"Religion is a hypothesis about the world: the hypothesis that things are the way they are, at least in part, because of supernatural entities or forces acting on the natural world. And there's no good reason to treat it any differently from any other hypothesis. Which includes pointing out its flaws and inconsistencies, asking its adherents to back it up with solid evidence, making jokes about it when it's just being silly, offering arguments and evidence for our own competing hypotheses...and trying to persuade people out of it if we think it's mistaken. It's persuasion. It's the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion get a free ride"

Greta Christina

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

LSE Student Union attacks free speech.

Here is an object lesson on how to be on the wrong side of an argument about the balance between religious tolerance and free speech. To cut a long story sideways, 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 This attracted complaints from Muslims who are under the impression that those of us lucky enough not to be cursed with their delusions are nevertheless obliged to respect their taboos and not make visual representations of the prophet. So instead of defending the society’s rights to free expression, on a private forum aimed at their own members they decide to pander to the intolerance of a few Muslims instead.
"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 […] 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."
It was only “offensive” to oversensitive religionists who apparently have so little faith in their own deity to look after itself that they felt the need to censor a society that owes nothing whatsoever to their sensibilities. And, why is there a “special need” for students’ unions to decide whose freedom of speech is acceptable and whose isn’t, where do they get that mandate from? And why do they feel the need to bring up race or ethnicity? Presumably, it is meant to suggest that the evil atheists are racist, whereas this is just a perfectly valid jibe at religion, not at race at all. Religion is an opinion, like any other opinion (though with less rational than most) and is there to be discussed, challenged, ridiculed, defended and debated just like any other opinion. If you don’t like a political position, nobody would censure you for caricaturing it or the politician that promotes it so why should religion and religious figures be any different. Look! If you’re a Muslim by all means do your funky Muslim thing, it’s no skin off my nose. But don’t go telling me what I can and cannot say draw or publish about your religion and beliefs, and I won’t complain if you want to criticise mine.
This pandering to religious and in particular Islamic demands to restrict free speech is something that needs to be halted as a matter of urgency. On February the 11th atheists and secularists from all over London and the UK, (including ex-Muslims), are holding a rally with the One Law for All campaign at 2pm in the Old Palace Yard, (opposite the House of Lords) to defend free expression.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately part of a wider attack on free speech. http://alextalbot.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/islamaphobia-and-left-revisited.html