A lot of people have been asking for Labi Siffre's speech. We'll be making other speeches available too, but for the moment, here is Labi's:
Transcript of the “March for Free Expression” speech given by Labi Siffre (Trafalgar Square 25/03/06)
The texts for my speech are taken from my blog in poetry form: “Labi Siffre – Poetry Into The Light”
it matters little that something is true, or not
till someone says you must live a certain way
because they believe something is true, or not
The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw has said, "There is freedom of speech, we all respect that. But there is not any obligation to insult or to be gratuitously inflammatory. We have to be very careful about showing the proper respect.
Well, I say, not all beliefs are worthy of respect. Racist beliefs, homophobic beliefs, sexist beliefs, beliefs claiming the inferiority of the disabled, and claims to knowledge of the existence of a God, none of these are worthy of respect.
I reject the craven philosophies, “I am sincere ... so I must be right”
and “I am offended ... so you must stop”.
When someone says, “I know God exists and so, you must behave in a certain way: that is offensive, insulting, inflammatory and unworthy of respect. But I would not campaign to ban their right to proclaim their beliefs, no matter how offensive I judge those beliefs to be.
I stand here able to speak in this way because a lot of people, many of whom would not have approved of me, died, so that I could have the right of “freedom of expression”. I have a duty to defend that right they gave their lives for.
To begin with the lie, “I know god exists” makes you an extremist.
When anyone attacks, by insisting that their dishonest and offensive claims to knowledge of “god” be “precious and sacred” to me
i will oppose your vacuous regal prose,
and them, vigorously
Consider : it is impossible to blaspheme
without proof of god’s existence
Consider : if you apologise
when you have nothing
to apologise for
of what value are your apologies
when you do
have something to apologise for
Consider : Christianity, Islam, Sikhism,
Judaism, Hinduism, the worship of
the little green goblin from the planet absurdity
none of these is a country
none of these is an ethnicity
they are political philosophies
used to persuade or tell people
how they should live
to criticize, ridicule, lampoon
or insult them, or the belief in them,
is not racist
And finally, consider :
In an age when the most powerful man on the planet (armed with weapons of mass destruction) by his own admission believes he receives instruction directly from God
In an age when Christian believers in “Rapture” and Islamic believers in “the return of the hidden Imam” believe it right to speed us to salvation by promoting the chaos and destruction of the apocalypse
In such an age, not only do we have a right to challenge, criticize, caricature and satirize Muhammad, Jesus, Yahweh and other theistic concepts ... we have a duty to do so.