Rushdie on the proposed anti-religious hate law

Salman Rushdie comments on the proposed law against inciting hatred on religious grounds.

“[H]ere in Britain I discover another kind of Anschlussof liberal values in the face of resurgent religious demands. One of its results is the proposal by Tony Blair’s government – under the auspices of its Serious and Organised Crime and Police Bill – to introduce a ban on the ‘incitement to hatred on religious grounds’.

. . . It seems we need to fight the battle for the Enlightenment all over again in Europe as well as in the United States. . . Most of our contemporary ideas about freedom of speech and imagination come from the Enlightenment. We may have thought the battle won. If we aren’t careful, it is about to be ‘un-won’.

Offence and insult are part of everyday life for people in Britain. All you have to do is open a daily paper and there’s plenty to offend. Or you can walk into the religious books section of a bookshop and discover you’re damned to various kinds of eternal hellfire, which is certainly insulting, not to say overheated.

The idea that any kind of free society can be constructed in which people will never be offended or insulted is absurd. So too is the notion that people should have the right to call on the law to defend them against being offended or insulted.”