Editorial: "Why We Will Defend the Right to Offend"

February 3, 2006

Source: The Telegraph


On February 3, 2006 The Telegraph ran an editorial that commented, "The Daily Telegraph has chosen not to publish the cartoons [of the Prophet Muhammad]. We prefer not to cause gratuitous offence to some of our readers, a policy we also apply, for example, to pictures of graphic nudity or violence. However, there might be circumstances in which the dictates of news left us with no choice but to publish - and where the public interest was overwhelmingly served by such an act, we would.

Our restraint is in keeping with British values of tolerance and respect for the feelings of others. However, we are equally in no doubt that a small minority of Muslims would be offended by such a publication to an extent where they would threaten, and perhaps even use, violence. This is a problem that the whole of the Western world needs to confront frankly, and not sidestep.

The right to offend within the law remains crucial to our free speech. Muslims who choose to live in the West must accept that we, too, have a right to our values, and to live according to them. Muslims must accept the predominant mores of their adopted culture: and most do. One of these is the lack of censorship and the ready availability of material that some people find deeply offensive: anyone who wishes to see the cartoons can find them within a few clicks on the internet.

Those Muslims who cannot tolerate the openness and robustness of intellectual debate in the West have perhaps chosen to live in the wrong culture."