Thursday, August 16, 2012

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.

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.
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.

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?


Blogger Roger Pearse said...

I am deeply offended that you have endorsed the hateful practice of mocking the religious feelings of the powerful and well-connected. In a tolerant society only currently unpopular fringe groups may be so mocked (and Christians) and it is very offensive, intolerant, racist and bigoted of you to suggest that our beloved ASA is in any way wrong in protecting the powerful from such abuse of free speech. I'm denouncing you to the police now.

16 August 2012 at 10:24  
Blogger Paul Twigg said...

Ah, there is nothing like the sight and sound of the traditional music of my own ancestral homestead of the West Midlands and Birmingham.

The ASA are turning into the panto villain, as they clearly couldn't regulate a piss up in a brewery.

The Sofa factory ad is on you tube, having got 1,500 hits already, his grace is giving free advertising as well. This story is also being covered by various newspapers.

Has the ASA, when considering its verdicts, never heard of the 'Streisand effect'?

16 August 2012 at 10:52  
Blogger David B said...

I might have said before that when I stumbled on this blog, I never expected to be in agreement with His Grace on various topics as anything like as often as I am - this being a case in point.

He has also gained my respect for tolerating dissent from his views, as evidenced by the many views that differ from his own in his comments, including, sometimes, my own.

Paul - any chance of a link to the YT video?

David B

16 August 2012 at 11:20  
Blogger Paul Twigg said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

16 August 2012 at 11:30  
Blogger Paul Twigg said...


Unfortunately, looks like I have jumped the gun a bit. The you tube vid is the one which his grace has put onto his post above and it was downloaded onto you tube in August 2011, not 2012 . Still I suspect that this gives quite a bit of free publicity to the company in question.

16 August 2012 at 11:35  
Blogger English Pensioner said...

The only thing about this decision is that they have set a precedent should any advertisement mock the Christian religion.

16 August 2012 at 13:24  
Blogger Rambling Steve Appleseed said...

As a Christian, I hereby assert that I am willing to tolerate any spoken or written insult, sneer, parody, lampoon or offense (short of an incitement to violence)against my faith, me for holding it or against the founder of the Christian religion, one Jesus of Nazareth however foul and offensive a misprepresentation or blasphemy I might consider it.

All I ask in return is the unfettered right to question and criticise other people beliefs including those of Liberals, Socialists, Muslims and Dawkinists.

16 August 2012 at 13:53  
Blogger Berserker said...

Apologies to WS and RIchard 2

O, that I were a mockery king of freedom
Standing before an ireful ASA
To melt myself down to bone
Complicit in censorship and bravely say:
I am an Apatheist and that we yearly meet
To snap bubble wraps and give not a fig
For consumers or the religioso or inappropriateness
Or the rule book or prize promotions
Or responsible advertising.

I have been wondering how I may compare
the world of weekly adjudications to decency?
For is not all advertising indecent and lying
to punters? Well, I cannot do it.

16 August 2012 at 16:13  
Blogger Cressida de Nova said...

"Piss Christ" by Serrano which was destroyed by French Catholics last year in an exhibition in Avignon is an example of Christians not tolerating blasphemy or denigrating depiction of Christ. Personally I am against ridiculing and denigrating the beliefs of others.I find that to be very unchristian and unacceptable.

16 August 2012 at 16:44  
Blogger Paul Twigg said...

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16 August 2012 at 17:56  
Blogger Paul Twigg said...

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16 August 2012 at 17:56  
Blogger Paul Twigg said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

16 August 2012 at 17:57  
Blogger Paul Twigg said...

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16 August 2012 at 17:57  
Blogger Paul Twigg said...

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16 August 2012 at 17:58  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Your Grace, sympathetic as he was with your savage mauling by the ASA, it is the Inspector’s opinion we are on different ground here. What we have is the sullying of a religious figure of the Sikh persuasion for the base reason of selling furniture.

Those with a long memory can cast their minds back forty years when Christians were upset with a similar. Namely, “Jesus saves – with the Woolwich”

If the ASA does have a role, it is monitoring taste and decency of genuine commercial adverts in this country. For example, a fellow doesn’t want to turn his set on to be confronted by topless women advertising the News of the World or whatever the damn rag is called nowadays. Erm, probably, that is…{AHEM}…

16 August 2012 at 18:01  
Blogger Paul Twigg said...

I think a Mahatma Gandhi quote can sum up the whole problem with the ASA and our current lack of ability to navigate religious-political differences in an appropriate manner as thus : "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

Is it not better to engage in free discourse or shut down a viewpoint because some-one else will be "offended" by it?

16 August 2012 at 18:02  
Blogger Marie1797 said...

Forgive my ignorance but I didn't understand a word of that ad was it aired in England or the Punjab?

Why isn't it in English and is Birmingham now part of the Punjab? If so when did we loose it?

16 August 2012 at 21:25  
Blogger Robert said...

Well your Grace, this is to show the even handedness of the authorities when the main raids begin against those who threaten Anglican Islam with insults garbed as criticism. The west is scrambling to meet the OICs insistence on criminalizing speech about Islam by non Muslims. In America a name and shame program is planned as the pesky Constitution can still be twisted to protect free speech. In Britanistan you already jail people who are afraid of Islam so you have precedent and the criminalization of Pedophilophobic speech will be seamless. Make sense now what is going on with the couch commercial?

16 August 2012 at 22:38  
Blogger bluedog said...

Marie 1797, didn't a British general telegraph the single word 'Pecavi' on taking the Punjabi capital of Sindh?

It seems that the Punjabis now have us. Any thoughts on the appropriate single word telegram today?

16 August 2012 at 22:56  
Blogger non mouse said...

These "rulings" Your Grace... they're enforced by whose army?

17 August 2012 at 00:15  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

I'm with the Inspector and cressida on this one.

To mock a faith to sell a product is unacceptable. However, one suspects the ASA will not be so eve handed towards Christians should similar offence arise.

17 August 2012 at 00:22  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

Well I like Sikhs, I find they are a very pleasant, very brave, community orientated people.

17 August 2012 at 09:57  
Blogger Marie1797 said...

"It seems that the Punjabis now have us. Any thoughts on the appropriate single word telegram today?"

Well that one word Latin pun Peccavi story was probably penned by a witty journalist for some satire magazine.
But the words in the telegram today would read something like this
“I have got Birmingham. Bring the family. All welcome. Free money and a house. “

17 August 2012 at 12:23  
Blogger Bred in the bone said...

The right not to be offended seems to only exist for recognised groups within the comminity of unoffendable peoples

Address who those peoples are and we have identified the groups responsible for our persicution

17 August 2012 at 23:40  
Blogger len said...

The 'Jesus Christ superstar' rock opera is offensive to me as a Christian.

Can the ASA do something about this please?

18 August 2012 at 07:42  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

len, deary me. Do pay attention and try to comprehend the written word! If any words are too big for you then ask what they mean.

The ASA oversee complaints about advertising, repeat advertising. Rock operas do not, repeat do not, fall into this category.

18 August 2012 at 22:06  
Blogger len said...

Do they not advertise' Jesus Christ superstar' then Dodo?.

20 August 2012 at 08:04  
Blogger Hannah Kavanagh said...

I didn't appreciate that Jesus Christ Super star was a blasphemy. I have found it more of a useful tool of understanding Christianity than the alpha course I attended. I also like Joseph - is that a blasphemy as well ?

I can appreciate things like life of brian and last temptation being a blasphemy, but we are in a liberal democracy, not an iran- esq type theocracy.

20 August 2012 at 22:14  

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