No, you can’t say that

Messing around with Google in Swedish, I find a blog post by a guy who was at the seminar on Thursday. He includes the wonderful book cover by Elisabeth Wallin and adds that he was the model for the guy on the left – the rabbi holding a big jagged stone ready to throw. How cool is that?!

There was a giant blow-up of the jacket at the launch – it was about the size of a door. In the huge version it becomes clear that all three clerics are spitting on the women at their feet. Once you know that you can see it in the small version – that thing that looks like a wispy beard on the pope is actually a river of spit.

Wallin was supposed to be at the launch but alas she didn’t make it, so I never met her. Too bad; that would have been great, she being so pleasingly controversial and all. But I met other pleasingly controversial people. I was apparently even controversial myself. I’d written an article for the occasion, at Fri Tanke’s request, and it was going to be published by Express Expressen, one of the biggest newspapers. During the launch, Christer got a text message from them saying on second thought, we don’t want it, because – er – well we’ve already said religion is not entirely wonderful, so there’s no need to say it again. The opinion page editor wanted it, but the editor-in-chief intervened to say No.

Don’t go thinking that because Sweden is all secular and cool and leftwing, it doesn’t scowl at frank atheism just like all other right-thinking conformist people. That was what I thought, but I learned better pretty quickly. Frank atheism is frowned on, and as for criticism of Islam – that’s right out. That was being discussed at the launch – I think perhaps I was saying a few words about it, but the fog of jet lag was thick by that time, so I’m not sure; at any rate it was being discussed when Christer got the text message so he was able to use it as an illustration of the very thing that was being discussed. It was an interesting moment. The room full of women’s rights activists and secularists, discussing the fact that there is heavy social pressure not to talk about the role of religion in denying women’s rights, only to be told that a major newspaper has changed its mind about publishing an article on the role of religion in denying women’s rights. The irony is poignant.

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