The LSE and the LSE Atheists, Secularists and Humanists Society’s playground row over new Mohammed cartoons
THE LSE Atheists, Secularists and Humanists Society (ASH) is accused of racism. The ASH’s alleged crime was to post a cartoon of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed and Jesus Christ “sitting in a pub having a pint” on its group Facebook page. The image is from the cartoon strip Jesus & Mo.
The LSE Student Union was upset. It issued a statement:
On Monday 16th January it was brought to our attention via an official complaint by two students that the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society posted cartoons, published by the UCLU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society, depicting the Prophet Mohammed and Jesus “sitting in a pub having a pint” on their society Facebook page. Upon hearing this, the sabbaticals officers of the LSESU ensured all evidence was collected and an emergency meeting with a member of the Students’ Union staff was called to discuss how to deal with the issue. During this time, we received over 40 separate official complaints from the student body, in addition to further information regarding more posts on the society Facebook page.
Ophelia Benson notes:
Why did they bother to collect “evidence”? (Meaning they looked at the Facebook page and nodded solemnly – yep, there it is – ?) Why on earth was an emergency meeting called (and who called it?)? An emergency? Because of a cartoon of Jesus and Mohammed having a beer? Why did they call an emergency meeting to discuss how to deal with the issue? What issue? Why did they think there was an issue? Why did they think it needed dealing with? Why on earth did they think it was up to them to “deal with it”? Who do they think they are? The Stasi? The Inquisition? The Taliban? What makes them think it’s any of their business that somebody has a harmless image on a Facebook page? Not images of women being raped and torn in half, mind, but of two guys having a beer. Who cares that they got “over 40″ complaints? No doubt there was a little knot of people running around in a frenzy of joy because somebody was listening to their pathetic bedwetting “complaints” but so what?
Friday 20th January at 10.30am, the LSE Student Union summoned the ASH.
…the SU will now be telling the society that they cannot continue these activities under the brand of the SU.
Banned by the brand, unless you comply.
The LSESU adds:
The LSE Students’ Union would like to reiterate that we strongly condemn and stand against any form of racism and discrimination on campus. The offensive nature of the content on the Facebook page is not in accordance with our values of tolerance, diversity, and respect for all students regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or religious affiliation. There is a special need in a Students’ Union to balance freedom of speech and to ensure access to all aspects of the LSESU for all the ethnic and religious minority communities that make up the student body at the LSE.
The Beaver reports:
The ASH society launched a petition against the Students’ Union, claiming to be defending “freedom of expression at University College London.” The petition received over 4,000 signatures and several endorsements from leading Atheist and Humanist organisations.
ASH’s president Chris Moos, is not happy. Says he:
“We firmly reject the allegation that actions of our members have ‘sought to marginalise’ anyone, have caused ‘harm to the welfare of Muslim students’ or constituted a ‘targeted campaign’….Although we reserve the right to criticise religious ideas, as humanists we will always oppose any targeted campaign against any community. We strongly oppose any form of anti-Muslim prejudice. The cartoons criticise religion in a satirical way. They do not target or call for the targeting of Muslims or any other religious group. Framing the criticism of religion as ‘discrimination’ or ‘Islamophobic actions’ is highly misguided and results in the stifling of valid debates. We do not discriminate amongst religions in our criticisms.”
He will not comply with the LSESU demands.
Tasif Aman makes a good point:
When analysing the nature of the cartoons, however, one could conclude that defending the right to draw such cartoons is not related to promoting freedom of speech if the cartoons serve no purpose in actually criticising religion (or anything else). I will propose that the cartoons are designed to promote and reinforce a reductive and perverse view of religion often based on prejudice or ignorance. However, I will not argue that the cartoons should be censored or banned because they may cause offence.
I strongly believe that the question shouldn’t be whether “offensive” cartoons should or shouldn’t be published. Rather, we should question whether using freedom of speech to cause offense and provoke sections of society is compatible with civic responsibility within a pluralist, tolerant and diverse society.
Publish and be damned. Publish by all means. Enjoy the freedom to express your idea. But do try to make a point. Do try to be, at the vert least, funny. Just trying to cause offence is childish. The cartoons are more akin to the gurning idiots with the homemade signs calling for infidels to burn in Hell and Sharia law to do down Britain. Free speech is great so long as you’re a grown up. And no sides in this debate are fostering a serious discussion about freedom and multiculturalism. They just want to be victims or prove how anti-racist they are…