‘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.
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.
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.