River Wissey Lovell Fuller


April 2015

The unforgivable attack on Charlie Hebdo initiated a wide response in western democracies, there was almost unqualified support for the magazine and its stance on free speech.  There were a few voices raised to complain that Charlie Hebdo went too far on occasions and caused great offence.

In this country there is, one suspects, some censorship applied by those with power to keep some matters out of the public domain.  We also have laws associated with inciting racial hatred, child pornography etc, that impose some limits.  Nevertheless, we do have a great deal of freedom, we can say more or less what we like and, whatever some might think, pornography is freely available, gays may be quite open in their behaviour, even get married if they so choose.  It is up to us to behave in a way that we regard as right.  But this freedom has to be treated responsibly.  Most people do exercise responsibility in as much as they try to avoid causing offence to others, there is no excuse for being insulting or causing offence gratuitously. This freedom that we have is very precious and we must be vigilant against attempts to impose further limit.

There are those in many countries that yearn to be free and look at our freedom with envy, but it seems there are many that have come to this country that cannot, or do not want to, accept the freedom, they regard the hedonism and licentiousness as deplorable, (and many might agree), but that is not a good reason for taking away the freedom.   We all have the responsibility to live according to our morals. Some immigrants are, it appears, so opposed to our freedom that they are prepared to take violent action against us.  One does wonder why they came here.

We in the West can sometimes forget that the freedom we enjoy is not enjoyed by most people in the world.  People in China and many Muslim countries are more constrained and may be punished for saying what they think.  Saudi Arabia recently demonstrated how restricted people in that country are. Raid Badawi was sentenced to ten years in prison and 1000 lashes for insulting Islam.  In Saudi Arabia they might stone a rape victim to death for her sin.  (I will not mention my views on the homage paid recently by our royals to the dead king).  Whilst Saudi Arabia might be extreme, there are many other Muslim countries where people are terrified of speaking their mind.  An unproven accusation of blasphemy might lead to the death sentence.

A recent book written by Yasmin Alibai-Brown ‘Refusing the Veil’ aroused considerable opposition within the Muslim community in this country, even though it contained no criticism whatsoever of Islam.  She was told it was wrong to think such thoughts.  Fortunately the reaction did not compare with that which followed Salmon Rushdie’s book.How can anyone get through to such closed minds?  Talking to them is unlikely to penetrate so maybe holding their ideas up to ridicule is the only way to get them to take notice.

Our freedoms are precious and we must defend them, nothing anyone says or writes justifies a violent reaction, and the fact that those words may have been offensive should never be accepted as an excuse.

Something that we, in this country, learned in infancy “Sticks and stones .........”

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