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Jan 19 2012

History has told us that these things cause offence

The president of UCL’s Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society, Robbie Yellon, has stepped down to be replaced by former vice president Michael Thor. Yellon quit because of all this mishegas about the Jesus and Mo image.

“Robbie stepped aside because he signed up as president to organise events and run a student society,” said Michael Paynter, secretary for the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies.

“He did not appreciate the stress he would be under when dealing with a controversy like this, so he wanted to make way for someone else.”

A small but no doubt pleasant victory for the shit-stirrers. The BBC goes on to make the shit-stirrer case.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association is continuing with its protest against the image, saying it has wider implications.

Adam Walker, the association’s national spokesperson, said the two student groups had worked well together in the past and said the offence was unnecessary.

“The principle is more important than who is being attacked – this time it is Muslims and Christians* but in the future it could be atheists themselves.

“There is no need to print these things other than to cause offence and history has told us that these things cause offence.”

That is such an interesting idea, or not so much idea as trap. People have pitched huge violent rageboy fits in the past over what they chose to consider “offence”; therefore history shows that what rageboys choose to consider “offence” will be met with huge violent fits; therefore you must never do the thing which rageboys choose to consider “offence”; so just forget about this pesky liberal idea of free debate. It’s an elaborate threat. “Our goombahs have killed people over this stuff in the past, so you know they’ll do it again, so shut your filthy kuffar mouth.”

But at the same time what we’re talking about here is a principle, and it could be atheists next time. It never is, of course, but it could be. We’re all in this together, united for the principle that perceived “offence” trumps freedom of discussion and criticism. In your dreams, Adam Walker.

UCL Union (UCLU) said in a statement: “The atheist society has agreed they will take more consideration when drawing up publicity for future events.

“The society was asked to remove the image because UCLU aims to foster good relations between different groups of students and create a safe environment where all students can benefit from societies regardless of their religious or other beliefs.”

Yes it did. We saw that statement a couple of days ago, and a very nasty statement it is. A “safe environment” is interpreted as one in which one particular religion is given special treatment.

*Note the lie. It’s not Christians.

13 comments

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  1. 1
    Ing

    The club should start sending in complaints about the graphics on the religious clubs FB page and similar things. Cause you know…it could be us next time.

  2. 2
    eric

    It would be kind of amusing if they were willing to practice what they preach.

    “Mr. Thor also noted that UCLASHA is currently in negotiation with the AMYA about their messaging. He reports that two groups are currently working on an agreement, whereby the Muslim society would give UCLASHA absolute veto power over all their public messaging.”

    Yeah, that’ll happen.

  3. 3
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    Yep. I’m thinking that it’s time to call the bluff. Just like the woman who brought in the Pagan books to counter the notion that Gideon wasn’t being given special privileges. It’s time for atheists to start complaining to the UCL Union about every religious thing that they find offensive. Quotes from the Bible or Koran? Offensive. Prayers to a totalitarian god? Offensive. Threats to the freedom of expression? Offensive.

  4. 4
    Raging Bee

    So a religious youth association is dictating to an atheist group how the atheists get to express themselves? That’s about as tyrannical and authoritarian as it gets.

    Adam Walker, the association’s national spokesperson, said the two student groups had worked well together in the past and said the offence was unnecessary.

    That could work both ways. It was unnecessary for the atheists to put up a picture of Mohammed; but it was also unnecessary for the Muslims to go so far out of their way to orchestrate such outrage against people they got on well with in the very recent past.

  5. 5
    Ophelia Benson

    Very true – the statement is ambiguous. Yes the “offence” was indeed unnecessary – there was nothing to be “offended” about, so the offence was unnecessary.

    The criterion for posting artwork or any other picture we like to our Facebook profiles is not usually necessity. If it were, Facebook would be a very naked place indeed.

  6. 6
    Jeff Sherry

    This is the beginning of the end of free speech in GB. UCL’s Atheist, secular and humanist society has essentially closed itself in the face of adversity and fear.

  7. 7
    Bubalus

    If violence is viewed as an acceptable response to a percieved offence, it is therefore the right of every football fan to riot when they are offended by their team losing.

  8. 8
    evilDoug

    History has told us that

  9. 9
    evilDoug

    Sorry – not sure what I did there!

    History has told us that offence will be taken from
    - the sight of two men kissing
    - a black man marrying a white woman
    - women at the front of the bus
    - drinking liquor
    - miniskirts
    - und so weiter

    And so what?

    I don’t think I’m quite evil enough to advocate production of a Mo equivlent of
    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-M3uobWY8pa8/Th3p8mAx9CI/AAAAAAAAN5U/ul1O-zlCYlI/s1600/AnitaBryantTP.jpg
    since it would be extremely offensive to a lot of people who do not deserve to be offended. Yet a small number need to get it through their heads that they can howl and complain and demonstate in the streets, but they cannot impose their religious rules on the rest of us.

  10. 10
    Ophelia Benson

    Precisely.

  11. 11
    Ian MacDougall

    History has indeed told us that difference of opinion can cause offence.

    The present is the key to the past, and vice versa.

    When any mob get their ideas enshrined as an orthodoxy, written history is likely to get revised to satisfy the orthodox. That means that books offensive to the orthodox get at least removed from public libraries (lest they give offence). The bonfires can be arranged later if public incineration is thought by the orthodox to help their cause. If not, quiet private disposal will do. Thus much of the literature of China went up in flames during the Maoist ‘cultural revolution’ of 1966-76; some of it lost forever.

    Apart from Maoism, the history of iconoclasm in Christianity, of the conquistadors in South America, and of Nazism and Stalinism can be drawn on to illustrate this process.

    According to the account at the link below, this book-burning practice has had an important role in the shaping of Islam itself, and in the formation of the modern Koran:

    “Caliph Uthman had men who knew the Qur’an to assemble it again. We find written:

    “Uthman then ordered four men to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. After this had been done, the Hafsah codex was returned to [Hafsah - one of Muhammad's wives, who is claimed to have maintained the original Koran and to have kept it from those who wanted it burnt, until her death in 667 CE.] ‘Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsah .

    “Having obtained this new version, Uthman ordered all other Qur’ans to be destroyed by fire. We find written:

    “Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur’anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt.

    “This means that drastic changes occurred. After all, ‘Why were the other copies and fragments ordered to be burnt?’ The answer is found in the original statement: ‘Hudhaifa was afraid of the different recitations of the Qur’an’

    “Hudhaifa did not want different versions of the Qur’an. To Hudhaifa, unity of the Qur’an meant unity of all Muslims. If Muslims troops were not united, Islam would crumble.

    “Since all other copies of the Qur’an were ordered to be burned, what was wrong with them? Is the Qur’an pure as believed by modern day Muslims? Since the decision to burn all other Qur’ans was politically motivated, the Qur’an of today reflects the political whims of early Muslim political leaders, not the prophet Muhammad. Questions like this will never be answered. But it is certain that the Qur’an of today is not the original Qur’an recorded only 2 years after Muhammad died. It is certain that the Hafsah codex would have been the most accurate and original Qur’an of all time. But Muslim political leaders made sure that it was destroyed. So what actually happened in the early years of Islam?”

    In short, bans on ‘offensive’ speech lead logically to the prohibition and destruction of ‘offensive’ books. (Vide the campaign against Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’.) There is no place for this sort of thing in an institution calling itself a university.

    More at http://www.harvardhouse.com/quran_purity.htm

  12. 12
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Did you see they’ve issued a final statement?:

    http://www.ahsstudents.org.uk/news/2012/1/19/final-statement-from-ucl-atheist-secularist-and-humanist-society/

    Not worthy of the BBC, I guess.

  13. 13
    Ophelia Benson

    No, I hadn’t, thanks. Pretty good. Not as fierce as it could have been, but pretty good.

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