I Must Have Misplaced My Glasses

Correction, to something in ‘Lesson Time’. I didn’t notice this until well after I’d posted the comment, so I had a good opportunity to feel surprised and irritated at my own befuddlement. It’s like those games where an extra word is inserted in some familiar bit of doggerel, and we don’t notice it because we see what we expect to see. Only not very much like that, because I should have been paying better attention, seeing as how I was arguing with the content. Thanks to sloppy reading I agreed with an absurdity. Allow me to start again.

Even if an artist had failed to find someone to illustrate a children’s book on the Prophet for fear of reprisals, this does not constitute an attack on freedom of speech. It could be construed as recognition and respect for the sacred taboos of another religion.

Really. Really? Illustrators refusing to illustrate a children’s book on the Prophet for fear of reprisals does not constitute an attack on freedom of speech? It could be construed as recognition and respect for the sacred taboos of another religion? Really? (Now you see why I feel like such an idiot for not noticing that yesterday. [slaps self upside head]) So if people refuse to paint or say or write something for fear of reprisals, that’s not an attack on free speech? That’s odd, because it looks exactly like an attack on free speech. Unfortunately Werbner is right about the second part. It shouldn’t be construed as recognition and respect for the sacred taboos of another religion, but it could be, and can be, and is being. That’s the upturned belly thing. People mouthing pieties about free speech while at the same time ordering everyone not to use it, and pasting the label ‘recognition and respect for the sacred taboos of another religion’ over the whole malodorous mess. We’re living through the very situation Werbner describes: threats against free speech construed as recognition and respect for the sacred taboos of another religion.

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