Professional Muslim Yasmin Alibhai-Brown reacted with horror after Tory leadership contender Boris Johnson suggested in a press conference that we should all be allowed to 'speak as we find'.
Boris was defending his much publicised comment from last year comparing burka-clad women to letterboxes.
'Are we saying that we should be free to say whatever we like?'
Precisely Yasmin, it's called freedom of speech. We used to have it in Britain.
'He's given permission. What people want is not to veil what they think. If we don't really veil what we think in public spaces, what happens next?'
What happens next is that people start saying what they actually think, leading to a proper, grown-up exchange of ideas and opinions. (Nice use of the veil metaphor though :-))
'I know what happens next. People feel they're free to call me Paki.'
Why would they do that? The great majority of British people are polite and respectful - as you well know.
'This is a Prime Minister in waiting. Is he telling the people "Just go round saying what you want"?'
Yes, yes, you're finally getting it...
'I mean the man's a cad!'
Still, poor Boris has been called worse.
Why, only yesterday the chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum compared him to Hitler. (Hitler was a cad too, apparently.)
Whatever. Here are some great free speech quotes (source: goodreads) to use next time you meet someone like Ms Alibhai-Brown.
'If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.' - George Orwell
'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.' - S. G. Tallentyre, in The Friends of Voltaire
'I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.' - Oscar Wilde
'If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.' - George Washington
'Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.' - Harry S. Truman
'Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.' - Benjamin Franklin
'Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.' - Saint Catherine of Siena
'To criticize a person for their race is manifestly irrational and ridiculous, but to criticize their religion, that is a right.' - Rowan Atkinson
'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.' - United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights
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