A year after the repeal of blasphemy from English law, religious defamation laws are tightening their grip on the world, with the apparent support of the United Nations. Whatever happened to freedom of speech? A discussion of the nature of blasphemy in the twenty-first century.

Professor Conor Gearty is studied law at University College Dublin, qualifying as a solicitor in the Republic of Ireland before studying at Cambridge University (Wolfson College) where he completed a PhD in environmental law. After many happy years at King College London, Professor Gearty moved to LSE in 2002, to become the first Rausing Director of LSE’s new Centre for the Study of Human Rights. His academic research focuses primarily on civil liberties, terrorism and human rights. Professor Gearty’s latest book, Essays on Human Rights and Terrorism, was published in April 2008 by Cameron May.

Howard Jacobson is the author of nine novels and four works of non-fiction. The Mighty Walzer won the Everyman Wodehouse Award for comic writing. He was born to Jewish, working-class parents in Manchester, studied at Cambridge and later became a Don, before turning to writing full time. He now lives in London. He is a regular columnist for The Independent and writes frequently for numerous newspapers, including The Sunday Times, The Guardian and The Evening Standard. His last novel, Kalooki Nights, was the winner of the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Prize for Fiction and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2006. The Act of Love, published in September 2008 by Jonathan Cape, is a story about agony-addiction; but it is also about the nature of desire itself, the exquisiteness of loss, and the universality of the impulse - whether a jealous husband's or an avid reader's - to play the voyeur, to probe and question, to want to know, day after day, page after page, who is doing what to whom and what will happen next.

Kenan Malik is a writer, lecturer and broadcaster. He is senior visting fellow at the Department of Political, International and Policy Studies at the University of Surrrey; a presenter of Nightwaves, BBC Radio 3's flagship arts and ideas magazine and Analysis, BBC Radio 4's current affairs strand; and he has written and presented a number of radio and TV documentaries. His books include The Meaning of Race (1996) and Man, Beast and Zombie (2000). His last book, Strange Fruit: Why Both Sides are Wrong in the Race Debate was published in June 2008.

Author Lisa Appignanesi is president of English PEN and headed its Free Expression is No Offence Campaign. Her latest book is Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 (Virago/Little Brown).

This event is organised in partnership with English PEN. English PEN is a charity that works to promote literature and human rights. From defending the rights of persecuted writers to promoting literature in translation and running writing workshops with refugees and migrants, English PEN seeks to promote literature as a means of greater understanding between the world's people.

This is part of the LSE Space for Thought Literary Weekend, the LSE's first ever Literary Festival, celebrating the completion of the New Academic Building.

Venue: Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics and Political Science

Ticket Information
This event is free and open to all, but a ticket is required. One ticket per person may be requested from 2pm on Tuesday 17 February.

Members of the public can request one ticket via the online ticket request form which will be live on the LSE webite from 2pm on Tuesday 17 February. This is not an Ekklesia event and tickets cannot be obtained through the Ekklesia office.