Opinion: Deliberately offending people might be necessary

I’ve been pretty disappointed in the reaction of progressives to the aftermath of the Paris massacre, in particular the debate over satirical imagery of Mohammed. A fair few progressives are saying that it’s wrong to publish such satire, because it’s known that it will offend people, and deliberately offending people is wrong. This initially sounds like a reasonable position, but as a progressive it disappoints me for two reasons.

The first reason is that just a few weeks ago, many of these same people were arguing in exactly the opposite direction:

a) a mother was breastfeeding in public and was given a towel to cover her breast. This towel had absolutely no impact on her ability to breast-feed, or the on baby, but there was nevertheless outrage from progressives. Let’s be clear: many people are offended by exposed breasts in public. The reaction of progressives was to organise a mass public breast-feed – a deliberate attempt to offend those who are offended by that.

b) a gay couple kissed in a supermarket and were warned not to by security. Not kissing had no impact on their ability to buy milk, and no one has such an urgent need to kiss that it can’t wait 3 minutes till they leave a shop, but there was nevertheless outrage from progressives. Let’s be clear: many people are offended by homosexual displays of affection in public. The reaction of progressives was to organise a mass public gay-kiss – a deliberate attempt to offend those who are offended by that.

Numerically, many more people in the UK (and probably most countries) are offended by homosexual displays of affection, or exposed breasts in public, than are offended by images of Mohammed. Progressives are displaying a good deal of prejudice here on who it’s OK to offend, and that’s a shame.

The second reason this disappoints me is the inability to grasp why satirical imagery of Mohammed might be necessary:

a) an image is worth a thousand words. Satirical imagery is far older than written language, and far more effective. Religion needs to be satirised. To disallow satirical imagery of a religion is to throw away the sharpest tool in the box of satire – and it would have consequences.

b) when someone who has no right to tell you not to do a thing tells you not to do a thing, the simplest, most direct, and most effective response is to deliberately and publicly do that thing, repeatedly. This is how people defend their freedoms, and it always has been. Public defiance and civil disobedience is the cornerstone of peaceful protest – and long may it continue. Keep doing that thing, until the person telling you not to do that thing gets it into their head that they have no right to tell you that, and won’t succeed in that.

Finally, Islam is a religion much like any other. Having read the Koran I can say with certainty that the Koran is much like the Bible and other religious texts. To argue that Muslims are uniquely unable to come to terms with that fact that non-Muslims do not share or obey their taboos is actually a deeply racist viewpoint, and I expect better of progressives. To quote Maajid Nawaz, founder of the Quilliam Foundation (an anti-extremist think-tank), on an image of Mohammed that he tweeted, “as a Muslim, I did not feel threatened by it. My God is greater than that”.

* Dr Mark Wright is a councillor in Bristol and was the 2015 general election Parliamentary candidate for Bristol South.

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  • Malcolm Todd 9th Jan '15 - 8:53am

    “no one has such an urgent need to kiss that it can’t wait 3 minutes till they leave a shop”
    What, never in your life? Oh, you poor man!

    That aside, an excellent post. Absolutely spot on.

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Jan '15 - 8:53am

    I couldn’t agree more.

  • Glenn Andrews 9th Jan '15 - 9:22am

    There’s nothing progressive about outrage, that’s what reactionaries do.

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Jan '15 - 9:38am

    @ Malcolm Todd.
    Your comment made me smile.

    I suspect that it was just a lapse of memory on Dr Wright’s part.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 9th Jan '15 - 9:40am

    As someone of Muslim heritage, I’m not offended by cartoons, and can’t see the ‘humour’ in crude depictions of someone else’s prophet / rabi/ priest depicted having sex with a goat. But defend their right to draw these without being murdered. An excellent commentary as to why we need to reach out and not further alienate marginalised sections of our society. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/08/charlie-hedbo-collusion-terror-jihadi-twisted-logic

  • Ruth Bright 9th Jan '15 - 9:47am

    Some pretty clunking and clumsy comparisons here. Just to be awkward and Mumsnet Mark I am afraid covering with a towel can put a baby off breastfeeding!!! The comparison is poor because the feed-in demonstrators are not trying to gratuitously offend just asserting their children’s human rights to take on nourishment!

  • stuart moran 9th Jan '15 - 9:49am

    Malcolm Todd

    Great comment 🙂

    Nick Barlow

    I don’t think anyone has said that have they?

    Firstly, the cartoons are offensive to some, humorous to others and something in between for most. No one is telling anyone what they should think of them. What is the case though is that the cartoons should not have been censored just because some find them offensive

    Second, the murder of the cartoonists cannot, and should not, ne considered as acceptable apart from those with warped values

    It is possible to be offended and be revolted by the killings – as the vast majority Muslims are.

    I don’t think anyone is saying that condemning the killings means there is approval for the cartoons. I, myself, did not find them funny and was a bit uncomfortable with some of them. Charlie Hebdo though is there to push those boundaries and, I hope, will continue to do so. Because of that ‘Je Suis Charlie’

  • Well written Mark Wright, thoughtful and useful.

    Some Liberal Democrats sometimes forget what we are about. We are about – rejecting prejudice, defending the right to write, or draw cartoons. Opposing all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality. These are not always easy ideals to work for. They are however clearly set out in The Preamble to our Constitution. For example —

    Upholding these values of individual and social justice, we reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour,religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality…..

    We will at all times defend the right to speak, write, worship, associate and vote freely, and we will protect the right of citizens to enjoy privacy in their own lives and homes. 

  • Fantastic post! Part of freedom of speech is the freedom to offend, and if people try to restrict freedom of speech then it is sometimes best to exercise it loudly. If that means deliberate offence, so be it. It’s also worth noting that banning images of Mohammed is Koranic law, applying this to non-Muslims is doubly ridiculous.

    Personally I think a copy of Charlie Hebdo in every newsstand in the West is a far better retort than depicting the prophet, but that’s certainly valid protest too.

  • jedibeeftrix 9th Jan '15 - 10:17am

    A generally excellent article, now let’s tackle the reasons why the general public are becoming generally less minded to rigorously exercise the freedom of speech we believe they should hold dear:

    The dead hand of the state, in trying to make morality into legality, with nebulous definitions of subjective matters, with which flawed tools the state enforces zealously lest they be deemed ineffective.

  • Good piece. Isn’t it really about time that the progressive forces in this country dealt with islam head on and called it for the repressive, mysoginist, homophobic and intolerant ideology it largely seems to be? If the left and liberals continue to pussy-foot around the issue for fear of causing offence then it will simply play into the hands of right-wing racists all over Europe.

  • Gary Fuller 9th Jan '15 - 10:45am

    Interesting points, though I’d probably question your assumptions on the number of people offended by breasts and/or kissing. Ultimately the reason why progressive liberals can appear somewhat hypocritical with regards to the freedom to be “offensive” is very simple though (and completely understandable). Just as we are all unique in what offends us (and to what degree), we are also unique in what harms us (and to what degree).

    As progressive liberals we want to maximise the freedom of the individual in so far as they don’t cause harm to others. We are also keenly aware of the inherent inequalities in society as it exists today. This leads us therefore to a very nuanced idea of where offence ends and harm begins. The fact that we’re all unique makes for even more nuanced views that at times can appear counter-intuitive. Such is the wonder and horror of being a progressive liberal.

  • @George Potter, a very wise and cogent contribution there. Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s summary of Voltaire’s attitude “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” is probably very apt in the CH case.

  • matt (Bristol) 9th Jan '15 - 11:00am


    Yes, I agree that deliberately giving offence should not be in all circumstances criminal and taboo; many religious movements in the past gained life and spiritual rejuvenation from just such movements and actions of protest and offence.

    However, there is still choice in a liberal and democratic society; choice to stand with or against conformity of whatever kind, to make one’s own discernment for one’s own reasons. To choose not to publish cartoons of the prophet mohammed should remain a free choice. It made be _felt_ to be ‘necessary’, but it should not be considered by any self-considered ‘progressives’ to be _mandatory_ on other ‘progressives’. This is the language of mob rule, if taken too far.

    You are right to be sceptial about the potential for inconsistency on such points among selftwing and liberal activists, here, Mark, but to always seek to prescirbe onto others a uniform rule and then to seek to ‘call them out’ on it if they don’t live up to it – and then to not listen to the individual’s own reasoning and shout them down – would be illiberal and unreasonable.

    There will be different and diverse reactions here, both to the horror of the shootings themselves, and to the content of the cartoons, and to the concetp fo religious offence and blasphemy (which are not one thing – there are diverse cartoons, which tackle the subject in different ways, with ddifferent levels of taste, offence and humour).

    There will be (and reasonably so) people who abhor the shootings who will abhor the cartoons. How does Western European society come together in both unity against violence without fighting over and over again a divisive culture war?

  • Eddie Sammon 9th Jan '15 - 11:18am

    I quite strongly disagree and I ask liberals not to go around offending Muslims on purpose. There is a difference with breast feeding and same gender kissing because breastfeeding is necessary and people should get used to gay kissing.

    There is also a difference between what Majid did where he made one tweet and repeatedly offending people making lots. The best kind of comedy is one that pushes the boundaries, but not too far. It won’t get people far in life if they think regularly deliberately offending people is the right way to behave.

    I’m not deliberately chasing the “Muslim vote” or trying to please anyone in my inner circle. I just think it is a matter of respect and I find the most skillful comedy the kind that pushes the boundaries, without causing too much offence. We want comedy where we can all join in.

  • A good article. I think the over sensitivity to causing offense in this case perpetuates the idea that all Muslims are much more strictly religious than they actually are. Part of this is driven by the idea that certain groups require community leaders to act as an unelected political voice. Almost Invariably this means a religious person framing things in a way that stresses their own religious concerns. In America there are lots of religious groups that scour records and films for unchristian content but even most Christians ignore them. I’ve met Christian and Muslim death metal fans. I’ve sat in a pub with mostly Muslim customers watching Leicester City lose yet again. This idea that Muslims are an amorphous blob with the same views, the same tastes, the same behaviour and who are offended by the same things is actually a little racist and simply encourages a tiny minority of fanatics to believe they are taking action on behalf of all Muslims. Charlie Hebdo was attacked by three people in a nation that has 6 million Muslims. It wasn’t marched on by a crowd. You can’t run a society on the basis of not offending tiny groups of fanatical hotheads that probably only numbers a few hundred if that.

  • Helen Tedcastle 9th Jan '15 - 11:36am

    I agree with George Potter and Meral Hussein Ece on this. The article’s assumption and illustrative examples are clunking and clumsy.

    It seems to me that the writer of the article is really arguing that progressive politics is about the right to go round giving gratuitous offence to any group that might possibly be offended. In the case of ‘religion’ – the umbrella term of choice in the article to describe a complex, multi-layered, living reality – it has a ‘need’ to be satirised. Who is it that ‘needs’ to be fed the satire depicting the Prophet Muhammad? More often than not it is the relatively small group of secular-metropolitan readers who enjoy cocking a snook at faith and loved religious figures, but who know little of the faith being lampooned – except what is reported in the London press – and they care even less.

    More often than not, the people who actually care and are offended by gratuitous insults are those who are powerless and marginal. They are the ones who you do not hear from but have to live with stigmatisation and suspicion from the ‘dominant community’ through no fault of their own.

    Let’s remember that the real villains here are the terrorist – criminals who kill indiscriminately on any excuse and have the gall to call on the name of a religious leader who, I have no doubt, would condemn their acts as contrary to Islam.

    This is not about a religion or even Islam but about alienation from a society and embrace of a violent political ideology.

    Freedom of expression before the law in a democracy is important. I defend the right of people to do it and not to be murdered by violent terrorists for doing it but let’s not pretend that deliberately and gratuitously insulting the innocent, peaceful and powerless as a way of ‘getting back’ at violent thugs, is progressive.

    In a liberal society it seems to me at any rate that liberty must not replace community.

  • Maria Pretzler 9th Jan '15 - 12:14pm

    I think there is generally a problem with people increasingly demanding a right not to be offended. This isn’t restricted to religions. Remember the kerfuffle over poppies each autumn, and the guy who was arrested for posting a picture of a burning poppy?

    It’s a tough call, but for a liberal society to work, I think we have to be tolerant of offence to limits of everybody’s patience, especially if the offended group is a perceived mainstream or majority. The Tabloids can screech as much as they like, but they are often the ones demanding not to be offended, and we have to resist this trend.

    I’d say this can only happen with the following three principle:

    (1) nobody has a right not to be offended. Everybody has a right to offend others (though that’s most definitely not an obligation).
    (2) everybody has a right to feel safe from violence or discrimination, or a threat of violence or discrimination.
    (3) no exception for anybody, on any grounds (including innate characteristics, religious or political views, or claims to being the ‘majority’).

    This is very tough, since this includes a charter for bigots to express their views just as well for left-liberals such as Charlie Hebdo. I think tolerance is only tested when we are on the receiving end: it’s always easy to demand it from others.
    And it really isn’t only Muslims who can be accused of demanding the right not to be offended – I see this on all sides, often with pretty vile views expressed by people who claim to do so in the name of tolerance.

  • Alex Sabine 9th Jan '15 - 12:29pm

    Very much agree with Glenn’s post above. The tendency to talk about “the Muslim community” (and indeed other religious or ethnic groups) as if it were a single cohesive bloc rather than millions of individuals with differing attitudes, and then to give undue weight to the noisy but often unrepresentative views of self-appointed “community leaders”, leads to a warped public discourse on this subject.

    It is also fundamentally illiberal since it defines people by a single aspect of their identity (even if it is an important one to them, in the case of religion) and then assumes a given set of political or societal attitudes will result from this.

    That is why I fundamentally dislike ‘identity politics’ – which all parties practise to some extent in chasing the supposed ‘gay vote’, ‘Muslim vote’, ‘black vote’ etc – since this relies on putting people into categories and labels rather than treating them as we find them in all their messy diversity.

    Helen, in a liberal society it seems to me that liberty (variously defined, that is not the argument here) must indeed be the supreme, though not the only, political value. The default position must be that liberty trumps other desiderata and there should be a high hurdle for departures from it. Otherwise liberalism becomes just a mushy mess of platitudes and good intentions. I’m with John Stuart Mill not (say) Michael Sandel or Amitai Etzioni.

    Mill summed up his preference for liberty over community thus: “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”

    (This is not to deny the importance of community to a healthy functioning society, it’s just that if it means anything in the political or legal sphere it must mean a level of coercion over individuals in the name of a greater good.)

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Jan '15 - 12:32pm

    I am sorry Helen but I have to disagree with you. This is about religion and about Islam because the terrorists who commit their acts of terrorism do so in the name of Islam. They use a narrative Islam to justify their behaviour.

    There are Islamic scholars and academics who of course counter their interpretation, for example Dr Taj Hargay, and many, many Muslims who reject what they believe to be a warped interpretation, but one can’t get away from the fact that many of these young men have had an education, they have attended mosques, some have attended madrassas and they must have been educated in their religion by some clerics who feed them with that particularly hateful interpretation of their religion .

  • Helen,
    I couldn’t disagree more. Islam is not voiceless or powerless . It’s a religion with over a billion a follower and leaders pumping money into efforts at gaining political clout as well as often supplying crude anti gay, anti-Semitic, anti democratic and anti western propaganda to schools. No one consults the Atheist Council of Great Britain to see if atheists are offended by this that or the other. IMO religion has far too big a voice in Britain and Europe which is why lampooning it is a good thing. A big part of liberal history involved separating the state from the church and often employed quite crude satire. Plus people now talk about the Hip Hop community, the Skateboarding community, as well as various other kinds of communities. Communities in the modern age are not one thing if they ever were. Special pleading by the religious often involves attacks on gay rights, the rights of people to say they no longer believe in the religion they were born into, on women’s rights and on individual freedoms. If you are part of a religious community then fine, but most people actually aren’t and why should they be sensitive to the religious when the religious are not really that sensitive to them. Look at the huge community that has turned out in support of Charlie Hebdo and the shock to the wider community of France.

  • Alan Marshall 9th Jan '15 - 12:39pm

    “People should get used to gay kissing” – really? Well, really people should just leave people to kiss who they want and ignore their own offence. It they want to get used to it then all the better. It is possible not to kiss someone. The people who kiss someone of their own gender, do so because they want to. It serves a range of different purposes from pleasure, reassurance and political. Mass kiss-ins are meant to offend people. That’s why they are done. They are making a point about their own liberty and flouting the offence caused.

    People have a right to be offended by a cartoon. They have no right to stop others from drawing that cartoon. It cannot be that satirists can lampoon power in political and religious circles, but not this bit of Islam. Individual cartoons that attack lots of people are offensive to me. Some I find insensitive, unfair, racist or sexist. Others I love and delight in. We should be free to criticise individual cartoons, but not to bully people into not doing certain subjects at all. The Life of Brian caused great anger and controversy when it was made. Those who implore people not to make any cartoons of Mohammed, if they had their way, would have ensured Life of Brian was never made for fear of causing “needless offence”.

  • Unfortunately there can never be integration in our society when a large section of Islam are segregated. Muslim women will be the targets of abuse however most Muslim men dress in a western fashion.

  • @Eddie Sammon
    Your views on the public flogging of Raif Badawi the first of which he received today? Am I supposed to keep quiet?

  • Helen Tedcastle 9th Jan '15 - 1:09pm

    Alex Sabine

    I don’t disagree with your comments because I am not calling on satirists to be silenced. I defend their right to publish cartoons and condemn the barbarity of what happened at Charlie Hebdo. I agree completely with the Mill quote. My point was that liberty and community ‘walk’ a fine balance.

    My aim is at those who are now calling for the press in the UK to publish the cartoons thereby giving gratuitous offence. It is the latter not the right to publish that I object to. It seemed to me that the article was arguing for the need to give gratuitous offence to people of faith – as if gratuitous and deliberate going out of one’s way to insult to make a point – is a mark of our liberty.

    Jayne Mansfield

    You are right that there is a strand of Islam that is radical and highly politicised. We often hear more about these small groups than the vast majority – this is the problem. I know a number of muslims of mature and well-rounded religious identity, so when I defend Islam I think of them.

    However, my concern is why some young people are drawn towards extremism. Often they are alienated and angry already before they become radicalised. It is often because they are without a mature religious identity or any identity that they gravitate towards the false-certainty of fundamentalism online. This also accounts for why there are a number of white-British converts to jihadism – rootless and without clear identity and brought up in a suburban, nuclear family.

  • Eddie Sammon 9th Jan '15 - 1:39pm

    Alan Marshall, I am not arguing against publishing pictures of Mohammed for comedy purposes, I am arguing against doing it for political purposes.

    I know what I am arguing against: the political activists who want to publish the images for the sake of winding people up, not comedy. I know they think it will achieve good, but I disagree.

    Anne, I do not wish to comment on that particular case, but we should have a civilised debate about religious equality and human rights another time.

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Jan '15 - 2:00pm

    Stephane Charbonnier the editor of Charlie Hebdo was very left wing, as I believe was the publication.

    I do agree with you misogyny, homophobia and ideological intolerance should be tackled from whichever quarter it comes, and that we do not deal with everyone equally. The euphemism ‘socially conservative’ can sometimes be used too liberally and I am aware that liberal types can be ‘touchy’ if they sense criticism of some practices that they deem to be religious or cultural.

    I would like to point out though, that we live in a society where 1in 4 women have been the victims of domestic abuse during the course of their life-time, and two women a week die at the hands of their partners or ex- partners.

    As a former Catholic, now agnostic/atheist, I have found that misogyny, homophobia and ideological intolerance are not restricted to the extremes of just one of the great Abrahamic religions.

  • Let’s also be a bit more honest. The reason the cartoons haven’t been published in the press here, in Britain isn’t the fear of causing offence. British newspapers aren’t known for their tact or politeness or unwillingness to offend. It’s the fear of being killed.

  • matt (Bristol) 9th Jan '15 - 2:26pm

    “In a liberal society it seems to me at any rate that liberty must not replace community.”

    Hurrah for Helen Tedcastle.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 9th Jan '15 - 3:23pm

    @Helen Tedcastle, I would support a call for the major media outlets to publish representations of Mohamed (not necessarily satirical or rude) not to give gratuitous offence or to insult but because to refrain from doing so is to say to the terrorists that terrorism works and they should continue with their violence.

  • Helen Tedcastle 9th Jan '15 - 3:48pm

    @ Graham Martin- Royle

    Terrorists win when when they succeed in causing division and alienation in a society.They want to stir up social tensions and nothing would delight them more if images of the Prophet of Islam are plastered all over the British media for the satisfaction of those who put their freedom to mock gratuitously before due consideration of effects on communities.

    As I said before, satirists must be free to draw and publish their magazines but this is not a time for shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded cinema (as it were). Vince Cable said as much on Question Time last night. He was right.

  • Terrorists win when when they succeed in causing division and alienation in a society

    No, they don’t. They win when they achieve their objectives.

    The IRA would have won if they had achieved the transfer of Northern Ireland from the UK to the Republic.

    ETA will win if they achieve an independent Basque state.

    If the objective of this lot is to stop the publication of any images of Mohammed, and no more images or Mohammed are published, then by any reasonable definition of the word they have won, haven’t they?

  • @ Jayne Mansfield

    I agree that misogyny, homophobia and ideological intolerance are not limited to Islam, my point is that when it does emanate from Islam liberals and the left in general turn a blind eye, excuse it or appease it. This will prove to be a grave mistake in the long term. We have been putting up with this crap since Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” decades ago and internationally it’s getting worse as each month passes.

  • matt (Bristol) 9th Jan '15 - 4:24pm

    Dav, there is not ‘one lot’ of terrorists at work here; there are at least 2 ‘organisations’ ISIS and Al Quaeda (who hate each other and have both claimed responsibility) and we do not know what their objectives are.

    Given past form, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that their objective is the creation of an ongoing ‘war of civilisations’ between their concept of Islamic society and their concept of Western society, and that everyone in the world is made to choose sides.

    In that sense, Helen has a point and could well be right (but of course, we do not ‘know’ this; this is speculation, but so is your own point).

  • Alan Marshall 9th Jan '15 - 4:33pm

    30 years ago a minority group of extreme Christians who felt their way of life was under attack tried to stop The Life of Brian being shown in cinemas or indeed made. They said that it was deeply offensive and immoral. Some people said that they have the right to make the film, but questioned whether they should.

    it wasn’t that many years ago that politicians and others in power frequently tried to get cartoons banned for disrespecting them.

    The 1980s were times when many pressure groups tried to censure or remove so called offensive programs and publications, many of which would appear tame nowadays.

    Not all Muslims are particularly offended by the cartoons. Some are spreading them in solidarity.

    I’ve only see a few of these cartoons. My French is far from perfect. Some are funny, some have a good satirical edge, some just seem like childish outbursts. Pretty much like many British satires really, but with different targets. The magazine is in the genre of things like Spitting Image – irreverent and sending up pomposity and power-grabbing.

    Everyone seems to be agreed that the murders were wrong. But I’m concerned that some feel that we should encourage self-censorship and allow one stream, of one religion to have protection from criticism or lampooning. We can campaign against Islamophobia (which printing a picture isn’t) and join in solidarity with Muslims, while criticising anyone who wants extra privileges for their ideas.

  • In that sense, Helen has a point and could well be right

    If she has a point, she expressed it spectacularly badly.

    The blanket statement ‘[t]errorists win when when they succeed in causing division and alienation in a society’ is simply false.

    It may be that these murderers are part of a larger organisation which is hoping to use ‘division and alienation’ as tools to achieve some longer-term objective, but even then it is still not that case that if they succeed in causing ‘division and alienation’ then they will have won, any more than it is the case that ‘armies win when they manage to occupy the high ground’.

    On the other hand, it may be that these murderers are not part of any larger organisation, and do not have any longer-term objectives than simply venting their anger by shooting some cartoonists, in which case they have already won because they have achieved that objective.

    But the idea that ‘[t]errorists win when when they succeed in causing division and alienation in a society’ is wrong. Terrorists have goals. If they achieve those goals, they win. If they do not, they lose.

    (I suppose it is just about possible to imagine an anarchist-nihilist group for whom simply causing ‘division and alienation’ was their sole objective, but I am not aware of any such groups; even the Russians like Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin didn’t simply want to cause terror, that was simply their tactic for working towards their main goal of revolution.)

  • matt (Bristol) 9th Jan '15 - 5:11pm

    “… it may be that these murderers are not part of any larger organisation, and do not have any longer-term objectives than simply venting their anger by shooting some cartoonists, in which case they have already won because they have achieved that objective.’

    But we don’t know that.

    ‘…the idea that ‘[t]errorists win when when they succeed in causing division and alienation in a society’ is wrong. Terrorists have goals. If they achieve those goals, they win. If they do not, they lose. ‘

    Well, it’s at least half right. Terorists use terror. Division and alienation is a product of terror. Terrorists who do set out in public a coherent set of objectives are more that likely to have littlegoal beyond the causing of terror in and of itself. Also, as ‘terror’ is a state of mind, so is ‘winning’; for those who think this is a war, this is a war in the head and the heart, as well as one the streets. Perception is 100 per cent of the law in this case, and very few people know at this point, what these people thought they were doing.

  • But we don’t know that

    No, but that doesn’t affect the truth value of the general statement.

    Terorists use terror.

    They use guns and bombs too.

    Division and alienation is a product of terror

    Sometimes, sometimes not. Fear’s a funny thing: it can drive people apart or it can push them closer together.

    If terrorists don’t cause division and alienation — if their attacks cause people to band together — but they still achieve their objective because people are scared of what they will do if they don’t, then they have won.

    Conversely, if they do manage to cause division and alienation, and yet don’t achieve their objectives, they have lost.

    Division and alienation may be tactics employed by terrorists, but to equate them with ‘winning’ is, as above, like saying that an army wins if it occupies the high ground. It may be that occupying the high point is a tactic to get them closer to winning, but it is not the same as winning: it is possible to win without the high ground, and it is equally possible to gain the high ground and still lose.

    Also, as ‘terror’ is a state of mind, so is ‘winning’;

    Not for the IRA it isn’t. Nor for ETA. They have defined goals and a state of the world which will represent them winning. So clearly ‘winning’ is not a ‘state of mind’ for all terrorists (and remember, the statement Helen made was about al terrorists).

    Is ‘winning’ a ‘state of mind’ for these particular murderers? We don’t know (and now they have been killed we will likely never know).

    So it is stupid to make statements like ‘this is a war in the head and the heart, as well as one the streets’ when you have no idea what their objective was. You are presumably you know what they intended to achieve; you don’t.

  • daft ha'p'orth 9th Jan '15 - 5:22pm

    Uniquely good article. Stand for MP in Somerset – I’d vote for you.

    It’s noticeable that most commentators in Britain have never read an issue of Charlie Hebdo, don’t speak French, know very little about French politics or culture and therefore do not have an informed opinion on the value or relevance of the cartoons, which in many cases they have never seen.

    Vox has posted 9 Charlie Hebdo covers with an explanatory article. Reading that would be a good first step. It is true that some Charlie Hebdo cartoons are scatological or sexual and that some cartoonists had/have eccentric or adolescent senses of humour, but many have a clear point. Take for example the cover from 1st October 2014, which makes a mainstream point about Mohammed that is regularly made about Jesus, in media such as comedy sketches, movies and books: that if he were to return today, he should not expect a warm welcome from some of his followers. That is not to say that there are not many crude and meaningless Mohammed cartoons on the net – there are, since reddit and similar forums have apparently adopted crude cartooning as a non-violent means of activism.

    If one doesn’t know or understand Charlie Hebdo’s work, then one is absolutely not in a position either to appreciate or to condemn. If one condemns the output of a magazine over decades without bothering to look at even a single cartoon, then one is clearly talking out of one’s buttocks. CH had/has many points to make about Islam, Catholicism, Liberalism, popular culture, life, love and the human condition that were/are well worth making. It also published a lot of stuff that could easily have appeared in Viz. These folks made political points because they were political satirists, and they drew them because they were cartoonists – and there was and is is nothing wrong with that.

    So, sure, please, let’s discuss in detail, leaving behind hand-waving generalities and citing publication, issue, page number and artist when referencing cartoons. Let’s actually talk about art and what is or is not ‘gratuitous mockery’. Let’s view and critique a bunch of Charlie Hebdo cartoons – not just the Mohammed covers, but a decent selection.. Let us, all of us, agnostics, Christians, Muslims and Rastas and all, have a national debate about political cartoons, with free popcorn and soft drinks. Let’s talk about what these cartoons do well and what they do badly. Let’s discuss them, openly, as we would discuss any other piece of art.

    The present situation enables radicalism, reinforces prejudice, disinformation and misconception, and feeds the fears of the public, many of whom now believe that the British media are self-censoring due to fearing for their lives. Talking about cartoons is pretty much the only way out of this silly blind alley.

  • Sorry; ‘You are presuming you know ‘.

  • @Eddie Sammon. The case of Raif Badawi is linked. He has had a similar reaction from Islam, that of brutality and intolerance. We have to stand up against any religion or government that condones this. The silence is deafening. Why is his freedom of speech less important than those who were slaughtered in France?

  • Helen Tedcastle 9th Jan '15 - 5:52pm

    @ Dav

    My point about terrorists’ objectives being the desire to cause division in society holds when one considers that al-Qaeda (the network the French terrorists seem to be allied to) is a political ideology which seeks to establish a world caliphate. It can only do this if western societies are drawn into the conflict and enough alienated individuals are radicalised into harming their own societies.

    The version of wahabi Islam linked to this political ideology is a particularly strict literalist version developed by bin Laden and exported to Afghanistan. The fact that there are millions of peaceful and non-violent followers of wahabi Islam (as a religious not political practice) living their lives in the Gulf States and Saudi, shows how this violent political hybrid is untypical.

    Therefore, in my view ,the cartoons are a means by which the terrorists can cause maximum mayhem and division to achieve ideological ends. Hence my comment earlier.

  • My point about terrorists’ objectives being the desire to cause division in society holds when one considers that al-Qaeda (the network the French terrorists seem to be allied to) is a political ideology which seeks to establish a world caliphate. It can only do this if western societies are drawn into the conflict and enough alienated individuals are radicalised into harming their own societies.

    In that case, firstly, you should have been clearer that you are only talking about these terrorists (assuming you are correct about them being associated with al-Qaeda, which I haven’t seen any evidence to support; it still seems just as likely to me that they were lone wolves acting out their own anger), not terrorists in general.

    And secondly, it is not true that causing division and alienation, even though those are part of their strategy, will inevitably lead to their success. And it is certainly not true that causing division and alienation is to be identified with them succeeding.

    But as I say, this all assumes they were in any way actually connected with al-Qaeda, which I have yet to be convinced of.

  • @Helen Tedcastle
    “Terrorists win when when they succeed in causing division and alienation in a society.They want to stir up social tensions and nothing would delight them more if images of the Prophet of Islam are plastered all over the British media”

    These terrorists in France were so “delighted” by the Mohammed cartoons that they were prepared to massacre a bunch of people and then get killed themselves. I think you are seriously deluding yourself there Helen.

  • Helen Tedcastle 9th Jan '15 - 7:09pm

    ‘ I think you are seriously deluding yourself there Helen.’

    Would you deny that the aim of terrorism is to cause division and social tensions? Of course they regard the depiction of images of blasphemous to the extent that they are prepared to kill. However, the ultimate aim of the political ideology of Islamism is the establishment of a universal caliphate.

  • Helen.
    The British media is the only one not publishing these images and if the ultimate aim of these terrorist is to establish a universal caliphate do you not think that it is possible that they are simply trying to silence critics as a show of the strength of their faith rather than to cause division. Besides which if they are trying to establish a universal caliphate they’re doomed to failure whether satirists and newspapers publish images they don’t like or not. In fact I think this terrorism is the result of hardliners radicalising stupid young hotheads because in the 21st century everyone has access to pretty much any kind of knowledge and this means more Muslims might become more liberal thus threatening theocracies and theocratic dominance, ie they are simply trying to show other muslims that secular ideas are very very bad and very very weak and can be silenced at the barrel of a gun,

  • If someone has a chip on their shoulder and an inferiority complex , then they are easily offended. We appear to have entered a period when people want to be offended and have developed a very fragile and brittle ego. We have also apparently entered a period when people justify their anger and acts of violence because someone has made them angry. Becoming an emotionally mature and responsible adult entails one realising one is not the centre of the universe and learning to control one’s emotions. Two people may react to an event in a completely different manner due to their spirit which in turn influences their emotional response. The basis of much Buddist teaching is learning to emotionally detach oneself from aspects of daily life and not let events upset one.

    If one looks at how easily some people become offended and appear to have no emotional self control , then I am glad Britain did not need them in WW1 or 2.

    Helen Tadcastle
    Terrorists win when people are terrified and change their thoughts, statements and actions because of their terror.

  • @Helen
    I do not deny that (though terrorists have many other aims) and did not say that I did. I only took issue with your claim that Islamists would “delight” in seeing images of Mohammed everywhere. The opposite is the truth.

    Islamism is more a religious ideology than a political one. Indeed, Islamists believe that Islam is an ideology in itself – this is how many would define “Islamism”.

  • Lauren Salerno 9th Jan '15 - 8:14pm

    The original piece is wildly off balance and as so often does nothing more than polarise without need or justification

    Do we need to offend at times, yes but only when all attempts to challenge behaviour and attitudes that put people at risk or which degrade. Only as a last resort therefore and as part of an holistic approach to resolve things can offence be justified.

    Some of the examples used above are ludicrous – the same type of lowlife who would be offended by a gay kiss would be offended by me a woman with a Trans history, should I not venture outside for fear of offending bigots and reactionaries?

    Rather my behaviour like those of all should be sensitive to the needs of others. Freedom of speech like my freedom should never be used to cause deliberate offence – to do otherwise is not liberal but libertarian, not free but libertine

    Some people however view “free speech”, in itself a misnomer as nothing is truly free, in the same way some US citizens see gun law, use the weapon without thought and care and cause as much harm

    We are a pluralist party and in this as in all things we can and should find balance rather than be praised or lambasted as progressives or not

  • Helen Tedcastle 9th Jan '15 - 8:33pm


    I used the word ‘delight’ in the sense that it would give them a further excuse for threats, violence and intimidation – not that they would actually want it.

    In the Islamist mind there is no distinction between their version of islam and the political ideology of world caliphate. I think we disagree on terminology only. I do not see religion in terms of ideology as it seems to me to be a political word. The former is in essence as way of living or a practice which in the case of Islam is based on sacred texts which can be read with the lenses of political ideology or read as a spiritual basis for living.

  • Helen Tedcastle 9th Jan '15 - 9:00pm

    @ Charlie

    I don’t disagree. I just think it is not sensible to shout ‘fire’ in a crowded cinema ie: stoke the fire of resentment and fear in Britain at this time. Even freedom of expression in the UK is limited by law – no incitement to racial hatred and defamation law, for example. We don’t live in a free-for-all.

    I uphold the right to publish satirical cartoons and the right not to be killed for doing so.

  • jedibeeftrix 9th Jan '15 - 9:57pm

    @ Lauren – “Freedom of speech like my freedom should never be used to cause deliberate offence – to do otherwise is not liberal but libertarian, not free but libertine”

    No, absolutely wrong. It must; in the sense that it [will] be used to cause deliberate offence, and we must accept the consequences of free speech regardless of whether [we] like the result or not.

  • @Lauren Salerno
    “Freedom of speech like my freedom should never be used to cause deliberate offence”

    There are an awful lot of highly offensive things in all the major holy texts. Should people refrain from publishing those, too?

  • It is not just in Paris that there is a tradition of deliberately causing offence with cartoons —


    Long may this continue.

  • Lauren Salerno 10th Jan '15 - 7:46am

    @Stuart they do not set out to cause offence and are non offensive in context and historicity. Everything is judged in context

  • Geofry Payne,
    No one is attack muslims, they are attackin the concept of censorship and the murder of journalist whilst defending theigh those traditions. I think it is more interesting that section of the Left like to confuse different branches of Islam with one faith with one set of values and trying to avoid about ultra right wing religiously murders because they are confusing faith with race, whilst simultaneously mirroring the same arguments of right wing Christians. No one is forced to read a newspaper or watch television. Show me the secular liberal atheists who have executed the publisher of religious pamphlets. George Bush, Christian, Tony Blaire, Christian, the two men that tried to pretend you can fight religiously inspired terrorist by pretending religion was not involved, mouthing platitudes and bombing entire societies into social collapse. We secular liberals just think we should be allowed to poke fun at religion like we have done for hundreds of years without being murdered for it.

  • Chris Holman 10th Jan '15 - 10:34am

    I acknowledge that some people may be offended by homosexuals kissing in public but I suggest they are a very small minority. The first, & only, time I have witnessed 2 men kissing was in 1998 in a crowded Departure area . No one seemed to take any notice, let alone be offended.

  • @ Geoffrey Payne

    If, as you contest, it is wrong to “depict islam as illiberal” could you point out its liberal elements to me because believe me much as I would like to I am struggling to see them. You could start with attitudes to women and gays and the basic tenets of sharia law

  • Helen Tedcastle 10th Jan '15 - 11:13am

    Olly T

    Before we liberal-minded people congratulate ourselves on how enlightened we are and how ‘others’ in the form of muslims (all one billion?) are behind the times regarding gays and women, let’s remember that it was only in 1973 that the equal pay act came through. Women are still paid less than men in some areas of private business. When I was growing up it was normal for women to stay at home and look after children. On gay people, only five years ago it was inconceivable to have gay marriage. It was not in any manifesto in 2010 either.

    If one persists in thinking all sharia law can be summed up as that which is practised and interpreted in the most deeply conservative areas of the muslim world, then one can bask in our superior enlightenment thinking. But then again the sharia practised in this country carries on each day without Taliban-style eye for an eye interpretations.

  • stuart moran 10th Jan '15 - 11:15am

    Geoffrey Payne

    Religious people are oppressed minorities? Really?

    Tell me where then?

    Ah, yes in countries run by other religions

    There have been some instances in the past of ‘atheistic’ regimes oppressing religions but the reality of what countries such as Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, North Korea and China were/are is a debatable one. These countries did not believe in the classical religions but developed personality cults that could be construed as a religion – hence the mausoleums and reverence of the ‘Great Leaders’. They can not really be described as secular

    The secular states are the closest we have to the best situation from my view; ones where everyone has the right to follow there belief without fear of oppression and discrimination but, at the same time, not expect any favour. We have not quite made it because religions always seem to want privileges that we continually have to push back against but it will come hopefully

  • OllyT 10th Jan ’15 – 10:48am
    “…… could you point out its liberal elements to me because believe me much as I would like to I am struggling to see them. ”

    From your earlier comment I see that you do not like Liberals pussy footing around so I will be direct.

    I recommend that you pop down to your local Mosque and have a chat with some real people who are regulars there. That way you might lose some of the prejudices you have displayed in your comments here. You might learn that people who go to the Mosque are just as varied and interesting as the people who go to your local church or those who are regulars at your local pub (always assuming it has not be closed by some dreadful Pubco).

    You should heed you own advice and stop pussy footing around in LDV and get out a bit more. Shocking though you may find this a lot of us are treated by Muslim doctors, have our books balanced by Muslim Accountnants, watch Muslim footballers score goals, eat out or have food delivered to our door by Muslims who run restaurants, get our computers fixed by bright young folk who happen to be Muslim. Do you never come across such people?

    Most of them seem entirely liberal to me (some are capital “L” members of the Liberal Democrats). On the basis of what you have written in your comments they seem a to more be a lot more liberal and enlightened than you.

    I do not know what “crap” you have had to put up with in the 25 years since the book by Rushdie was published. I venture to guess that most of it has been in your head. I am not trying to be offensive but simply trying to point to some of the weaknesses in your statements.

  • Helen Tedcastle 10th Jan '15 - 12:01pm

    Stuart Moran

    ‘ Religious people are oppressed minorities? Really?

    Tell me where then?

    Ah, yes in countries run by other religions’

    The government of Iraq is ostensibly a ‘secular’ one ie: not one run by mullahs, yet there are pogroms going on there against muslims, Christians and Yazidis that can only be described as barbaric. I do not regard ISIL as muslims but thugs. I believe Syria is not run by a religion, neither is Egypt etc etc ..

    I am not aware of country run by a religion except perhaps Iran. One could point to secular states of various kinds around the world where the politicians are Christian, Muslim or Jewish by affiliation – some are good, some are not.

    The reality is highly complex.

    @ John Tilley

    Very well said.

  • @Lauren Salerno
    “they [holy texts] do not set out to cause offence and are non offensive in context and historicity”

    Try reading some :-



    Many of the passages quoted above are still used to justify killing and war, to this day. That’s the real bigotry the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were pointing out – and they were slaughtered for doing so.

  • Helen Tedcastle 10th Jan ’15 – 12:01pm

    Thanks, Helen. Isn’t it odd that a secularist like me more often that not lines up alongside people of religion? 🙂

    You mentioned religious groups from Iraq. I was with some Iraqi Christians at my son’s wedding last year. It is sad to think that Christian communities that have been safe under all sorts of regimes for over a thousand years are now under attack or have been scattered around the world as refugees.

    As I do not follow a religion I try take people as they come. It strikes me that good people are good people and this is more important than the religious cloak they wear (either out of tradition, culture, upbringing or choice). To me as an outsider people of religion seem to have more in common with each other than they might have with me.

    It is only when tensions build up or when groups see an easy ‘political’ gain that things get bad. We have seen this over the last hundred years in Palestine. A country which had happily accommodated Christian and Muslim communities for hundreds of years was suddenly subjected to a ‘political’ deal by politicians from thousands of miles away who thought it a bright idea to bring back into exostence chapters from the Old Testament. Thereby began a process whereby millions of people from elsewhere arrived to take over their land. These people of another religion set up a religious state. Christian and Muslim communities found themselves ejected from the places that had been their home for over a thousand years. Those that did not become refugees found themselves discriminated against by the new ‘majority’ who during the last fifty years have imposed ever more burdensome restrictions on those of a different faith.

    The parallels with Iraq are not that close. But the so-called democratic government in Iraq is a confection in place to suite the government of the USA. Thousands of miles away. The Kurds are effectively independent now. The Shia bit of Iraq is under the ‘protection’ of Iran and the Sunni bit of Iraq is being fought over by the Saudi funded Daesh Cut-throats and anyone who they come across, whilst UK and US bombs fall from the sky. It is an example of why some of us prefr to ‘Imagine no religion’ as you and I have discussed in another forum.

    It is not easy defending someone right to worship freely whilst also defending someone else’s right to draw cartoons.

    But who said Liberalism was going to be easy? 🙂

  • As a Christian, I don’t feel comfortable saying what I really believe on a lot of issues – yes I know I lack courage – because securalism has changed the agenda to such a degree in our society that it doesn’t always feel possible. And it sometimes feels as if Liberals are not as tolerant as their credentials would suggest. At the launch of ‘The Liberal Democrats do God’ at Westminster, Greg Mulholland said he sometimes didn’t feel there was a place for Catholics in today’s Lib Dem party (or words to that effect). Just imagine that. We are not as free as we think. Where is the tolerance of divergent views there – even if a faith-based view will now almost certainly be a minority view in the UK today?

    I am sure many Muslims have felt deeply offended by some cartoons and if they do, they do and we should accept that. They should be able to say that and not have to justify themselves. To mock a person’s faith is not a particularly pleasant thing to do and we should understand that – even if we are totally disgusted and deeply loathe the violence perpetrated by the extremists, including against the Jewish community in Paris. And there, I think, is the sickening irony The Muslim extremists were offended and therefore blindly attacked another faith group. But thousands of Jewish people have left France for Israel out of fear of being attacked and what about the systematic persecution of minority faith groups in the Middle East?

    However, when I heard the reactions of some of the Jewish people interviewed in Paris for Channel 4 News I was deeply impressed by their dignity, saying they would not let their respective communities be divided. The Deputy Mayor of Paris, who is also Jewish I believe, said last night that there was a new mood in Paris and a feeling of solidarity among its people. So, as President Hollands said, we must above all stay united whatever our faith – and I believe we can and will.

  • stuart moran 10th Jan '15 - 12:55pm

    Helen Tadcastle

    If your argument is that religion can be just a vessel for power-hungry and violent people to subject those to oppression then I would agree with you

    I doubt, personally, many people at the top of religions believe in much more than power. Whether they are overtly religious states or give tacit support is another thing

    I don’t think ISIS are spiritually religious people but the use the infrastructure to send their message out and radicalise people. The same as the Al-Sauds and others in power

    The relationship between religious power and state power is often complex as said – even in a secular country like the US where the religious right holds more power than you would imagine they could by looking at the constitution

    When I say countries ‘run’ by other religions then perhaps it was a poor use of words. Perhaps dominated is a better word. Using Iraq as an example of a secular country was perhaps not a wise one

  • @Judy
    “However, when I heard the reactions of some of the Jewish people interviewed in Paris for Channel 4 News I was deeply impressed by their dignity, saying they would not let their respective communities be divided.”

    There was a much less encouraging report on BBC Breakfast this morning. The reporter said that Jews who had lived in Paris for decades were now looking in a different way at their Muslim neighbours, wondering whether they might be the next terrorists. On the other side, Muslims were feeling anxious that their Jewish/Christian/Whatever neighbours might be feeling differently towards them.

  • stuart moran 10th Jan '15 - 1:09pm

    I really don’t want to cause offence (but I probably will) but why do so many Christian people come on and complain of not tolerated.

    I really don’t understand. What is it the Christians feel we stop you saying or doing?

    If we take the Catholic question. There is no inherent problem with someone being a Catholic surely. If you believe in the Trinity and all the rest then fine by me. The problem comes when a religious view then says;

    No abortion because it is against my religious beliefs
    No gay marriage because of my religious beliefs
    Exemption from employment laws because I want my child taught is a school by someone of my religion etc

    Does that become a case of the religious beliefs being ‘not tolerated’.

    I would really like to understand why someone would think Catholics were no longer tolerated in the LD? I can understand why someone with the views above would be strongly challenged on them and I, personally, would be a bit taken back if the political principles of Liberalism were over-ridden by religious ones

    On another point, I would not mock an individual person’s faith but I would happily mock/satire the religion itself and its texts, especially when they are ‘re-interpreted’ to make them look less ridiculous!

  • Helen
    Ostensibly secular is not secular. Iraq is actually embroiled in sectarian violence. If it was just a secular tyranny committing pogroms against Muslim majority as well as minority religious groups they would run out of people. You may not view Isis as Muslims, but you like I were not born into the faith whereas most Isis fighters are. Not only do they regard themselves as Muslim and want to replicate the caliphate of what they see as Islam’s golden age, they have Imams telling them they are real Muslims,. They are not representative of the whole of Islam, but their goals, and beliefs are drawn from Islamic history and various readings of the Qur’an. It’s like saying the inquisition was not Catholic or as some Methodist do that Catholicism is not Christian. As uncomfortable as this may seem it was. Islam is complicated because there is no central religious body to say this is the truth and this is untrue.

  • Helen Tedcastle 10th Jan '15 - 1:26pm

    Thanks for your considered comments John. In reality I probably have more in common with fellow Lib Dems than many religious people yet I regard myself as a Christian and have a positive view of the role of faith in the world. I think that getting hung up on labels and terms like ‘religion’ and ‘secular’ diverts us all from the interplay of forces in the world, which those with agendas for power harness for their own ends.

    The situation in Palestine is tragic and the way that some people behave while claiming that what they are doing is in the name of God, to me, is abhorrent. But groups have been doing this for centuries and I wonder if they really take in and understand the spiritual/open side of their faith as they seem too often to prefer to hide behind fixed rules and dogmas.

    I think the real division in this world is between those who are hung up on fixed rules and grabbing power as an end in itself (and you find them within the religions as well as outside) and those who believe in dispersal of power and openness to what I might call the spirit and others might call liberty and the brotherhood of man.

  • Helen Tedcastle 10th Jan ’15 – 1:26pm
    “…. the real division in this world is between those who are hung up on fixed rules and grabbing power as an end in itself (and you find them within the religions as well as outside) and those who believe in dispersal of power and openness ..,”

    Yes indeed. This week I watched the shocking BBC TV programme on the Super Rich. I am still trying to get my head fond the fact that just 85 people own half the world’s wealth. Did I hear that correctly, just 85 people?

  • Helen Tedcastle 10th Jan '15 - 2:13pm

    John Tilley
    ‘ Did I hear that correctly, just 85 people?’

    I’m amazed it’s that many, yet I suspect they will go on concentrating more and more wealth into their own hands.

  • I knew I would get criticised. It’s a shame no one could even agree with my last sentence about unity between the faiths being important. I am going to give up writing for LDV. It’s on the whole too intolerant and dismissive of people;s genuine thoughts and views. Only certain views are ‘acceptable.’ My point has been proven perfectly.

  • Eddie Sammon 10th Jan '15 - 3:52pm

    Judy, if you are broadly Lib Dem and also a Catholic then please continue commenting. Honest opinions are mostly welcome and we need more commenters and diverse voices. I agree with you about unity between the faiths.


  • Helen Tedcastle 10th Jan '15 - 3:55pm

    Stuart Moran
    ‘ I really don’t understand. What is it the Christians feel we stop you saying or doing?

    The problem comes when a religious view then says;

    No abortion because it is against my religious beliefs
    No gay marriage because of my religious beliefs
    Exemption from employment laws because I want my child taught is a school by someone of my religion etc’

    Okay you ask a valid question and then proceed to answer it with what appears to be a religious view. And that is perhaps the problem.

    There will indeed be times when the view of many Christians will differ from the views of others eg: on gay marriage for example. (of course some Christians differ from their fellows on this – it’s a broad church). In that whole debate, it was rare indeed on here for people simply to assert ‘I am against because of my beliefs.’ More often than not they gave reasoned arguments.

    However, they were not always treated reasonably in return. I think this is the problem. We have to learn that we don’t all agree and with good reasons.

    Even if the zeitgeist shifts from one direction to another, the fact that one view does not fit in with the shifting norm does not mean that it is invalid – especially when cogent arguments are put forward. it may mean that most people on LDV or on the BBC don’t agree but that does not make the view invalid.

    It is the case that Christians cannot expect to be listened to and accepted automatically in the public square and in a diverse society this is the reality of modern life. As a non-Anglican Christian I’m pretty used to it. (On faith schools which you mention, I see that as a freedom to serve granted to faith groups like Catholics and Jews after centuries of persecution – not as a privilege. It’s instructive to know the history of education in England.)

    Equally, those who are firmly decided as atheist or secularist are in the same position in terms of views expressed – the public space has to make room for us all and not close down any one line of argument because it doesn’t fit the current common feeling or latest opinion poll – or it is too counter- cultural to be accepted.

  • stuart moran 10th Jan '15 - 4:29pm


    Thanks for the response

    I am not in complete agreement with you that good reasons are given for opposing gay marriage but it may be that you think the religious reasoning is fair but a number of us don’t

    Also, the faith schools may have had good reason in the past but that was the past and it is a fair question to ask whether it is still the case and my view is a clear no

    I still see no reason why Catholics, as mentioned earlier, feel unwelcome in the LD – the only reason I can see is when religious belief is at odds with some of the fundamentals of party belief

    In the three examples above I would find it difficult to vote for any MP who held those beliefs and voted accordingly based on a religious belief. The political parties usually cop out by calling for ‘free votes’ on these ‘moral’ questions but I have occasionally felt pretty angry that an MP has voted against party policy in a free vote because of religious belief

  • @ John Tilley
    Reading your other posts I think we actually have a lot of views in common, particularly concerning the concentration of global wealth in the hands of so few and secularism. We will have to agree to differ on islam, this has a long way to run and in many ways I hope your benevolent point of view proves to be accurate and not simply naive as I believe it to be. I do not seriously understand how you can maintain that my belief that things are getting worse is “in my head” – last 48 hours Charle Hebdo, the Kosher supermarket attack, the Saudi guy sentenced to 50 lashes every week and 2000 slaughtered by Boko Haram in Nigeria. You can of course continue to argue that none of this has anything to do with “real” islam but I wonder what would ever cause you to draw a line and admit there might be a teeny-weeny bit of a problem.

  • stuart moran 10th Jan '15 - 4:34pm


    a bit perplexed to be honest – you make some strong comments against us secularists but then won’t engage with us

    I am of no faith so what am I to do?

    I am a little tired of, in our very tolerant society compared to others, with religions playing the victim , I see it as a tactic to push back against the removal of religion from being close to the centre of power

  • Helen Tedcastle 10th Jan '15 - 5:58pm

    Stuart Moran

    ‘I still see no reason why Catholics, as mentioned earlier, feel unwelcome in the LD – the only reason I can see is when religious belief is at odds with some of the fundamentals of party belief

    In the three examples above I would find it difficult to vote for any MP who held those beliefs and voted accordingly based on a religious belief.’

    Okay, cards on the table. I am a Catholic and have been a member of the party (Liberal then Lib Dem) for thirty years this year.

    One of the main reasons why I have felt very comfortable in the party until relatively recent years is that conscience has been fully respected by fellow Liberal Democrats. I am very pleased to say that I think that principle is alive and well in most of the party.

    However, there are certain issues which we have already mentioned where no matter how many arguments are put forward, the conscience point is still not accepted. It’s almost seen by some as intransigence or setting one’s face against conformity to the prevailing will. The gay marriage issue was a severe test of the principle of conscience and no doubt there will be more tests to come.

    It seems to me that conscience is a basic and fundamental liberal principle. It allows for dissent based on genuine, soul-searched considerations and it allows for respect in one party for opposing positions on certain issues.

    I have to say that when I first attended liberal assembly back in the eighties, I felt drawn in by this and knew that the party was head and shoulders above the others in its integrity and respect for all.

    Some of the greatest Liberals I have known personally have been variously Christian, Jewish and of no faith but none is greater because they happen to be ‘religious’ or ‘non-religious’ or whether they ticked every policy box with everyone else – they were genuinely inclusive and they respected conscience.

  • stuart moran 10th Jan '15 - 6:02pm


    Even though we may not agree, I am very impressed with your openness and candidness

    Many thanks

  • Jedi,
    Interesting , I do wonder how many of those commenting on that thread realise that Charlie Hebdo was a tiny basically liberal leftist satirical magazine that had more income with South Park than Rush Limbaugh and was not shilling on behalf American Republicans. !

  • @Eddie thank you very much for your support and @Helen – really personal and valuable comments about respecting conscience. @Stuart I don’t feel a victim. I was just trying to state things as I see them and consider myself lucky to have a faith – even if I’m not always a particularly glowing example of practising it! I thought your last comment was great though.

  • stuart moran 10th Jan '15 - 6:42pm


    I want to see you continue posting on here – don’t feel threatened, most of us are pretty nice and do not want to offend unnecessarily

    People say don’t discuss politics or religion……..

    The only time that I ever disagree with Helen is usually around the subject of religion….on pretty much everything else I am in agreement so we shouldn’t spend too much time debating on where we get our values from; in the end they are very similar

  • Thanks very much Stuart – I am sure I will be back sometime!

  • ANY Individual , organization , country , religion putting themselves out their saying they have the answer MUST expect to be scrutinized examined and even criticized / castigated IF you CANNOT (which Islam is saying) Accept this shut up close your doors and go away

  • SIMON BANKS 10th Jan '15 - 9:01pm

    Deliberately offending people may be necessary, or it may not. There is a decision to take with compassion and judgement. At one extreme, anti-slavery campaigners should not have stayed silent in order not to offend slaveholders. But what would we think about a Belfast publication which, in marching season, published an explicit and highly offensive cartoon of the Pope, appealing not, say, to a feminist audience but to a traditional Protestant one? From what I can gather, Charlie did nothing like that. But there is a question, where relations between groups of people are difficult, about actions which can make relations worse. That needn’t be a question of censorship: any publication makes editorial decisions about what to print just as any politician, any comedian, any newspaper columnist, makes decisions about what to say.

    That’s about how to approach the debate on whether Charlie should have published what it did. I haven’t studied the publication so can’t say more. About the despicable attacks on Charlie, the kosher supermarket and the police and about the French government’s response I hope we’re united. And the fact that a non-political but Jewish-oriented supermarket and police officers doing their duty were attacked suggests Charlie’s content wasn’t really the issue for these blithe murderers.

  • OllyT 10th Jan ’15 – 4:34pm

    Good that we agree on some important things!

    As to things getting worse, well can I suggest that it depends on your starting point?

    Was the 1940s partition of India and the creation of a religious state in Pakistan a glowing moment of peace and tranquility that Lord Mountbatten’s family can look back on with pride?

    You are right to point to Nigeria, but the number of deaths since 2000 are tiny compared to the Biafran War.

    If we were to judge these things on numbers of killings, it is a fact tha the shootings in Paris this week have resulted in fewer dead bodies than the average school massacre in the USA.

    On the basis of the facts we should be more alarmed by the National Rifle Association in the USA than worldwide Islam.

  • @ John Tilley

    Lets just agree to differ, I think you are gravely minimising the threat that Islam is posing internationally, you don’t. My observations lead me to conclude that in every non-islamic nation with a significant muslim minority there are problems and those problems are getting worse not better and militants are becoming more numerous not less. Time will prove one of us right, I sincerely hope it is you.

  • Jonathan Pile 14th Jan '15 - 6:31pm

    I completely agree that we should support Je Suis Charlie, yet I think as Liberals we ought to remind that free speech is not freedom to incite hatred or terror. Muslims have strong traditions of blasphemy laws towards the Prophet Mohammed. In England , people were imprisoned in the twentieth century for blasphemy (John Gott 1921). This does not give the right in a free society to acts of violence but to respect deeply held religious taboos is not to appease extremism. Surely the objective of ISIS et al is to provoke the West to demonise and offend muslims and to drive moderate muslims into their camp. From 1923 to 1945 the obscene Nazi journal Der Sturmer published weekly cartoons which demonised jews. Would we support the right of Der Sturmer to publish? Anti-semitism is as vile as islamophobia . Both should be combated as should all extremism.

  • Helen Dudden 15th Jan '15 - 7:10am

    There was also the “blood libel” again, promoted to bring hate to the Jews.

    Suffering for my people has always been an issue, and again the problems arise with the EU.

    I have asked about the human rights only days ago. My questions on the subject of antisemitism were being asked several months ago. Little was said or done.

  • Helen Dudden 15th Jan '15 - 7:05pm

    It seems to be, no moral code of practice. Certain MPs have felt they should walk very close to the line.

  • @ Mark Wright.
    Are there not a lot of things that are legal but that shouldn’t be done because they are cruel – like bullying? It’s of course essential that we have freedom of speech and that this right is protected, although I agree with Jonathan’s point that antisemitism and islamophobia – and hate of all faiths – should be considered on an equal footing . But obviously just because we have the right to do something doesn’t mean it can be done with no thought to the offence – and actual consequences of the action. If we are trying to build up a cohesive society where difference is respected and people of different faiths can co-exist peacefully, deliberately upsetting any particular group is not the way to go.

  • stuart moran 15th Jan '15 - 9:30pm


    Hi again – glad to see you here

    You are right that we should consider what we say and try not to cause offence. I also, though, do have a ‘bad’ streak and sometimes edgy satire is needed

    I think this small circulation satirical magazines will always aim to be at the edge and make their points in a way that appears offensive but makes some points that are very important – I must admit I fully support this.

    I personally find our mainstream media more offensive than a magazine like CH – run by tax exiles and very little intellectual input.

    News International did some really offensive things but Murdoch is still allowed to publish here and he is still feted by the politicians – and he still tries to influence things as much as he can

  • @stuart.

    Thanks! I agree about our mainstream media needing scrutiny – they certainly have their own agenda which then somehow seems to subtly dictate our agenda. I think a thorough analysis of how the media influences society’s thought, behaviour and action is long overdue. For example, although I am no great supporter of Milliband, the fact that his fate may be determined by how he once ate a bacon sandwich – or was it a burger?! – is ridiculous! Decades ago that would not have been headline news or considered relevant in any way. So despite free speech, there is plenty of manipulation and selective reporting of the truth about. But I fear I have strayed from the subject a bit.

  • Stevan Rose 16th Jan '15 - 7:34pm

    85 people own half the world’s wealth… You heard wrong John, or were being misled.

    “A study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research at United Nations University reports that the richest 1% of adults alone owned 40% of global assets in the year 2000, and that the richest 10% of adults accounted for 85% of the world total. The bottom half of the world adult population owned barely 1% of global wealth.”

    It isn’t possible for such a consolidation to have taken place in just 15 years. It’s still a shocking set of stats though.

  • Stephen Hesketh 16th Jan '15 - 7:46pm

    Judy 15th Jan ’15 – 9:58pm

    Judy, perhaps you have strayed but the point you make is absolutely right and is one that Liberal Democrats should be campaigning on.

    The free press, like the so-called free markets, are controlled by the rich and powerful for the rich and powerful. Sometimes their interests coincide with the rest of us but more frequently they don’t – and when the chips are down …

    Somewhere along the line, we have lost sight of some of the biggest questions facing what we stand for and where our society is heading. Now I too have stayed somewhat!

  • Jayne Mansfield 17th Jan '15 - 8:12am

    Cartoonists are artists, and art pushes the boundaries.

  • Helen Tedcastle 18th Jan '15 - 1:03pm

    Cllr Mark Wright

    ‘ Exactly one week later, and Nick Cohen hits the bullseye again in the Guardian’

    No he doesn’t. He simply repeats what he always says from a left-leaning secularist perspective which has little time for religious faith. He’s entitled to his view and I often agree with him but he’s over-reacting to the Pope’s anecdotal off the cuff remark. The Pope meant that it is normal for people to react when something or someone dear to them is attacked.

    If my mother was insulted and mocked on a regular basis by someone, I too would react – wouldn’t you?

    That’s not the same as inciting violence!

    It always strikes me as par for the course that when a Pope says something Guardian journalists agree with, they think he must be a liberal. If he says something they don’t he’s a conservative. He’s actually neither. He’s the leader of the Catholic church and he upholds Catholic teaching – the so-called liberal bits and the so-called conservative bits.

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