The Rally for Free Expression

The “Rally to defend free expression,” organized by One Law for All, took place in London yesterday, and the 2-hour podcast is now available. 

The speakers included

  • Anne Marie Waters from One Law For All
  • AC Grayling
  • Maryam Namazie reading a statement on behalf of the creator of Jesus & Mo
  • Keith Porteous Wood from the National Secular Society
  • Nick Doody
  • Nick Cohen
  • Rhys Morgan
  • Jennifer Hardy, President of Queen Mary Atheist Society
  • Jim Fitzpatrick MP
  • Susan Zuang, from UCL Atheist Society
  • Baroness Cox
  • Rupert Sutton from Student Rights
  • Richard Dawkins
  • Kate Smurthwaite
  • Faisal Gazi
  • [Someone?] from GALHA, the Gay & Lesbian Humanist Assocation
  • Sue Cox from Survivors’ Voice
  • Pragna Patel from Southall Black Sisters
  • Mark Embleton from Atheism UK
  • Chris Moos reading a message from Andrew Copson, head of the British Humanist Association
  • [Someone?] reading a message from [Someone else?] from the International Humanist and Ethical Union
  • Joan Smith
  • Maryam Namazie

You can find Richard Dawkins’s short account of the rally here, which includes this tale given in the talk by atheist comedian Kate Smurthwaite:

One of the speakers, Kate Smurthwaite, had a very telling story. She had met an apparently devout Muslim girl, who was never seen without a headscarf and who punctiliously prayed five times a day. They were talking about their religious background and when Kate told her she never went to church, the Muslim girl said, “But doesn’t that upset your parents?” “No, my parents don’t go to church either.” “Ah, so you are free!”. I’ll repeat that. FREE. This poor girl, head-scarfed and praying towards Mecca five times per day, recognised that an atheist was FREE. Yet she felt unable to escape herself, presumably because of parental pressure or threats.


  1. GBJames
    Posted February 12, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I wish I had been able to be there.

    • Posted February 12, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      Me too, esp. as I’m closer. But I had prior commitments… 😦


  2. Posted February 12, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    I was very moved by this article. I am aware that many Muslims live in fear. These people are invariably well educated intelligent beings. Those that I have met have always impressed me with their decency and good manners. It must be very hard for them to live in fear of saying something that may offend parents, preachers and ultimately rulers. Hard line religious fundamentalism makes a mockery of basic humanity and is the cause of so much pain and misery.
    Everything that impacts basic human rights must be challenged for truth and common decency.

  3. Posted February 12, 2012 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    It was a good rally but bloody cold. I’m just uploading some videos now (hopefully my bt connection will hold, it’s already dropped out twice!) and I’ll post them asap.

    • Posted February 12, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      Richard Dawkins speaking.

      Mark Embleton speaking.

      General view of the rally.

      Another general view.

      I have to apologise, I didn’t realise these would come out as well as they did and I’ve cut people off in full flow, I thought I was too far away to actually record their words.

      • Diane G.
        Posted February 13, 2012 at 2:16 am | Permalink

        No need to apologize; those were very helpful in getting a taste of what it might have been like to be there. Thanks!

      • sasqwatch
        Posted February 14, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

        I second your excellency in posting these. It’s great to hear Dawkins put the blame on accomodation, front and center.

  4. Veroxitatis
    Posted February 12, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    This attitude is not necessarily caused solely on account of religion. Culture may also be a significant factor. I had a client whose ethnic origin was in the Middle East. She was a widow in her fifties. She felt and I agreed that she had a good case for race discrimination and sexual harassment in employment. However, eventually she did not proceed with the action because her father who was living in her country of birth would not permit her to do so since giving evidence in public about such matters would dishonour the family.

  5. Posted February 12, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Prof. Coyne,

    I admit that I’m slightly confused. You have stated a number of times that you do not believe that we have free will. Yet apparently you think there is something called “free expression.” I would think the two terms are mutually exclusive.

    • Marella
      Posted February 12, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      Why would you think that?

    • Posted February 12, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      Dude, free will has as much in to do with the concept of free expression as it does with “Free Willy” – i.e. nothing really.

    • Posted February 12, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

      And because the religios are determined to silence people, that has something to do with determinism?

    • Posted February 12, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Permalink


      As long as whatever we feel compelled to do (by our genes, environment, etc) won’t have deleterious consequences, why should we allow others to prohibit us from doing it?

      • prochoice
        Posted February 14, 2012 at 12:43 am | Permalink

        Even then!
        At least if it is one´s own body, as in abortion, suicide, euthanasia.
        As for others, torture/rape is more ugly for the victim/survivor as “deleterious consequences” in most cases.
        It is unfortunate that laws of men(!) do not recognize this biological fact; and I am glad that these topics are discussed so much in atheist circles now.
        Thousand thanks for the website, Jerry,
        and for the fine example, that even a being without “free will” has desperate need of free expression!

  6. Posted February 12, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    This seems to have had regrettably little, if any, coverage in the mainstream media. I’m afraid all the journalists were covering the anti-ACTA demonstrations…


  7. Christian
    Posted February 12, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    À propos free expression, it seems Malaysian authorities have extradited Hamza Kashgari to Saudi Arabia.

  8. Steve Smith
    Posted February 12, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    an atheist was FREE

    I wish I knew how to post images:

    Ateismo è Libertá

  9. TJR
    Posted February 12, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    So, there’s a big rally for free speech just up the road in That London, and the first I hear about it is on a website run by someone in Chicago. Says it all really.

    • Posted February 13, 2012 at 12:04 am | Permalink

      Where have you been?!


      • TJR
        Posted February 13, 2012 at 2:51 am | Permalink

        Er, somewhere with very poor visibility of the outside world?

  10. Diane G.
    Posted February 13, 2012 at 2:20 am | Permalink

    I love the name and purpose behind “One Law For All,” and hope it goes global forthwith!

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