English PEN launched a campaign in 2005 to raise public awareness around the Government’s proposed legislation to outlaw ‘incitement to religious hatred’. The Bill as it was first drafted risked making criminals of anyone who voiced critical or satirical opinions of any religious beliefs, believers or practices. It was argued that Salman Rushdie might have been prosecuted under this law, had it existed when The Satanic Verses was published. English PEN feared that the Bill threatened to unduly curtail the public’s right to freedom of expression, preventing writers and others from creatively exploring the society in which we live.
Lisa Appignanesi: “The No Offence campaign celebrated its victory in amending the Government’s Racial and Religious Hatred Bill at the Garrick Club on 13 March 2006. Lord Lester and Lord Hunt, two of the movers of the amendments were present, as was Evan Harris, MP, who had diligently fought the Bill from the beginning, and many others who had championed the PEN Free Expression Amendment. This is perhaps the first time in British Parliamentary History that a Bill contains a declaratory amendment: one which fully spells out the right of free speech. The campaign’s work is done, but English PEN’s larger role in deliberating on Free Expression in our 21st century goes on. We are putting in place a Commission on Free Speech. Any thoughts on this or help with funding is welcome. Watch this space.’
Free Expression is No Offence. Edited by Lisa Appignanesi, the PEN/Penguin book with thought-provoking essays by Salman Rushdie, Hanif Kureishi, Monica Ali, Hari Kunzru, Howard Jacobson, Helena Kennedy and many other leading writers was published on December 1 2005. Click here to read about events relating to the book. Scroll to the bottom of the page to buy the book from Amazon.
Click on the links below to read more about the Campaign:
- Archive of News
- Key Stages
- Press & Media Coverage
- Letters to the Press
- FAQ from Home Office website
- relevant extracts from the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill.
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/aboutenglishpen/campaigns/offence/