March 13th, 2005


Most of the time I don't want to be insulting the memory of the Prophet Mohammed.

I don't know much about him- I don't care much about him either- but I expect he was a pretty decent sort of a bloke.

All the same I'd like to think that if I needed to I could treat him as freely as I would any other historical character.

I believe, for example, there are questions to be asked about his relationships with women....

However, if the Government gets its way I'll be able to call Churchill a drunk, but if I say something equally defamatory about Mohammed (or Jesus or the Buddha or possibly even L.Ron Hubbard)I'll be committing a criminal act.

Like I say, I don't go round committing blasphemy for fun, but there are times when it's necessary.

How is the study of history possible, or the study of philosophy, if certain figures, by virtue of their religious status, are placed beyond reproach?

Religions- yes, all religions- are typically conservative, obscurantist and repressive. Sometimes they serve human freedom, more often they don't. And when they don't they need to be mocked. It's good for them.

It's good for us.

If the Government's Law on religious defamation comes into force there's a likelihood that the Satanic Verses will be banned.

And what about Life of Brian? What about the Magdalene Sisters? A climate will be created in which artists, commentators and comedians will hesitate before they tackle religious subjects.

It's already happening of course. Since the issuing of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie everyone has been careful when it comes to Islam. I'm being careful now.

And who does the Government side with? It sides with the issuers of death threats. It feels their pain.

(It wants their votes.)

We have spent centuries patiently and painfully wrestling power away from the priests and now we're handing it back.