A good few years back, a UK daily newspapers (maybe a broadsheet, can't recall) published an extremely positive article about the religion of Islam. It was clearly intended to portray Muslims in a good light, and there was really nothing much about it at which you'd think anyone of that persuasion could take offence. Unfortunately, it published a small 16th or 18th century illustration of the prophet Mohammed, which is when the sh*t hit the fan. Muslim leaders across the country got in touch with newsagents operated by adherents of their religion, instructing them to contact the newspaper and demand that, unless they published an apology and promised not to do it again, Muslim news vendors would no longer stock their newspaper or any other publication distributed by them. Although the picture had been published in perfect innocence simply because it was relevant to the subject, I believe an apology soon followed.
Not long after (or perhaps it was before), around the time of a sporting event (the Olympics maybe), a dairy published verses from various countries' sacred religious texts on their milk cartons in an attempt to demonstrate inclusivity and diversity in matters of religion. There was a verse from the Old Testament on some cartons, the New Testament on others, and among other world religions, also the Koran. Sh*t hit the fan again. Muslim leaders contacted Muslim shopkeepers and instructed them to demand an apology from the dairy involved, on the grounds that all those milk cartons would be disposed of in rubbish bins and this was disrespectful to their sacred scriptures and an insult to them. And, of course, insisted that they promise not to do it again or their milk would not be stocked.
More recently there was the case of a teacher who showed his class a picture of the prophet Mohammed as part of a lesson. This was no individual maverick act, but the approved manner in which this particular course was presented to students by all teachers in the school. Sh*t hit the fan once again, with demonstrations outside the school by Muslims; death threats were made against the teacher from other Muslim sources, and the teacher is now in hiding with his family in fear of his life. It's unlikely that he'll be able to return to either the school or his house. Only a very few Muslims were in support of the teacher, saying that they had no problem with him and didn't believe he was in any way anti-Islamic. (Good on them.)
And then, of course, there was Salman Rushdie, who I'm sure you all know about. One of the more alarming aspects of his case is that Muslims in Britain, family men, were asked by a TV reporter whether they'd be prepared to carry out the fatwa on Rushdie, and quite a few said yes. Whether this was mere grandstanding for the cameras in order to impress fellow like-minded Muslims with their devoutness or was a statement of intent should the opportunity ever arise is open to question, but as far as I'm aware, none of these men were arrested for declaring that they were willing to commit murder because some old guy in a far-off country had decreed it. Who'd ever have thought such a situation could happen in Britain?
Now I'm all for people believing what they want to believe and practising whatever religion they choose (within reason). However, that doesn't mean that they should be allowed to insist that anyone else who isn't an adherent of their religion should be obliged to abide by its precepts and tenets. (Or be sentenced to death because they don't.) So if you're a follower of another religion or none at all, if you want to have a picture of Mohammed on your wall (or in your newspaper), you should be allowed to (why you'd want to is another matter) without any threats of physical injury or death, either from Muslims or anybody else. Why? Because you're not bound by their beliefs and shouldn't have to kowtow to them in case they threaten to kick-off. More and more we're being bullied and intimidated into observing alien practices that are not part of our traditional way of life.
Respect for other cultures and religions is one thing, subservience another. Most British people are prepared to live and let live, but that concept doesn't seem to be reciprocated by those who seek to impose their religious strictures on the rest of us. If you don't believe in having images of the prophet Mohammed, then don't have them, but don't presume to tell the rest of us how we should think or behave. It's simply not on! There's one right that no one has in this country and that's the right not to be offended.
Got a view, or are you too scared to share it in case they come for you? Grow a pair and let's hear what you think. If you don't exercise your freedom of thought and speech there's a very real danger it'll be silently taken away from you as a result of the behaviour of those who don't want you to have it. To paraphrase an old saying - The only thing that oppressive thinking needs to flourish is for reasonably-minded people to say nothing.
And perhaps I should add that I'm not accusing all Muslims of having this attitude, but the pronouncements in response to the newspaper and dairy incidents came from British Muslim leaders, who should surely be prepared to show non-Muslims the same tolerance that the rest of the country accords them?
The floor is open.