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Free Expression is No Offence: An English Pen Book

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A law criminalizing incitement to religious hatred has been high on the Labour Government's list of priorities. It is a law with wide-ranging implications for freedom of expression in Britain: it could be used to censor anyone - whether writer, comedian or person in the street - who wishes to make a statement about religion that others might find offensive. Free Expression A law criminalizing incitement to religious hatred has been high on the Labour Government's list of priorities. It is a law with wide-ranging implications for freedom of expression in Britain: it could be used to censor anyone - whether writer, comedian or person in the street - who wishes to make a statement about religion that others might find offensive. Free Expression is No Offence tackles the issue of free speech in the post-9/11 world from a variety of angles. Its authors draw on their wide-ranging experience to show just why it is that attempts to curtail our freedom must be vigorously resisted by anyone who wants all faiths and none to live peaceably side by side and our many cultures to thrive.


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A law criminalizing incitement to religious hatred has been high on the Labour Government's list of priorities. It is a law with wide-ranging implications for freedom of expression in Britain: it could be used to censor anyone - whether writer, comedian or person in the street - who wishes to make a statement about religion that others might find offensive. Free Expression A law criminalizing incitement to religious hatred has been high on the Labour Government's list of priorities. It is a law with wide-ranging implications for freedom of expression in Britain: it could be used to censor anyone - whether writer, comedian or person in the street - who wishes to make a statement about religion that others might find offensive. Free Expression is No Offence tackles the issue of free speech in the post-9/11 world from a variety of angles. Its authors draw on their wide-ranging experience to show just why it is that attempts to curtail our freedom must be vigorously resisted by anyone who wants all faiths and none to live peaceably side by side and our many cultures to thrive.

42 review for Free Expression is No Offence: An English Pen Book

  1. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Coates

    Following demands that Salman Rushdie’s novel "The Satanic Verses" be banned, the storming of the stage of the play "Behzti" meaning dishonour by British Sikh playwright Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti that turned the spotlight on her own community and protests by some Christians to the BBC’s broadcasting of "Jerry Springer – The Opera", in 2005, the UK Labour government introduced legislation aiming "to make provision about offences involving stirring up hatred against persons on racial or religious groun Following demands that Salman Rushdie’s novel "The Satanic Verses" be banned, the storming of the stage of the play "Behzti" meaning dishonour by British Sikh playwright Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti that turned the spotlight on her own community and protests by some Christians to the BBC’s broadcasting of "Jerry Springer – The Opera", in 2005, the UK Labour government introduced legislation aiming "to make provision about offences involving stirring up hatred against persons on racial or religious grounds". Ostensibly, the legislation was intended to prevent the incitement of violence and hatred of religious groups but the motivation appeared to be to cultivate favour from the Moslem community for the then upcoming UK general election. The book is a collection of essays in defence of freedom of speech that this legislation had the potential to curtail. Following the introduction which sets out the situation as it then stood, the first eight odd essays, including one by Rowan Atkinson who led the political opposition to the then proposed legislation, addressed the core issues of freedom of expression in light of the recent protests and then proposed legislation and when I was getting toward the end of these, it struck me that they were largely making the same argument, albeit from different perspectives. Fortunately, I persisted. In Art and Anathema, Howard Jacobson argues that art is inherently transgressive hence religion has always been uneasy with art including humour. Julian Evans presented the case of 15th century Renaissance humanist scholar and writer Rabelais who, following the Church’s discovery that, having learned by classical Greek which had then just been rediscovered in Western Europe and studying biblical texts in Greek, scholars began to offer their own interpretations of such texts, banned the learning of Greek, learned it anyways. In due course he wrote a number of satirical books attacking the abuses of the clergy from a humanistic and Protestant perspective but with a nod to wine, games and popular culture. The essay summarises his life, at time coming close to being burned at the stake, and writing which was, of course, banned by the Church but remain relevant today. In "God Save Us from Religion!", Moris Farhi provides an insightful examination of the inherent nature of religious institutions, their codification of doctrines, their tendency authoritarianism, their perpetual proselytising of their "truths", claims to be "chosen" or both and their inherent claims of exclusivity which will lead them to eternal bliss and everyone else to eternal damnation. Stressing that the opposition to religion comes from rational thought and not just from outside, this essay is one of the best on the topic I’ve read and it’s itself worth the purchase price of the book. In Ian Buruma’s "Final Cut" reflects on the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh who was murdered in Amsterdam for making, with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the film "Submission" criticising the treatment of women by Islam. The last essay I’ll summarise is titled "Science and Islam" by Pervez Hoodbhoy, a professor of physics at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad in Pakistan in which he presents the sorry state of the teaching of science in Moslem-majority countries, noting a few exceptions. With a few exceptions, the essays are well written, insightful and thought-provoking and it’s a book to which I’ll return.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    An excellent and varied set of essays on free speech. What is free speech, where does it exists, what is needed for it to exist. The book was written in response to New Labour's ill conceived bill on racial hatred and that is considered in some essays more than others. I will re-read this one. An excellent and varied set of essays on free speech. What is free speech, where does it exists, what is needed for it to exist. The book was written in response to New Labour's ill conceived bill on racial hatred and that is considered in some essays more than others. I will re-read this one.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marte

    An anthology published by English PEN, including authors such as Salman Rushdie, Monica Ali, Rowan Atkinson and Philip Pullman, all writing on the topic of freedom of speech. Very interesting and thought-provoking, definitely recommended!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Aeb World

    A very thought provoking book. Points out that the freedom of speech that we all so easily take for granted isn't as simple to exemplify. the best phrase I have read in a long time - Man thinks, god laughs. A very thought provoking book. Points out that the freedom of speech that we all so easily take for granted isn't as simple to exemplify. the best phrase I have read in a long time - Man thinks, god laughs.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cristiana

  6. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Bowman

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tom Morris

  8. 4 out of 5

    Michael Jefferies

  9. 4 out of 5

    Scott

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mattis

  11. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

  12. 5 out of 5

    Roseannah

  13. 5 out of 5

    Hereward

  14. 4 out of 5

    Naomi

  15. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Bigger

  16. 5 out of 5

    Joanne Riches 17

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ynez Wahab

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

  19. 4 out of 5

    Pauline

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ronan McFadden

  21. 5 out of 5

    Irene

  22. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Joseph

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alex

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michael Sullivan

  25. 5 out of 5

    Robert

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lottie

  27. 5 out of 5

    Milla

  28. 4 out of 5

    ElenaDaria

  29. 5 out of 5

    Elke

  30. 5 out of 5

    bella

  31. 4 out of 5

    abcdefg

  32. 4 out of 5

    Karin

  33. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  34. 5 out of 5

    Rachael

  35. 4 out of 5

    Valentina

  36. 4 out of 5

    Max

  37. 5 out of 5

    Anthony James

  38. 4 out of 5

    Eswar

  39. 5 out of 5

    Rob

  40. 4 out of 5

    S

  41. 5 out of 5

    Ishra Qureshi

  42. 5 out of 5

    Eddy V. D. Aker

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