“Blasphemy”. Again.

Katy Perry

By LSS member Sadikur Rahman *

I was not aware that blasphemy laws existed in the UK. But a great many seem to think so. A story on the BBC website about a Katy Perry music video caught my eye. It serves to illustrate just how much fear there is out there, and in particular a fear of offending Muslims.

An eagle-eyed Katy Perry fan from Bradford, whilst watching the singer’s new video, spotted a badge with the Arabic inscription of “Allah” on what seems to be a holographic image of a soldier/warrior. The soldier is then engulfed in flames, and the badge destroyed.

This was deemed “blasphemous” by the viewer as the flames destroyed a badge with the word “Allah” on it. So, as quick as he was to be offended, he was equally quick to start an online petition insisting the image was blasphemous and requesting YouTube remove the video. His campaign was able to garner 65,000 supporters.

A while later there was a second BBC report stating that the offending image had been edited out of the video (the left picture above is before, and the right is after). The campaigner was obviously delighted, but anybody with an ounce of sense ought to feel horrified. This is just another example of artists, or anybody for that matter, being put under pressure to censor themselves in order not to offend religion.

Now, this campaigner made no threats. He stated he was offended and that the video was “blasphemous”. It is his right to say so and it is his right to campaign against it. What is striking about his language is the certainty of his view that – simply because something might happen to be “blasphemous” – it must be removed or not said at all. There was no recognition whatsoever of another person’s right to freely express themselves.

This has come about because so many people no longer stand up for the right to free expression or even recognise its importance, especially when it comes to religion. Surely, someone could have pointed out to this young man that blasphemy is not illegal in the UK and that he does not have a right not to be offended?

Why do big organisations cave in to such ridiculously outrageous claims of “blasphemy”? I suspect most Muslims would not have been offended. I suggest there should be a counter-petition stating that the video, whether blasphemous or not, should not be changed.

* Sadikur Rahman was an LSS member from May 2013 to Jul 2015

Views expressed are not necessarily those of the LSS

Image credit above: from BBC website, and Virgin/Capitol Records/YouTube

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