"I have in mind the time Winnie Mandela said 'with our boxes of matches and our necklaces we shall liberate this country [South Africa]'. The endorsement of the barbaric practice of necklacing that the remark appeared to be didn't show her in an especially good light, but she came back by saying her words had been taken out of context. It's the best example I can remember of people using this defence without going on to explain how the context would give the offending words a more benign meaning."
Andrew Anthony cites another example in today's Observer:
"No one loves the kuffaar! Not a single person here from the Muslims loves the kuffaar. Whether those kuffaar are from the UK or from the US. We love the people of Islam and we hate the people of kuffaar. We hate the kuffaar!"
What context, he asks, could make these words 'acceptable or reasonable'? They're taken from Channel 4's documentary Undercover Mosque where a radical Muslim preacher includes them in his sermon and later accuses the programme makers of quoting them out of context. He was reading someone else's words.
But was not the Pope accused of bigotry and racism when quoting a fourteenth century Byzantine emperor's unfavourable remarks about Mohammed? And were not Muslims infuriated by the publication of 'The Satanic Verses'? Would they not have been even more incensed if it had been quoted 'in context' by a Christian preacher?