soapbox from which to deliver his particular brand of vitriol.

  13. L.Long says:

    “it is reported here that Muslims around the world have condemned the shooting.”
    This statement may be true but if it is then the muslins are says that their holey preachers and holey book o’BS is nothing but BS so why do they still believe??
    Of coarse the same is true for the xtians but they pull a BS trick of saying well that’s OT and we’re NT because JESUS!!!!!! Which if any of them ever bothered to really read their book o’BS they would know they are hate filled bigots.

  14. Broga says:

    Thanks Dan. Very kind of you. I obviously don’t spend enough time indoors listening to the news. Many thanks.

  15. Paul Cook says:

    This from the lawyers secular society.
    On the cowardly British press. So no one will be surprised the press could bother to mention islam.

    What is offensive and ought to be condemned is a ‘truth’ some bloke flew about on a winged horse – it is deeply offensive. It is insulting and it is idiotic. It is also time it was consigned to the dustbin of dumb infantile ideas.

  16. Angela_K says:

    AgentCormac, sorry for the repeated link, I must have missed it; I’ve had a couple of brain power sapping days.

    As you say, USA Today could be allowing Choudary space to rant so even more people will despise him – we can hope.

  17. Rob Andrews says:

    Salmon Rushdee wii be appearing of the HBO for the next few days.
    He will be a guest on :’Real Time with Bill Maher’.