It’s such a shame that those eager to limit freedom of speech never do us the courtesy of starting with their own stupidity. I’m always amazed when people who enjoy a free, western democracy pay lip service to theocracy. It’s especially concerning when such a person happens to be a Chief Inspector for Greater Manchester Police in the UK.
Of course, any thinking person knows that’s exactly what freedom of speech means. Speech can never truly be ‘free’ unless it includes the right to say things some people may not enjoy hearing. Indeed, the right to ‘blaspheme’, mock sacred cows and challenge taboos is what has led to progress in any civil society. The price for this has always been ‘offense’. And the great thing about ‘offense’ is that it’s cheap.
By Umer Khan’s understanding, we are not free to offend people who endorse FGM, denigrate gay people as ‘sinners’ or think the appropriate punishment for adultery is death by stoning. It’s their ‘culture’, ‘tradition’ and ‘religion’ after all. Am I not free to tell a believer that some verses of the old testament are morally repugnant, lest they take offense?
It’s been said a million times before, and it’s important enough to be said a million times again: No-one has the right not to be offended. Offense is taken, not given. Just because you’re offended does not mean you’re right.
Umer Khan would say he’s entitled to his opinion of course, which is true. However, he’s clearly tweeting his opinion in his capacity as Chief Inspector. An opinion on what freedom of speech is or is not. In other words, his opinion on what the law means, or should mean.
It’s worth reminding Chief Inspector Khan that section 5 of the public order offence was reformed in 2013 to remove the criminalisation of “Insulting words or behaviour”. It is also worth reminding the Chief Inspector that the EU Guidelines clearly state that religious freedom ‘does not include the right to have a religion or a belief that is free from criticism or ridicule’.
With this in mind, perhaps Chief Inspector Khan could explain to the public and to his superiors why he is promoting sentiment that directly contradicts the law? I would submit that upholding the letter of the law is the bare minimum that should be expected from him.