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No saying the unsayable in India and beyond

Friday, 3 February, 2012

Freedom of speech has changed from being a hallmark of democracy to a threat to society, at least in India, writes Kenan Malik in an essay titled To Name the Unnamable, which was prompted by the Muslim threats that prevented Salman Rushdiee from attending the recent Jaipur Literary Festival. Malik is particularly critical of the perverse political correctness that has led to the creation of the “marketplace for outrage,” as Monica Ali so perfectly put it. Snippet:

“The ‘never give offence’ brigade imagines that a more plural society requires a greater imposition of censorship. In fact it is precisely because we do live in a plural society that we need the fullest extension possible of free speech. In a homogenous society in which everyone thought in exactly the same way then the giving of offence would be nothing more than gratuitous. But in the real world where societies are plural, then it is both inevitable and important that people offend the sensibilities of others. Inevitable, because where different beliefs are deeply held, clashes are unavoidable. And we should deal with those clashes rather than suppress them. Important because any kind of social change or social progress means offending some deeply held sensibilities. The right to ‘subject each others’ fundamental beliefs to criticism’ is the bedrock of an open, diverse society. Or, as Rushdie put it in his essay In Good Faith, human beings ‘understand themselves and shape their futures by arguing and challenging and questioning and saying the unsayable; not by bowing the knee whether to gods or to men.’

Rainy Day does not set out to offend, but it insists upon the right to offend. We wish to say the unsayable.


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