Approximately 400 people endured freezing conditions on Saturday evening at Bradford’s Centenery Square to protest against the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and its recent publication. Twelve people were killed in the shooting on January 7 by the extremist Kouachi brothers over the magazine’s depiction of Mohammed, which is considered blasphemous.
A peaceful affair organised by Bradfordians from all faiths, backgrounds and political beliefs, the gathering featured speeches by Bradford West MP George Galloway and Deputy Council Leader Imran Hussain as well as other Bradfordians highlighting the contradictions of freedom of speech and their condemnation of the magazine’s decision to publish and depict the Prophet Mohammed in their latest edition.
This has opened a global debate highlighting the limits or no-limits of freedom of speech and how far one can go to express freedom of speech and at the same time incite hatred, provoke reaction and insult religions.
Urban Echo received a statement this morning from UKIP’s Bradford South candidate Jason Smith, who offers his views on freedom of speech and why he was “offended” by both Mr Galloway and Mr Hussain on Saturday evening.
Official UKIP Statement from Jason Smith, UKIP’s candidate for Bradford South
“While it is of course everybody’s right to protest I find it totally ironic that elected officials in Bradford where involved in a protest against freedom of speech, after all without the right to freedom of speech this protest would not have been allowed to happen at all.
To suggest that we should limit freedom of speech because certain people might be offended effectively means an end to freedom of speech altogether. Freedom of speech is an absolute right in our society and so is the right to offend even though we may sometimes find it uncomfortable.
I am offended by George Galloway suggesting that ‘For the sake of unity in our society, we have to demand from our Government the protection of our prophets’. What Mr Galloway is suggesting is to outlaw criticism of certain groups and religions; you can’t pick and choose with freedom of speech, you either have it or you don’t.
I am offended by Labour Deputy Leader Imran Hussain when he says ‘Let’s have freedom of speech, not freedom to openly insult’, it is the same thing. Freedom of speech is the right to insult.
Even though I am offended by our Respect and Labour parties anti freedom rhetoric I defend their right to speak freely, let us remember that without freedom of speech these people would not be afforded the right to express their views at all.
For them to suggest freedom of speech should be restricted in certain circumstances is not only wrong it is dangerous for our democracy and our communities.
I call on all the good people of Bradford to stand against this affront to our freedoms and speak out now, if Respect and Labour have their way we may not be able to speak out at all.”