“Teenage boys do the silliest things,” says Tomiwa Owolade in The Times. An autistic 14-year-old in Wakefield was recently dared to bring a Quran into school; when he did, it ended up getting slightly scuffed after being accidentally dropped in a corridor. The book remained intact and the head teacher said there was no “malicious intent”. Yet the 14-year-old and three others were swiftly suspended and have since received death threats. In a now-deleted tweet, Labour councillor Usman Ali described the teenagers’ hijinks as a “serious provocative action”. West Yorkshire Police investigated it as a “non-crime hate incident”. The main boy is now in hiding under police protection. The episode speaks to a “severe problem” we need to confront: “the mob of aggrieved Islamists ready to abuse, threaten and intimidate anyone they convict of blasphemy”.
It’s truly shameful stuff, says Sam Mace in Theory Matters. Chief Inspector Andy Thornton was even sent along to a public meeting at the school, where he nodded along as local imam Hafiz Muhammad Mateen Anwar defended the threats made against the boy. “As long as we are indulgent to the whims of communities too fragile to tolerate feeling offended then we will continue to be held hostage by them.” These people are not victims – they are “bullies demanding the upmost respect and sincerity for their beliefs” while failing to “acknowledge, tolerate or respect others”. Of course, it’s not only Islam that has this problem – not that long ago, priests fought to keep Life of Brian out of cinemas. But whoever’s crying foul, blasphemy and blasphemers need to be protected. After all, the only free speech worth having is the kind that sometimes “deeply offends”.