Giving power to the bigots or much needed protection from hate-speech?

8 March 2005

Last night Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, the British-Sikh playwright, won the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn prize for her play, Bezhti ("Dishonour"), which was forced to close down a week after its opening in Birmingham (in December 2004) following violent protests from the local Sikh community.

Bezhti is referred to in Salman Rushdie's 7 February openDemocracy article ("Defend the right to be offended") where he attacks the British government's proposed legislation to ban "hatred against people because of their religious beliefs". Rushdie argues that the law will essentially undermine the principle of free speech and "will unleash some major expressions of intolerance" - as the author of The Satanic Verses he would potentially be liable for prosecution. Various blogs have picked up Rushdie's article including cultural pickings, pseudo magazine, bdandy, quarks daily and kitab khana.

His piece also triggered a powerful reply from the proudly "chutnified" writer Shakira Hussein, who agrees that we should retain the right to offend but must "ditch the right to incite hate". Yesterday - after Lisa Appignanesi joined the fray - Shakira came into the openDemocracy forums in defence of her argument. You can follow and contribute to the discussion here.

How is the British police crackdown bill a threat to democracy?

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill creates new stop-and-search powers, allows the police to put more conditions on protests, and threatens Gypsy and Traveller rights to roam.

It's been met with mass protests from Bristol to Belfast. Is this bill a threat to our human rights – and is there any stopping it now?

Join us for this free live discussion at 5pm UK time, Thursday 15 April

Hear from:

Moya Lothian-Mclean Politics editor at gal-dem
Luke Smith Founder of GRT [Gypsy, Roma and Traveller] Socialists
Zarah Sultana Labour MP
Chair: Nandini Archer Global commissioning editor, openDemocracy

Had enough of ‘alternative facts’? openDemocracy is different Join the conversation: get our weekly email


We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData