Dolors Miquel performing last Monday in Barcelona’s City Hall

‘Sexual’ Our Father poem during an awards ceremony in Barcelona sparks controversy

The poem, a version of the Our Father prayer but with sexual content, was read on Monday during an awards ceremony organised by the Barcelona city hall. «Let not sons-of-a-bitch abort love and make war,» «hallowed be your c***» or «may His will be done in our uterus» are some extracts from poetess Dolors Miquel’s work.

The verses were provocative enough to upset the leader of the conservative PP party in Barcelona, Alberto Fernández, who left the theatre demanding accountability for «this shame, patently offensive for many of us and totally out of place for most citizens whether they be Catholic or not.» He added that this act may not only have offended religious feelings but it may even lead to some sort of «penal responsibility because of the place, the content and the context» where it was read: during an institutional ceremony held at the City Hall which should represent all the people of Barcelona.

The incident sparked widespread controversy and Ada Colau, Mayoress of Barcelona, has been asked to explain what many spectators considered a «lack of respect.» By the end of the gala, Colau thanked “all courageous people who have dared to break the ice in such a solemn place as the ‘Saló de Cent’ [Council room].” She explained that culture, art, science and philosophy help us shake our ideas, prejudices and emotions to become better people.

One can find so many examples of work considered as an insult to a particular group of people (citizens of a country, members of a society, the faithful of a religion…) that it is hard to find the limit between freedom of expression, a punishable offence, or just plain bad taste. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie (1988) was considered blasphemy for most muslims, although it has been dubbed ‘the most famous book most people will never read.’ The French satirical magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’ is another example of why religious extremism keeps fueling the media to express their humour as an act of freedom, even to the extent of risking death.

Arthur Caravan once said that ‘every great artist has the sense of provocation’ and we should all consider this poem for what it is: a piece of work. More or less artistic, creative or classy… but nothing more.

Where is our empathy for Charlie Hebdo victims now? Why is using religious feelings in a Charlie Hebdo cartoon right, yet wrong -or even blasphemous- when paraphrasing the Our Father prayer?

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