TO adjust Drew Campbell's numbers (Letters, May 5), not 29 but more than 200 members of PEN America disassociated themselves from their organisation's special award to the dead and survivors of the Charlie Hebdo slaughter.

In an exercise of free speech writ large, they found the magazine guilty of, among other things, Islamophobia.

The Paris murders were evil and unjustifiable. In their wake the most sense I heard talked on the topic was by Irvine Welsh, specifically in an interview given in January from his current base in Chicago. Disquieted by the racism he saw in some of the magazine's output, he could not, he confessed, bring himself to mouth the "Je suis Charlie" shibboleth.

Both free speech, and self-censoring, are cornerstones of a civilized society. But free speech is rarely entirely free; while much everyday hypocrisy is kindly meant, and oils the social gearwheels. If we all spat out only what we believed to be true, every relationship we value would be bust beyond mending before breakfast. Restraint is a greatly undervalued virtue; indeed in the moronic inferno of some of today's media - social and anti-social - it's pretty well extinct.

It is vital that Muslims themselves make sure that their great religion - one of the most civilising influences the world has known - does not descend, through the manipulation of a few fanatics, into a kind of medieval fascism. Muslims must also adapt confidently to the cut and thrust of secular debate, must allow antagonists to probe them with argument, to disagree with Islam's precepts if they like, and to disapprove of it if they choose. But Muslims also have the right to courtesy and respect and an appropriate restraint.

Nor is it just about Islamophobia. Some of Charlie Hebdo's cartoons caricaturing Jews reek of racism. Are we in danger of being blind to the racism - and Islamophobia - that hides behind the fig leaf of free speech?

Christianity, the other great monotheistic religion, long ago learned to turn the other cheek. But Christians in the West, like their Jewish cousins, are generally comfortably off, sophisticated and secure in their culture and beliefs, able to laugh off laughable criticism.

Muslims, the last great wave of peoples seeking a better life in first-world countries, are easier prey to the sort of bigotry that not so long ago here in Scotland demonised and terrorised Irish Catholics who had reached these shores asking only respite from famine and death in their mother country.

Among the chattering classes, especially at the BBC, unthinking but highly militant atheism is in fashion; but while Christianity gets regularly clobbered, mainstream commentators are wary of engaging with Islam. This has been a bad deal for Muslims, lowering the level of discourse by leaving it to sub-literate pedlars of hate.

A healthy society needs satirists, but everybody everywhere needs to calm down, count to ten, and take stock, Charlie Hebdo included.

Martin Ketterer,

Tavistock Drive,