Both The British Humanist Association and the National Secular Society report that the London School of Economics is exercising censorship of students who wore and apparently sold Jesus and Mo teeshirts at the “Fresher’s Fair” (“Fresher” = American “freshman”).
From the NSS:
A row over free expression has broken out at the London School of Economics after members of the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Student Society (ASHSS) were told they would be physically removed from the annual Freshers’ Fair unless they covered up t-shirts deemed “offensive”.
Student Union officials removed materials from the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Student Society stand and demanded that the group removed t-shirts they were wearing featuring satirical Jesus and Mocartoons. When asked for an explanation, LSESU officials stated that several students had complained about the t-shirts.
After a period of consultation a member of the LSE Legal and Compliance Team and Head of Security told the members of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society that the wearing of the t-shirts could be considered “harassment”, as it could “offend others” by creating an “offensive environment”.
As I reported in January of last year, the ASHSS were also censored by the LSE Students’ Union for posting and Jesus and Mo cartoon on the group’s Facebook page. As I wrote at the time (the Students’ Union complaint is in italics):
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.”
[My response]: This is a masterpiece of dissimulation: the cartoon is not racist (Muslims are not a race!), and it doesn’t mandate discrimination. It is a criticism of religion. Saying that that is “discrimination” is equivalent to saying that a poster criticizing the Conservative Party is discrimination. Why is it offensive to criticize religion but not political belief? It is amazing that universities, which should be the very locus for dissent and discussion, would prohibit free criticism of religion in this way. (You should, by the way, always be wary when you hear calls to balance free speech.)
The secular students’ account of events, posted here, is pretty distressing; it includes warning letters from the LSE School Secretary and the presence of security guard to ensure that the offensive tee shirts were not put back on.
The LSE Students’ Union is a humorless and repressive organization. As the NSS reports:
In 2012 the LSE Students’ Union effectively made blasphemy an offence following protests from Muslim students about a Jesus and Mo cartoon posted on the LSE Atheist, Secularist and Humanist student group’s Facebook page.
The LSESU passed a motion proposing that ‘Islamophobia is a form of anti-Islamic racism’. The Union resolved “To define Islamophobia as “a form of racism expressed through the hatred or fear of Islam, Muslims, or Islamic culture, and the stereotyping, demonisation or harassment of Muslims, including but not limited to portraying Muslims as barbarians or terrorists, or attacking the Qur’an as a manual of hatred”.
Remember, Muslims are not a race, but a religion, one adopted or practiced by choice (if you can call indoctrination “choice”). It is not an unchangeable genetic constitution, but a set of beliefs that are, in general, invidious, repressive, sexist, and worthy of denigration. Muslims have no right not to be offended.
Presumably the LSESU wouldn’t object to tee-shirts that criticize the Labour Party, or pass motions calling anti-Labour views a form of “racism.” And, by the way, the Qur’an is in large part a manual of hatred.
What is going on here is familiar and obvious: the fear of offending Muslims leads to repression of free speech.
In fact, though, Jesus and Mo is both anti-Christian and anti-Muslim; it’s really just anti-religion as a whole, because sometimes they throw in Moses, too. But what’s driving all this is specific fear of Muslim rage or offense.
It’s time to stop this censorship. In fact, what we need are more people wearing Jesus and Mo shirts. As Eric MacDonald has noted, the way to remove the sting of Muslim offense is simply to incite it so often that it becomes at once obvious, ludicrous, and ultimately meaningless.
Fortunately the Jesus and Mo artist has responded in this week’s cartoonI would have thought that many Muslim students came to Britain to escape the varieties repression and censorship in Islamic countries. And yet Muslim students in the UK seem pretty damn militant, and just as easily offended as their overseas confrères. And the officials at LSE fall all over themselves to cater to them. As I’ve said before, if one sees Muslims as a “race,” then the accommodationists are the real racists, because they hold Muslims to lower standards than other religions or other groups. Muslims are allowed to have tantrums when they’re offended, and, indeed, when they do so they’re given candy to quiet them down.