It is common to hear of challenges to books in libraries, such as this recent story - one of many - about 'And Tango Makes Three', or this one about a young adult book that was successfully remove from a school library, but a challenge to a bookstore? In this BBC story, an author, a poet, was singled out by a religious group who lobbied a local book store to not sell his latest work, a book of poems that they felt were "blasphemous". In the end, the bookstore merely canceled the book signing that has been scheduled - they still sell the book in question despite the protests.
Some time back the author Salmon Rushdie published a book that followers of a different religion felt was blasphemous to their beliefs. They condemned him for his writings and the outcry in much of Western world was quite great in his defense. Sales of the book skyrocketed. People openly supported Rushdie, a national of the same country as the author of this book of poetry. What is different in this case?
Well, the religious groups that have taken offense for one. In the event of Salmon Rushdie, the religion in question is not one that is counted as a large majority in the area in which the even occurred, while in the case of the poetry book, the religion in question is counted as the large majority, by a good margin of the population.
Given the number of challenges to libraries, it is obvious that not everyone feels that the freedom of religion and freedom of speech are rights worth preserving, or perhaps they do feel that they are worth preserving, but only if people are saying what 'should' be said. It makes me wonder how they would feel if their religious choices were the ones being blockaded by others.
Freedom to choose a religion is something that is fundamental to our society. Here in the United States we are each granted the right to choose a religion, or to choose not to follow any religion, at our own discretion, and an integral part of those rights is the freedom from oppression and discrimination by others for our choices. Everyone is certainly free to voice their opinions, either pro or con on any issue, but they are not free to force their beliefs on others.
The original news story on the BBC website
A brief introduction the the author Salmon Rushdie