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Does freedom of religion and freedom of speech come as a package or can you pick and choose? Do those suggesting freedom of expression should be “civilised” and that we should be wary of causing offence to people’s religious sensibilities have a point? Or are there too many people who are easily offended? Are our attempts to be polite actually significant obstructions to the discussion of important issues? These were just some of the questions tackled at “The new civility: are religious freedom and freedom of speech intertwined?” the 10 June event organised as part of the Leeds Big Bookend festival.
Chaired by Index on Censorship magazine editor Rachael Jolley, the panel was made up of assistant features editor at the Yorkshire Evening post Chris Bond, local imam Qari Muhammad Asim MBE and author Anthony Clavane.
In the past, people who have argued for greater religious freedom have also fought for greater freedom of speech, but the debate looked to address the idea that this connection has become somewhat lost. It sprang from the Spring 2015 issue of Index on Censorship, where writers from across the world, including Elif Safak and Ariel Dorfman, provided thoughtful analysis of the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo killings.
The debate threw up some fascinating themes and the panel were observed and questioned by an enthusiastic audience at Waterstones, Leeds. A full recording of the event in the form of a podcast can be listened to below.