Pause for Thought on The Chris Evans Breakfast Show (Thursday 16th September 2010) – My transcript from the show
The Pope is coming to town, and some people are not happy about it. There are protests lined up, some by former victims of child-abuse from members of the Catholic Church; others simply because they want to promote a secular society.
However people I come into contact with: friends, family, colleagues all seem happy with the visit. For me, a former Catholic turned Muslim, I’m glad the Pope is visiting, but accept the rights of people to protest, and even to satirise. Both are part of British culture as well as a liberal democracy.
I am uncomfortable however with the likes of ice-cream manufacturers deciding to take out adverts with pregnant nuns. Those ads – designed to be controversial – have been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority as potentially offensive to Britain’s Catholics. I’m NOT a British Catholic but even I find them offensive! Yet, the company is declaring that it will take out a series of billboards along the planned route of the Pope’s cavalcade around Westminster Cathedral with other adverts in a similar vein.
It is this type of gratuitous offense that I have a problem with. When dealing with people I am guided by the Qur’anic verse, Do not argue with people of previous revelation, unless they are set on doing evil.
And I always contemplate Yeats poem, “I have spread my dreams beneath your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” Making your faith public, making it a living faith, can be like laying out your dreams. I try to tread softly.
We should not be silent where there is injustice; but we should not be gratuitous in our offense. For whilst I support the right to offend, I think we should remember it is a right; not a duty!