The word ‘Blasphemy’ comes from a combination of the Greek words, blaptein meaning ‘to injure’ and pheme meaning ‘reputation’, The Catholic Encyclopaedia defines ‘blasphemy’ as ‘gross irreverence towards any person or thing worthy of exalted esteem.’ Thus, when anybody mocks the Catholic religion, he or she is blaspheming against God Himself. Any attempt to deface any world religion does not deem itself to be within the context of the right to ‘freedom of speech’. An insult is an insult, in any language. In late December 2004 the Catholic church succeeded in achieving the removal of advertisements for the morning after pill as the strap line used was clearly blasphemous. The writer of the play, Behzti, or Dishonor has clearly committed an irreverent act, i.e: By basing her play on questionable themes within an apparent backdrop of Sikh Temple, her actions should be considered inviolable or sacrosanct. The stubbornness of the Birmingham rep to defend the writer of the insightful play is based on a lack of understanding of key world themes of respect and understanding. ‘Behzti, or Dishonor is offensive to their religion’ – an opinion shared by a Roman Catholic archbishop who said the play ‘demeans the sacred place of every religion.
When I was 10 years old the child neighbours on my street rode around on bikes with plastic bags full of stones that they had collected from their gardens. As they rode past at speed throwing their stones at us, they coupled each aim with racist taunts. Were they defending their right to ride on their bikes? No, they were exercising their deliberate ignorance and lack of respect of their fellow human – born and bred in the same country but into a different religion.
How can we live together in a multi-cultural society where we learn the importance of interfaith understanding and peace when those that should be helping are counteracting the mutual respect that has been built-up over the years? We certainly do not wish to give racist based organisations such as the BNP any more arms. We certainly do not wish to return to the days of riots in Southall. Remember Blair Peach?

With regard to the violence that has occurred in Birmingham, the national press appeared to have forgotten that 5 preceding days of peace protest had already taken place outside of the Rep. The national press have also misappropriated the blame for the violence. Instead during week-commencing 20th December, the national press had resorted to providing unfair coverage for theatre critics and misrepresenting Sikh organisations.
There also appears to be confusion as to what level of dialogue has taken place to calm and reassure all sides. Instead we see rival theatre groups misunderstanding the situation and both provoking and confusing the issue.

Having viewed some of the script I believe that the scenes proposed to be depicted are in violation of any sense of decency. You cannot have a scene based on a religious hymn / shabad being recited in a Sikh Temple post an act of indecency. This is clearly offensive!The Sikh community for hundreds of years have lead anti-ethnic cleansing and the freedom of religion and people. Sikhs have always fought for the defenceless.

Recently the author has claimed that her play has been ‘taken out of context’. If we stop for a second and consider the context, there is no doubt that it is clearly disrespectful to a place of worship.

Let us work together with the writer to understand her issues and engage with her intellect to make her understand that an insult is not art. Respect for God should be in everyone’s eyes and is paramount.

Categories: 2005

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