The Rights and Wrongs of Free Speech

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Patrick Connellan and letter writers have raised an interesting issue concerning free speech and offensive theatre.

The arts must never be censored lest we stifle freedom of expression, but people - in this case Sikhs - have a right to be free from racism.

Rather than view these two points as mutually exclusive, I would argue they can be reconciled. Let the plays proceed, and also let the Sikhs demonstrate against them, both sides have their say. A problem only emerges if we start to think that a desire to ban the play should be implemented. But if we encourage the demonstrators to concentrate on the issue of how they are being represented in the drama, and have a battle of ideas about this, then the argument for a ban is weakened. Of course, this wouldn't alter the play - and neither should it - but at least it would raise a debate about racism in society.

Daniel Ashcroft
Belfast