Monday, September 26, 2005

Feel free to offend

Sometimes I don't even want to watch the evening news because of the annoying things I am bound to hear.

Some examples from today. Local councils are to be given cash to help them promote bicycle use among the public (is this the best use of public money?). The Cabinet has endorsed one Gordon Brown as the successor to Tony Blair (obviously no need to ask the electorate first). Ms Dynamite, an 'urban' artiste, has called for more help for single mothers (I don't really quarrel with some of her message, just the fact that we should be required to debate it simply because of the identity of the messenger).

All of the above is as nothing compared to the news that the Tate Gallery has been forced to take down a work of art for fear that it may cause offence.

One of my first questions was, how ever did a work of art entitled 'God is great' end up causing offence? Well, the work consists of a Bible, Koran and Talmud that have been cut apart. The pieces are mounted on either side of a piece of glass so as to make them appear embedded in the glass.

Of the three religions featured in this work of art, can anyone guess the one to which the Tate fears causing offence?

Exactly.

Not many people care about offending the Jews anymore. As to offending Christians, that would appear to be a public duty these days, as even a disinterested BBC-watcher would have observed. Yes, my dear readers, it is the muslims whose wrath we must not incur. Offending Jews or Christians will give rise to more than a few grumbles in certain sections of the media. If the matter is serious enough, that mad ultra-right wing group, the Christian Voice may get involved, but that is the absolute worst that would happen. Offend muslims, however, and the repercussions will be felt everywhere, from the highest buildings in New York, to the depths of London's Underground system.

The BBC London news programme included an interview from a representative of Liberty, the civil rights group, and a man who was described as something or other from the Lambeth Islamic something or other. Lambeth, did they say? Is this the same Lambeth that housed many of the 21 July terrorism suspects and their alleged accomplices? So what was the Lambeth Islamic forum or whatever it's called, and its representative, doing when many of their 'flock' were trooping out of their council properties to plan atrocities against the rest of the public? Perhaps I am not allowed to say this, as the case is still ongoing, and they haven't been found guilty yet, but frankly I feel there are some questions here. If he is in charge of the Lambeth muslims, then he cannot have been doing a good job. Perhaps he is more interested in any perceived insult to muslims, however slight.

Anyway, the interviewer asked him what would be the result of offending muslims that would have made the Tate so scared that they had to take down the artwork. I would have thought that this foolish man would have at least made an attempt to paint his 'flock' in a civilised way. A response along the lines of 'oh no, there won't be any adverse reaction, we are not that barbaric', while not exactly the truth, would at least have been acceptable. No. He instead took the chance to paint us an accurate portrait of the sort of people he represents. His reply to this question was something like, 'well, you have seen how they have reacted in the past to Iraq and Afghanistan ....' At this point, his voice trailed off.

Heavens! So we should all be in fear of offending muslims, as even the slightest thing like an artwork can lead to consequences akin to those visited on us for invading Iraq? I was shocked that this man did not even appear to realise the significance of what he was saying. However, I must report that the interviewer and the Liberty man, to their eternal credit, did not keel over at the warning.

I know the Tate has featured a lot of rubbish in the past, but this does not warrant it being bombed, or targeted by a ragtag band of illiterate bigots. Strangely though, I believe that the artwork should not be shown. However, my reasons for this are hardly as inflammatory. Having seen the work of art in question, I think it is plain crap, and devoid of artistic merit.
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