Sikh TV station rebuked for offending a Sikh
The ASA are at it again. They have banned an advertisement for The Sofa Factory in Birmigham for allegedly distorting religious verses in a way that was likely to cause serious offence to the Sikh community.
In fact, one (yes, one) Sikh had complained to The Sofa Factory because the ad showed an image of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, and featured a song in the style of the Gurmantur (sacred Sikh verses). The lyrics in Punjabi had been adapted to:
True name of God is You are wondrous; come to The Sofa Factory in Birmingham; measure and make your corner sofas; reupholster your older sofas.Most Sikhs are generally good humoured and would find this a bit of a riot (not a literal one, of course: Birmingham has put those behind them). Indeed, the ad above (which is not that which elicited the complaint, for after scouring it thrice after the fashion of 'Where's Wally', His Grace could not find Guru Nanak anywhere) clearly features prominently a Sikh gentleman. And Sangat, who broadcast the ad, is a Sikh TV station. So there was a general consensus among 'the Sikh community' that the ad was not offensive to Sikhs.
My father Sarvan Singh sowed the seeds of this business; I come from the village Kooner Dhanni; come on dad; I get plenty of your love and good wishes, plenty of love; you are my guru, my true guru. Sofa Factory.
But one viewer found it so.
Upholding his complaint, the ASA said: "We considered that the use of the central icon of the Sikh faith and the use and distortion of religious verses to advertise products made light of those important elements of the Sikh faith in a way that was likely to cause serious offence to some members of the Sikh community."
It ruled that the ad must not appear again.
This manner of censorship is an incremental evil: freedom of speech and freedom of expression cannot coexist with the right not to be offended. Good grief, rulings like this could soon put His Grace out of business, for even yesterday's polite post on the Assumption invoked ire in another place. What religious liberty remains if we may no longer criticise, satirise or lampoon the images, texts, icons or personages which others hold sacred?