O what a sensitive surrender

I liked this letter in the Independent. It said what I wanted to say but didn’t have time to say about that Vallely piece.

I found Paul Vallely[‘s] piece disturbing. He states that Theo Van Gogh “routinely described Muslims as ‘goatfuckers’, before one of them murdered him”. Whether or not Van Gogh described Muslims thus, the point is that he was murdered for expressing an opinion in the form of a work of art. Vallely, by emphasising Van Gogh’s “vile”‘ vocabulary, appears almost to be justifying his killing.

Yes. I did want to point that out – and it wasn’t just his emphasizing the vocabulary, it was also the peculiar, sly phrasing – that ‘before one of them murdered him’ sounds unpleasantly pleased, unpleasantly as if he needed to be murdered.

Vallely then gives examples of works of art being self-censored, because of a growing “sensitivity” towards Muslim feelings. These works of art were not self-censored out of sensitivity, but out of fear of a Muslim backlash.

Indeed. Vallely cites as his first illustrative example ‘that a new sensitivity is developing in many quarters’ is the cancellation of ‘Idomeneo’ – but that decision was made strictly on security grounds. Fear is not the same thing as sensitivity, any more than submission is the same thing as peace. There’s something truly repellent about calling a surrender to anticipated threats ‘a new sensitivity’.

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