Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I watched Dispatches: Holy Offensive about the modern clash of fringe religious groups and art that offends them, concentrating on Sikhs in Birmingham about Behzti, Christians in London about Jerry Springer - The Opera and Muslims in Amsterdam about the death of Theo Van Gogh. In each case we see what happens when certain groups of people believe their views are more important than others. As one of the actors in Behzti says, it's about people who feel that a work of art threatens their own belief in the power that they think their faith gives them.

(Stewart Lee describes what happens in the second half of Jerry Springer - The Opera about how Springer dies, egotistically believing that he has reunited Heaven and Hell. I'm curious as to whether Lee intends for the truth of the play he writes that Springer achieves that, or merely believes that, because the thing that I noticed on watching it was that Springer does no such thing, the weakness is that there is no dialogue of any kind in the second half, it's just a few drawn-out metaphysical knob gags.

Oh, and I heard that since the TV show the charmless bigots of Christian Voice are picketing the theatre where the show is on. Presumably watching the BBC Show so they could really be offended they learnt that it's on every night in the sinful fleshpots of London's theatreland. But anyway...)

A bishop makes a good point that when Christianity started out it was condemned as blasphemous by Jews, Romans, Greeks.

If religion or, to be fair, small extremist groups (and this is where Dispatches goes a bit wrong, the worldwide Sikh faith didn't rise up against Behzti and only a couple of small fringe Christian groups have made a disproportionate fuss about JS, they do rather perpetuate the myth that this is all faith groups against freedom of speech) don't want things that challenge their faith then fine. We'll shut down all media, print no books, sing no songs, tell no stories, except those to do with religion. Fine. We'll respect their rights not to be offended. Okay. But then they respect my right not to be offended, we'll get rid of the creationist crap of the first book of the old testament, because that offends me. All the melodramatic nonsense about Moses and the Jews, that's got to go, the Book of Job I find to be one of the vilest pieces of literature ever, it's God as the serial killer from Seven and so on. There's stuff in the Koran I found offensive too, and give me a chance to read the Talmud and the Sikh holy books, I'm confident there's something in there. Some Christians are fond of claiming that 'same-sex marriage' is pleading for 'special rights'. 'Special rights' is actually religion wanting the right for people not to hold views that they might find offensive and air them in public.

Fiona Mactaggart, the Home Office Minister wheeled in to defend the incitement to religious hatred bill, claims they have to protect communities where 'words are used as weapons to put [them] in terror', unfortunately we then cut to the row over Satanic Verses where the only community that was in terror was that one based around Salman Rushdie and his publishers. Has anyone heard the Government explain what effect the incitement to religious hatred clause would have on Behzti and the like? I've only heard the usual New Labour thing of trying to suggest it'll solve all the problems of religious groups but not restrict the freedoms of those who want to criticise religion. The clause sounds at the moment as though it's going to incite hatred from religious groups towards those that don't share their views.


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