I have received a few emails asking me to publicize an upcoming March for Free Expression to be held soon in the UK, and I have not yet done so only because a particularly heavy crush of work lately has prevented me from posting everything here that I would like to. But in this case, I’m glad I didn’t. Today the March’s website (thanks to FS) carries the following headline:
Muslims are welcome? Great. But “no Danish cartoons, please”? Consider that request in light of the March’s own “Statement of Principle”:
The strength and survival of free society and the advance of human knowledge depend on the free exchange of ideas. All ideas are capable of giving offence, and some of the most powerful ideas in human history, such as those of Galileo and Darwin, have given profound religious offence in their time. The free exchange of ideas depends on freedom of expression and this includes the right to criticise and mock. We assert and uphold the right of freedom of expression and call on our elected representatives to do the same. We abhor the fact that people throughout the world live under mortal threat simply for expressing ideas and we call on our elected representatives to protect them from attack and not to give comfort to the forces of intolerance that besiege them.
Why then no cartoons at the March? Here’s an excerpt from the explanation:
In practice, Muslims who wholeheartedly endorse our statement of principle, as quoted below by Peter Tatchell in his superb essay, who abhor the threats made against Danish cartoonists and believe people should have the right to publish things they themselves find offensive or abhorrent would be UNABLE to come to our rally on Saturday, because to be surrounded by these cartoons, now, in the present context when the BNP are using them as a rallying point, would be intolerable.
So I now appeal to people not to bring the cartoons on T-shirts or placards.
So Muslims who accept in principle that people should be able to publish things they themselves find offensive or abhorrent should not in practice have to accept that people should be able to publish things they themselves find offensive or abhorrent.
Wouldn’t it be a much stronger statement if Muslims who believe that people should be able to publish things they themselves find offensive or abhorrent actually appeared together with people carrying those things they found offensive and abhorrent, so as to emphasize that they accept, and believe others should accept, that in a free society we may offend each other all the time but we nevertheless do not resort to violence or intimidation in response?