Coverage 2003-2005

Paperback of the Week – Fiery Words Jemma Read picks Free Expression is No Offence as her book of the week, an anthology she says contains ‘stylistic variety and multitude of perspective’ in a ‘refreshingly tangled’ collection of passionate essays (Observer, 18th December 2005).

Woman’s Hour Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Dutch MP and contributor to the Free Expression is No Offence anthology, discussed why she refused to be silenced despite having a Fatwah issued against her (BBC Radion 4, 16th December 2005).  

A Week in Books: Menaces to Free Speech Boyd Tonkin looks at the trial or Orhan Pamuk and advises those in search of ‘vital intellectual stiffening against the forces of censorship’ to delve into the PEN anthology, Free Expression is No Offence (Independent, 16th December 2005).

NightwavesPhilip Dodd, Adam Philips and Lisa Appignanesi were among those discussing the meaning and history of free speech in Britain on BBC Radio 4’s Nightwaves (14th December 2005).

Start the Week Monica Ali talks about the Free Expression is No Offence anthology on BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week (5th December 2005).

Four Corners Moris Farhi and Lisa Apignanesi discuss the Free Expression is No Offence anthology and campaign on BBC Radio 4’s Four Corners (5th December 2005).

‘Blair must show leadership in the battle for free speech’ Timothy Garton Ash discusses the dangers facing free-speaking writers such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a contributor to the English PEN/Penguin anthology edited by Lisa Appiganesi, Free Expression is No Offence (The Guardian, 1st December 2005).  

No Offence’ Moorish Girl talks about the Free Expression is No Offence anthology in relation to the Religious Hatred bill with an extract from Monica Ali’s essay (Moorish Girl, 25th November 2005).

‘Identity Crisis’ Philip Pullman, Monica Ali, Philip Hensher and Salman Rushdie all discuss threat to free speech with Pullman focusing on the question of identity and the distinction between what he terms a ‘rational analysis of theology and a call for violence’ (The Guardian, 19th November 2005).

‘Christian group may seek ban on Qur’an’ Stephen Bates and Julian Glover write about the warning from Protestant pressure group Christian Voice that they will try to use the new government legislation to prosecute bookshops for selling the Qur’an (The Guardian, 12th October 2005).

‘Bigot on a bridge wins poll for funniest religious joke’ Patrick Barkham reports on Christian website Ship of Fools‘s competition to find the best religious joke, quoting its editor Simon Jenkins as saying he feels the danger of the incitement of religious hatred bill is not so much that stand-up comics will be hauled off to prison but that it risks leading to self-censorship among ordinary people (The Guardian, 26th September 2005).


‘Offensive Christians (and offensive theatre)‘ – Philip Hensher writes about the organisation Christian Voice and their protests against the broadcast of Jerry Springer: The Opera (The Independent, 21st September 2005).

‘Writers slam hatred law’ Paul Arendt discusses how the government’s controversial plans are facing growing opposition from the arts world, drawing attention to the resurrection of the Writers Guilds’ anti-cencorship committee (The Guardian, 1st September 2005).

‘Writers’ Guild resurrects anti-censorship body to combat Racial and Religious Hatred Bill’ Alistair Smith  looks at how the Writers’ Guild has been inspired to re-launch its anti-censorship committee due to recent events surrounding the controversial productions of Jerry Springer: The Opera and Behzti, alongside the government’s introduction of the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill (The Stage, 23rd August 2005).

‘Let’s spring to Springer’s defence’ Celia Brayfield argues that ‘outrage is a legitimate artistic strategy’ as she discusses the reaction to Jerry Springer: The Opera by an extremist Christian group threatening to picket outside any theatres due to show the musical (The Times, 22nd August 2005). 

‘Editor accused of inciting race hate’ Index reports on the case of Alan Buchan who is facing charges after publishing an editorial opposing the building of a proposed refugee centre in the north-east of Scotland (Index on Censorship, 20th August 2005).

‘Standing up for the right to be offensive’ Charlotte Higgins draws attention to an event called ‘The Right to be Offensive’ which will take place at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on August 19th (The Guardian, 13th August 2005).


‘Website tests religious hatred bill with appeal for holy jokes’ Ros Taylor reports on how the irreverant Christian website ‘Ship of Fools’ is testing the limits of its readers’ tolerance by appealing for the best and potentially most offensive religious jokes in response to concerns over the wording of the religious hatred bill (The Guardian, 13th August 2005).


A Week in Books: A lingering distrust of free expression: Boyd Tonkin voices his concerns that bookshops have now joined websites, mosques and ‘centres’ as suspected sources of infection in the discussion of measures to root out extremism (The Independent, 12th August, 2005).


Calm down folks, it’s only a storyTerence Blacker discusses the power of storytelling and the blurring of fact and fiction, and wonders whether the forthcoming film of The Da Vinci Code could be one of the first victims of the Incitement to Religious Hatred Act (The Independent, 12th August 2005).


‘Muslims unite! A new reformation will bring your faith into the modern era‘ – Salman Rushdie writes about the challenges that face the Muslim community and its future, and the need for Islamic religious ideals to adapt to a modern and altered reality (Times Online, 11th August 2005).  

‘The Carnival of Culture’ Hanif Kureishi talks about his views and experiences of multiculturalism in Britain (The Guardian, 4th August 2005).

‘Drawing a line in the sand’ Sali Tripathi writes about censorship in Britain, concentrating on Bhatti‘s controversial play Behzti, withdrawn from the stage of the Birmingham REP after violent protests from the Sikh community (Index on Censorship, 28th June 2005).

‘Yesterday in Parliament’ – A joint Tory-Liberal bid to block the incitement to religious hatred act failed yesterday after both parties joined forces to warn that the law would damage freedom of expression and worsen community relations. Shadow home secretary David Davis said the bill was ‘too general, too wide, too vague, and too dangerous’ (The Guardian, 22nd June 2005).

‘Religious hate law passes another parliamentary hurdle’ Index reports on the religious hatred bill’s clearance to go to committee stage, despite ongoing concerns about the proposed legislation. Legal experts fear it could have a ‘chilling effect’ on freedom of expression (21st June 2005).    

‘Celebrities join fight to amend bill on religious hatred’ – Westminster correspondent David Hencke writes about the efforts of opposition parties, celebrities and MPs alike to curb the introduction of the incitement bill with the suggestion of amendments to the existing race hatred law. Ian McEwan is one of those who speaks out on the subject (The Guardian, 21st June 2005).

‘Comics, MPs and writers unite to fend off religious hatred Bill’ – Political Editor Andy McSmith looks at the ‘last-ditch campaign’ being waged by figures in the arts against a law they fear religious bigots will use to ban books, plays and jokes they find offensive. Commentators include Monica Ali, one of many contributors to the forthcoming book, Free Expresion Is No Offence, to be published by PEN in the autmumn (The Independent, 19th June 2005).

We want the same as Jews and Sikhs‘ – Sher Khan, chair of the public affairs committee of the Muslim Council of Britain, stresses that the proposed legislation will not stop criticism of religion but also feels that the media has failed to report the bill’s level of support by organisations such as the Commission for Racial Equality (The Guardian, 14th June 2005). Khan spoke in favour of the Bill when he took part in the PEN debate at the ICA, Should Religious Hatred be an Offence? 


‘New effort to ban religious hate’ BBC News asks whether the controversial incitement bill will stifle free speech, an opinion denounced by Home Office minister Paul Goggins, but argued by Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris, actor Stephen Fry and Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society, who believe that the bill will jeopardise precious freedom of expression (11th June 2005).


‘Satanists to be protected under Religious Hatred Bill’ Times Online looks at the objections to the proposed Bill ‘criticised by human rights organisations and opposition parties, but broadly welcomed by the major faiths’. The article includes arguments from Rowan Atkinson, Stephen Fry, director of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti, and Sher Khan (Times Online, 9th June 2005).

‘Labour vows to force through anti-incitement law to woo Muslim vote’ Rohan Jayasekera looks at Home Office minister Fiona MacTaggert‘s pledge to force through legislation that will criminalise free expression of opinion on religion in a bid to attract the British Muslim vote for Labour (Index on Censorship, 19th April 2005).

In Bad FaithSalman Rushdie warns that the rising power of religion could end up destroying the western alliance (The Guardian, 14th March 2005).

It will be OK to Ridicule Religion Fiona Mactaggart challenges the House of Lords to deliver justice to members of minority faiths as they debate the proposals on incitement to religious hatred (The Guardian, 14th March 2005).

A Vote for Intolerance Nick Cohen wonders why the Prime Minister seeks to fight religious totalitarianism abroad when he appears to encourage it here (The Observer, 13th March 2005).

Tories have lost their Basic Instinct Henry Porter argues that the Conservatives are no longer the defenders of individual liberty (The Guardian, 9th March 2005).

The law against religious hatred is – in effect – an invitation to it – writes Charles Moore: “It incites each faith to take offence, and ensures that the most zealous can make the most trouble” (Daily Telegraph, 5th March 2005).

A law to close mindsLisa Appignanesi replies to Shakira Hussein’s commentary article, arguing that the proposed bill is a weapon of censorship (Open Demoscracy, 28th February 2005).


‘They do not vilify our ideas, they vilify us: A Reply to Salman Rushdie’ Writer and researcher Shakira Hussein finds herself disagreeing with her ‘childhood hero’ Salman Rushdie (, 22nd February 2005).

Stop this Folly Now – Timothy Garton Ash acknowledges that British Muslims have suffered increased levels on persecution since 9/11, but argues that the Government is proposing ‘too great a risk to freedom for too uncertain a gain in security’ (The Guardian, 17th February 2005).

‘An idiotic law that could silence free speech’ Philip Hensher writes that a law intended only to be used against white men with ‘obnoxious beliefs’ is unworkable (The Independent, 9th February 2005). 

Yesterday in Parliament: Incitement to religious hatred – The title of the proposed legislation has been changed from “racial or religious hatred”, to “hatred against persons on racial and religious grounds”. Thus, the content of the proposition is still the same (The Guardian, 8th February 2005).

Democracy is no polite tea partySalman Rushdie‘s writes about his thoughts on the proposed legislation and asks if Nietzsche would be prosecuted under such a law (The LA Times, 7th February 2005).

The Myth of Islamophobia – Kenan Malik argues that the proposed legislation will ‘allow some community leaders inflame a sense of injury, while surpressing internal debate’ (Prospect, February issue 2005).

Do we have to fight the battle for the Enlightenment all over again?  – Salman Rushdie questions the sensibility of the proposed legislation (The Independent, 22nd January 2005).

Beyond redemption Dan Tench, head of public law at Olswang, explains why offence is irrelevant today (The Guardian, 17th January 2005).

Blasphemy law ‘should be axed’ Alan Travis writes about Trevor Phillips’, Britain’s race relations chief, and the Muslim council secretary general, Iqbal Sacranie’s, reactions to the proposed legislation (The Guardian, 14th January 2005).

Modernise blasphemy laws says race relations chief Trevor Phillips says ‘God does not need the Lord Chancellor to be his bodyguard’ (The Times, 13th January 2005).

Home Office to meet Rushdie Over Censorship FearsMark Oliver discusses the Home Office’s reaction to Salman Rushdie and PEN’s concerns over the proposed legislation (The Guardian, 13th January 2005).

In Praise of BlasphemyTimothy Gaton Ash comments on the need for more ‘taboo-breaking’ and not more taboos (The Guardian, 13th January 2005). 

A curb on free speech that should offend us all, whatever our religion – A piece by David Pannick QC commenting on the proposed legislation (The Times, January 11th 2005).

I Don’t Mind To Be Rude… – David Aaronovitch writes about the protests against the screening of Jerry Springer: The Opera on BBC Television (The Observer, 9th January 2005).

You Can Be Too TolerantA C Grayling on the reactions to Behzti and the necessity for freedom of expression (The Independent, 26th December 2004).


Comment: Ha Ha! You can’t insult Islam but I can! – Rod Liddle addresses certain ramifications the proposed legislation might have (The Times, 12th December 2004).

Religious Hatred BillMichael Burleigh claims that the proposed legislation is a vote-grabbing exercise (The Telegraph, 9th December 2004).

Should Religious Hatred be Illegal? Philosopher Julian Baggini and journalist Nick Cohen thrash out their conflicting arguments on (5th August 2004).

Peers Warn Over Religious Crime Laws – An article about the fears of an all-party committee that legislation of this kind could be controversial (Daily Mail, 10th June 2003).


Background to the law

Religious Offences in England and wales – First Report – A link to the report ordered by the House of Lords to be printed 10th April 2003.

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