Ridicule is a Freedom of Expression: The LSESU Freshers’ (Af)Fayre

I’ve been following the fiasco surrounding The London School of Economics Freshers’ Fayre (sic) where a heavy-handed Students’ Union, under the influence of the Union’s Islamic society, has ejected members of the Atheist society for wearing mildly satirical T-shirts.

The account of the first day’s events begin as follows:

On Thursday 3rd of October, we (Abishek Phadnis and Chris Moos) were at the LSESU Freshers’ Fair, manning the stall of the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society to meet other non-believing students. At around noon, we were approached by LSESU Community and Welfare Officer Anneessa Mahmood, Anti-Racism Officer Rayhan Uddin, and Deputy Chief Executive Jarlath O’Hara and several others who identified as LSESU staff.

Without explanation, Anneessa Mahmood started removing material from the stall. When challenged, she claimed that it was “offensive”.

This directly contradicts the LSESU’s own account:

The SU asked the students to cover the t-shirts in the interests of good campus relations. The society remained free to share their literature and views.

I discovered from Twitter that Anneessa Mahmood has previously penned a staunch defence of the freedom to wear what one likes:

What clothes a women wears is a decision that should be reserved solely for the individual. If a woman chooses to wear the Niqaab it is her right to do so and it is not for college management, the government or any other institution to dictate otherwise.

Change ‘Niqaab’ to ‘satirical T-shirt’ and the hypocrisy could not be clearer.

The students made the same point;

As much as we respect and defend the rights of others to wear whatever they choose to wear, we claim this right for ourselves. Our right to free expression and participation
in the LSE student community is being curtailed for no other reason than that we are expressing views that are not shared by others. As visible from the pictures (attached), the t-shirts are harmless satirical depictions of fictitious religious figures and certainly cannot be considered intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive to anyone by even the most stringent standards

I find the niqab obscene – the visual embodiment of the subjugation of women by men in Islam. Would I demand someone remove it? Of course not, I have no right to offence.

If I wore a T-shirt mocking Loch Ness hunters, and was told to take it off because it offended them, I and others would laugh in their faces.

The point has been made to me that the Atheist society was going out of its way to offend prickly Muslims. This presumes this event did not have precedent, when in fact this is the culmination of a long-running battle, of repeated hounding of their society’s on-line presence, and its thwarted attempt to add ‘ex-Muslims’ to the name of the society. As the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain put it;

The students’ union’s professed concern that the “contentious” move could create an unsafe environment for apostates is empty posturing and a disingenuous excuse for its decision to reject the name change. Rather, its decision is an effort to revert back to the status quo and prevent heightened attention to this issue.

 

One of the evicted students, Abhishek Phadnis, President of the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society, wrote this account of a series of attacks on secular student spaces:

A depressing pattern is evident in each episode. A clique of extremist Muslims actively seeks unflattering observations about Islam to get incensed about, or attempts to impose an extremist interpretation of it on a secular space. Left-leaning Students’ Unions purport to smooth ruffled feathers by intimidating the secularists into silence. The institution in question, abdicating its duties to free inquiry, buries its head in the sand and hopes the problem will go away, preferably without significant damage to life, limb or property.

I also noticed this chilling sentence;

the LSE Students’ Union twinned itself with the Islamic University of Gaza, which has been described as “the brains trust and engine room of Hamas”.

The claiming of offence, of harassment, of Islamophobia, is a deliberate strategy by the Islamist extreme to shut down criticism;

“This loathsome term is nothing more than a thought-terminating cliché conceived in the bowels of Muslim think tanks for the purpose of beating down critics.” – Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, ex-imam.

That the Left in the UK, such as useful idiots like Owen Jones or the LSESU’s General Secretary, Jay Stoll, now shriek ‘Islamophobia’ and smear everyone who disagrees with the BNP brush, plays right into their hands.

I’ve noticed Stoll twice (once each on Twitter and Facebook) use the argument that he had family members perish in the Holocaust as an excuse not to engage criticisms of his tacit support for fascism. Like the Islamists, he avoids criticism by playing the race card, and worse, dishonours the horrific deaths of his forebears in doing so.

This isn’t anything to do with racism, though I do not deny there are racists and xenophobes towards people from Islamic countries and cultures, and I condemn them unreservedly. This is about secularism, the main principle of which is that no one gets a free pass, be they religious groups, fascists (BNP or Islamists), humanists, conspiracy theorist nuts etc. – a level playing field. No-one gets special privilege, including immunity from satire, and no-one can tell anyone else what they may or may not wear, do or say, if they are lawful.

A petition has been raised calling for the situation to be put right. The author of the petition appears to have an axe to grind of his own, but I signed it in good faith, and so have a thousand others.

Jesus and Mo deserve the last laugh:

Jesus and Mo: Anti

Jesus and Mo: Anti

 

Related links:

http://lsesu.tumblr.com/post/63078743117/statement-on-events-at-lse-su-freshers-fair

https://humanism.org.uk/2013/10/04/lsesu-atheist-secularist-humanist-society-incident-freshers-fair/

http://homoeconomicusnet.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/jesus-and-mo-banned-from-lse-student-freshers-fair/

http://freethoughtblogs.com/maryamnamazie/2013/10/03/lse-what-happened-to-freedom-of-thought/

http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/jay-stoll-lse-sabbatical-officers-apologise-for-the-blatant-attack-on-free-speech-mistreatment-of-lse-students-at-freshers-fayre

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/10/06/wearing-jesus-mo-shirts-doesnt-mean-youre-discriminating-against-christians-and-muslims/

http://www.trendingcentral.com/the-silence-of-secularists-how-the-left-islamist-alliance-is-winning/

http://www.jesusandmo.net/2013/10/04/anti/

http://ex-muslim.org.uk/2012/12/statement-on-adding-ex-muslim-to-the-lse-atheist-secularist-and-humanist-society-name/

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