The liberty to offend is a priceless commodity | Kenan Malik | Opinion

2020/10 18 05:10

The particulars are nonetheless rising, however the horror is evident – the beheading of a instructor, Samuel Paty, in Paris, apparently in response to his utilizing Charlie Hebdo cartoons in a classroom dialogue on free speech.

After such assaults there are all the time claims that “free speech isn’t price it”. Hardly had information begun filtering out concerning the 2015 Charlie Hebdo murders than there have been solutions that the cartoonists had introduced it on themselves. The identical will little question occur once more.

However in such moments, we have to do the other: to reaffirm commitments to free speech and the liberty to offend.

What is named “offence to a neighborhood” is normally a wrestle inside communities. There are lots of of hundreds, inside Muslim communities within the west and in Muslim-majority international locations the world over, difficult religious-based reactionary concepts and establishments – writers, cartoonists, political activists, each day risking their lives in dealing with down blasphemy legal guidelines, standing up for equal rights and preventing for democratic freedoms.

The unwillingness of liberals to face up for fundamental liberal ideas, their readiness to betray progressives inside minority communities, nurtures reactionaries, each inside Muslim communities and out of doors it. The extra society offers licence for folks to be offended, the extra folks will seize the chance to really feel offended. And the extra lethal their outrage will change into.

Liberal pusillanimity additionally nurtures anti-Muslim sentiment, feeding the racist concept that each one Muslims are reactionary, that Muslim immigration must be stemmed and Muslim communities extra harshly policed. We should reject each sorts of bigots. In a plural society, a lot of what we are saying, others will discover offensive. If we would like a plural society, we have to defend the liberty to offend.

Kenan Malik is an Observer columnist

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