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Free Speech in the UK


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Hundreds of Sikh protestors have been demonstrating this week outside a Birmingham theatre against a Gurpreet Bhatti play depicting sex abuse and murder in a temple.

Five police officers were hurt during violent struggles at Birmingham's Repertory Theatre on Saturday night. Today following further problems the theatre has cancelled all further performances of the play.

"Sadly it's clearly evident that the violent protesters have won," said Stuart Rogers, executive director of the theatre

"We cannot operate this theatre in a state where people are throwing bricks through our windows."

I find these developments alarming in the extreme. It seems that we are regressing to a situation where certain productions of art and writing are to be proscribed by religious zealots.

Christians and Hindus have also been jumping on this recent bandwaggon of intolerance with all the nonsense about the "Posh and Becks" nativity scene, and recent rumblings of complaint about the use of a Hindu statue as a weapon in an episode of Coronation Street.

It is also interesting that the RC Church has spoken out in support of the Sikh protestors very strongly.

I know little of the Gurpreet Bhatti, nothing of the play and my knowledge of Sikhism is restricted to what I have read in GCSE RE textbooks.

All I would ask however is for the opportunity to see the play for myself. I do not believe that this is an unreasonable request from a citizen of a liberal democracy

If the play makes a mockery of the Sikh religion I will condemn it. If it makes a mockery of ignorant and intolerant bigots I will praise it, to the skies.

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  • 2 weeks later...

If I had written a play which got *anybody* protesting outside I would regard it as an indication that I was doing the right thing.

The protestors are exercising their democratic rights of course. I am not at all sure about the response of the theatre management. Surely they must have been aware of the contents of the play and their failure to stick to their guns has given the Daily Mail et al a field day.

The Daily ("hurrah for the blackshirts") Mail are no friends either of Sikhs or of freedom of speech.

Another possibility exists of course. If you remember the furore over "Lady Chatterley's Lover" or "The Satanic Verses".....a not-particularly-marvellous work of art becomes elevated into a cause celebre out of all proportion to its merits. Without seeing the play I cannot know if this is true.

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