Brick Lane and our right to be offensiveBritain under New Labour has certainly become a more reactionary, conservative and oversensitive place to live and work. It seems as though the worst thing you could possibly do to someone is offend their feelings or sensibilities. Witness the bizarre spectacle of Ruby Films being forced to shoot a film about Brick Lane in another location, all because some locals have objections about the content of the film being made.
Abdus Salique, the self-appointed leader of the Brick Lane 'community' has gone further and has threatened to blockade streets in the area and burn Monica Ali's book, 'Brick Lane' at a forthcoming demonstration this Sunday. Salique also added that if Monica "has the right to freedom of speech, we have the right to burn books. We will do it to show our anger. We don't like Monica Ali. We are protecting our community's dignity and respect."
Well, I'm sorry, but that is blatantly ridiculous. Imagine a society where we have to avoid hurting someone's feelings all the time. The simple answer to that, is we would never say or write anything that smacked of controversy anymore. The problem is, people in a truly free and open society express strong opinions, they also uphold deep and sincer beliefs that might upset some people - but, that's just tough, that's life. Nobody has the right to demand silence from those who have hurt their feelings or who have offended their sensibilities.
I don't know about Salique and his bunch of miserable book burning zealots, but, what I do know is I want to live in a society that is open and free, I want a society where we feel free to say or film whatever we choose. I'd suggest that those like Salique who want to live in a world devoid of any offensive thoughts and ideas, that they should take up being a Benedictine monk instead.
UPDATE: I also recommend you look at this highly opinionated post by the Pub Philosopher. No apologies if this post causes great offense.