In December 2004, the staging of Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti's play Behzti at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre triggered protests by some members of the Sikh community who considered it offensive. By unearthing and exploring tensions in the play's representation of a Sikh community, this article sheds light on some of the tensions in multicultural Britain in order to complicate and challenge an interpretation of the dispute in terms of a reductive binary of creative freedom versus religious censure and censorship. While, for the liberal secularist critic and proponent of free expression, the explosion of taboos is vital to an expansion of freedom, a hard-line adoption of this position that fails to account for the material specificities of a religious response to a creative work, including the demography of the protestors, can result in a curtailment of the freedom of a religious minority. Reading the play in dialogue with the controversy it generated, this article seeks to ground the outbreak of religious minority offence in its local material conditions and, by doing so, to underline the unequal access to social, cultural, and spatial capital that shaped the controversy. It focuses in particular on religious symbols, space, and speech, exploring how they figure in both the literary and social texts.


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pp. 354-372
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