While I am busy bemoaning the use of sexist language that derides women, (see previous post) the rest of the world is busy working itself into a frenzy following Penguin Books India’s decision to recall Wendy Doniger’s book ‘The Hindus: An alternative history’.
In summary, for the past four years, Penguin has been fighting a lawsuit by Hindus that found Doniger’s book inaccurate and offensive.
Kavaree Bamzai, editor of India Today, gives more info about Batra, who was one of the ones who actioned the lawsuit. And here we do indeed have a link with feminism.
Apparently Batra told Bamzai that included in his recommendations for education, girls should be taught housekeeping because of their ‘biological and emotional needs’. Really? Just really??!!
That comment alone would be enough to make me read Ms Doniger’s book out of principle.
But the ensuing debates around freedom of speech and the right to offend are interesting.
Malik, in two articles on his blog, mentions the fatwa against Rushdie back in the 80s, and the censorship around Jesus and Mo(hammed) cartoons on Channel 4 News in the UK. He contrasts the difference between Penguin’s stance at the time, and the current situation in India, which is probably an unfair comparison.
Penguin’s statement following the conclusion of the lawsuit, refers to the Indian Penal Code, specifically section 295A, which says:
Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs
In contrast, when The Satanic Verses was published in 1988, the UK blasphemy laws covered only Christianity, not Islam.
However the Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2006 (definitely Orwellian Speak there) elevated religion to the same status as race. Hmmm. Race and colour are a given. I can’t change the fact that I am white and British-born. I can’t become Spanish and of Latin extraction just because I live in Spain. I could become Christian, Muslim, (but not Jewish), Buddhist, Jain, Wiccan, whatever.
Seems the House of Lords wasn’t too happy with the bill, as they kept chucking it out. They removed the clauses that included abusive and insulting, and also required intention rather than possibility, of stirring up hatred.
An interesting one. How do you prove that someone intended to stir up hatred, or that their actions were ‘unintentional’ and therefore not a crime?
So to look at the conversation repeated on the previous post, as an example. ‘I am not a PC person,’ is thereby meant to excuse any offense that was ‘unintentionally caused’. ie, I didn’t know and I don’t want to know, so I am guiltless.
If I came out with an offensive religious comment, (which I’m sure I could easily do), would my defense of ‘I am not a religious person, I didn’t intend to offend you’ hold water? Hypothetical. But I find it irritating that religion seems to be gaining precedence everywhere.
I have seen some seriously nasty words directed at homosexuals and feminists and anyone in favour of abortion. Where is the law to protect these groups?
London Transport, which apparently is now stupidly called Transport for London – why include an extra word? – or TfL for short (sounds too much like TFI Friday), banned a Christian anti-gay ad back in 2012.
Malik seems to think it is ok to have ads saying:
NOT GAY! EX-GAY, POST-GAY AND PROUD. GET OVER IT!
And while the High Court upheld the ban on the advert on London transport, the court has now authorised an investigation into whether Boris Johnson initiated the ban to influence voting for his candidacy as Mayor of London in the 2012 elections.
Seems Johnson contacted the Guardian after he had pulled the ad. Well, why would you not? What’s wrong with pointing out that something like that is grossly discriminatory and that gays should ‘get over it’?
NOT FEMINIST! EX-FEMINIST, POST-FEMINIST AND NOW A TOTAL DOORMAT. GET OVER IT!
NOT VEGETARIAN! EX-VEGETARIAN, POST-VEGETARIAN AND NOW KILLING AND EATING AS MANY DEAD ANIMALS AS I CAN CRAM DOWN MY NECK!
NOT CHRISTIAN! EX-CHRISTIAN, POST-CHRISTIAN AND ATHEIST. GET OVER IT!
To put those all into perspective, the groups are not the same. However you look at it, gays, feminists and vegetarians are minority groups who basically suffer discrimination. Christians on the other hand, are the ‘official’ religion of England ie the Church of England. The monarch is the Defender of the Faith. Christianity has always had a protected position within the law (at one point blasphemy was rewarded with death) and now it has been extended to all religions.
The essential differences here are that advocating free speech and freedom to insult and offend in terms of religion is not the same as advocating free speech and freedom to offend other people simply because they have made their own choices whether in terms of sexuality, diet, political thought, or whatever. How we live our own lives is up to us. We don’t seek to impose our way of life on everyone else (although I would welcome a few more vegetarians and feminists I must say).
Christian charity The Core Issues Trust’s poster against gays is a classic example of perpetuating hatred against gays. It’s implying they are wrong, flawed, abnormal blah blah blah. It’s the sort of thing I would have seen during the day and gone out at night or early morning and ripped down.
Is it freedom of speech? Technically yes. Is it inciting hatred and discrimination? Without a doubt. Is it perpetuating stereotypical views, or worse, hoping to make more people buy into gay hatred? Yes. So why should that be considered allowable? It’s hardly a rational analysis quoting multiple sources. It’s a prejudiced bigoted perspective based on religious drivel that certainly deserved to be banned. And if Boris got some good publicity out of it, I don’t give a shit.
With freedom of speech should come responsibility. So we can all learn why words and concepts are offensive, and discuss changing ideas, maybe even respect people who are different to us.
But although I didn’t set off with this conclusion in mind, the easiest answer would be to ban religion.