Skip to Content

The Week

No joke

Why humiliate members of another faith by ridiculing what they hold most sacred?

11 February 2006

12:00 AM

11 February 2006

12:00 AM

We are not publishing the cartoons which caused such offence after they appeared in Denmark, and we believe other British newspapers are right not to have published them. There is a history of irreverence at The Spectator, but there is a difference between irreverence and causing gratuitous offence. Why humiliate members of another faith by ridiculing what they hold most sacred?

Some have said the cartoons had to be published, or republished, to uphold the right of freedom of speech. But this is not an issue of free speech; neither our government nor any other European government has sought to ban the publication of the cartoons. This magazine opposed the Religious Hatred Bill, and reaffirms that position. Yet just because we possess the right to do something does not mean that it is sensible to exercise that right. Printing the cartoons was a childishly provocative gesture. To support publication by quoting the line attributed to Voltaire — I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it — is fatuous. Those editors who have published the cartoons have not just put themselves at risk, but also their canteen staff and classified advertising executives. All this, not to reveal anything interesting about Islam nor to make an important point about the religion, but simply to provoke.

It would be nice if the German and French newspapers which have reprinted the cartoons — in many cases several times over, supposedly in a high-minded mission to defend the right to free speech — would assert that right a little more strongly against their own governments and against the EU. Where were these great defenders of free speech in the French press when it came to revealing that Fran


Show comments
Close