the Irish for rights

Unwritten books, unshown art

'Satanic Verses' cover from publishers' websiteSalman Rushdie’s knighthood has provoked many responses in the print and broadcast media and online, including a post on this blog. But the best I’ve seen is by Andrew Anthony in this week’s Observer: Sir Salman is a godsend to literature and free speech.

Anthony’s piece is very well written and definitely repays reading; here’s a flavour:

… Few appeared to realise that a massive symbolic attack had been launched [by Khomeni’s 1989 fatwa against The Satanic Verses] against the most vital freedom, not only in art but in society, the freedom of expression. Still less that our rather timid and repentant response would encourage religious extremists and censors.

Who can calculate how many books have subsequently gone unwritten and artworks unshown? We do know that the play Behzti was closed down in a theatre in Birmingham by a Sikh mob. We know that John Latham’s God Is Great was removed from the Tate gallery, even without complaints, due to the fear that it might cause offence. We know that the Danish cartoons were not published in this country, when they were the biggest story in the world. And abroad, countless intellectuals, writers and politicians now require round-the-clock police protection.

4 Responses to “Unwritten books, unshown art”

  1. Eoin says:

    I had rather hoped that the contradictions in this quote would be exposed. The second paragraph quoted is good; but the overstatement in the first cannot be allowed to go without comment: “Still less that our rather timid and repentant response would encourage religious extremists and censors”. I’m not sure that giving aid, comfort, protection and succor to Rushdie after the fatwa can properly be described as “timid and repentant”, though I will give Anthony that little has been built on that; and, as I say, I will concede and agree everything he had to say about Behzti John Latham, and the Danish cartoons.

  2. […] Verses Still Have Something to Say as Freedom of Expression Remains Threatened (pdf) at Article XIX Unwritten books, unshown art on this […]

  3. […] and here), Carolina Gustavsson, Aldous Huxley, DH Lawrence (here, here and here), James Joyce, John Latham, Robert Mapplethorpe and Vladimir Nabokov. Moreover, I have analysed the kinds of reasons why this […]

  4. […] art is badly done – indeed, I suspect that nobody will confuse the movie in question with The Satanic Verses. Otherwise, we give the heckler the veto over what we can say and what we can hear. Bring […]

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Me in a hatHi there! Thanks for dropping by. I'm Eoin O'Dell, and this is my blog: Cearta.ie - the Irish for rights.

"Cearta" really is the Irish word for rights, so the title provides a good sense of the scope of this blog.

In general, I write here about private law, free speech, and cyber law; and, in particular, I write about Irish law and education policy.

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