Tag Archives: Freedom of speech

Moral flexibility

Salman Rushdie by http://www.flickr.com/photos/yaffamedia/
I’m not surprised to hear that the Pakistani legislature has voted unanimously to condemn the Rushdie knighthood (nor that students who probably weren’t born when the book was published are burning The Queen in effigy in Islamabad). That was to be expected. I suppose most of those protesting have never read the book (I seem to remember that Ayatollah Khomeini hadn’t read it when he issued his fatwa).

What upset me most yesterday was listening to impeccably British, perfectly establishment Lord Ahmed on the radio, essentially excusing the fatwa. His moral flexibility was breathtaking: he was able, in the name of ‘sensitivity’, to suspend centuries of tolerance for dissent, of respect for an author’s right to offend.

For Ahmed, Rushdie’s ten year ordeal was irrelevant and the readiness of nutters on every continent to murder the author secondary to the offense he caused to religious people. That a British Parliamentarian should find it politically contingent to strike through the human rights of a writer to advance an essentially mediaeval intolerance for apostasy is shocking and dispiriting.

Pic by Whistling in the Dark.