“The Satanic Verses, Behzti, Theo van Gogh’s Submission, Jerry Springer: The Opera, the Danish cartoons of Muhammad … now we can add the London exhibition of the work of Maqbool Fida Husain to the rapidly expanding list of works of art and satire targeted by militant religion…. Asia House closed the show on Monday after threats of violence from anonymous Hindu fundamentalists.”
Nick Cohen in the Observer, 28 May 2006
Not only does Cohen lump together a number of different cases, all of which have to be assessed on their own merits and in their social context, but he also omits to mention another recent example of a minority ethno-religious community calling for the suppression of offensive material, as described by Gary Younge:
“In January 2002 the New Statesman published a front page displaying a shimmering golden Star of David impaling a union flag, with the words ‘A kosher conspiracy?’ The cover was widely and rightly condemned as anti-semitic. It’s not difficult to see why. It played into vile stereotypes of money-grabbing Jewish cabals out to undermine the country they live in…. A group calling itself Action Against Anti-Semitism marched into the Statesman‘s offices, demanding a printed apology. One eventually followed. The then editor, Peter Wilby, later confessed that he had not appreciated ‘the historic sensitivities’ of Britain’s Jews.”
I don’t recall Cohen defending the right of the New Statesman to publish anti-semitic illustrations, or condemning members of the Jewish community for invading the magazine’s office to protest. Presumably, in this case, he was capable of distinguishing between freedom of expression and racism. Perhaps he should consider making the same distinction in cases involving other ethno-religious communities.