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Jan 17 2012

“If I hear that anything is said against the holy Prophet Muhammad”

Yesterday evening, One Law for All Co-Spokesperson Anne Marie Waters was to speak at a meeting on Sharia Law and Human Rights at the University of London. Maryam continues:

It was cancelled by the atheist group organisers after police had to be called in due to Islamist threats. One Islamist filmed everyone at the meeting and announced he would hunt down those who said anything negative about Islam’s prophet. Outside the hall, he threatened to kill anyone who defamed the prophet. Reference was made to the Jesus and Mo cartoon saga at UCL.

The University’s security guard – a real gem –arrived first only to blame the speaker and organisers rather than those issuing death threats. He said: ‘If you will have these discussions, what do you expect?’

Well quite – they all “sparked the anger of Muslims” by holding and/or attending the meeting, so it was totes their fault.

 Again, this is not about lacking cultural sensitivity or discrimination as the pathetic UCL Union thinks. It is not about racism and ‘Islamophobia’. It is not our fault for raising the issues. We are not to blame for ‘provoking’ the Islamists; they need no such provocation…

It’s about being able to criticise and speak out against that which is taboo and the barbarism of our century. Free expression is all we have at our disposal to do so.

Stand up for it and refuse to budge or there will nothing left when they are through with you.

We are not to blame for “provoking” or “sparking” or “triggering” anything.

The New Humanist blog provides more details via the president of the Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society at Queen Mary:

Five minutes before the talk was due to start a man burst into the room holding a camera phone and for some seconds stood filming the faces of all those in the room. He shouted ‘listen up all of you, I am recording this, I have your faces on film now, and I know where some of you live’, at that moment he aggressively pushed the phone in someone’s face and then said ‘and if I hear that anything is said against the holy Prophet Muhammad, I will hunt you down.’ He then left the room and two members of the audience applauded.

The same man then began filming the faces of Society members in the foyer and threatening to hunt them down if anything was said about Muhammad, he added that he knew where they lived and would murder them and their families. On leaving the building, he joined a large group of men, seemingly there to support him. We were told by security to stay in the Lecture Theatre for our own safety. On arriving back in the room I became aware that the doors that opened to the outside were still open and that people were still coming in. Several eye witnesses reported that when I was in the foyer a group of men came through the open doors, causing a disruption and making it clear that the room could not be secured. Unfortunately, the lack of security in the lecture theatre meant we and the audience had to leave and a Union representative informed the security that as students’ lives had been threatened there was no way that the talk could go ahead.

This event was supposed to be an opportunity for people of different religions and perspectives to debate, at a university that is supposed to be a beacon of free speech and debate. Only two complaints had been made to the Union prior to the event, and the majority of the Muslim students at the event were incredibly supportive of it going ahead. These threats were an aggressive assault on freedom of speech and the fact that they led to the cancellation of our talk was severely disappointing for all of the religious and non-religious students in the room who wanted to engage in debate.

So much for free speech and debate.

23 comments

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  1. 1
    Fin

    I actually agree with the statement of “What do you expect?” – not as deployed, as against the speakers or anything of the sort, but just because it is completely unsurprising. This sort of reaction is why these kinds of discussions have to happen. Until we can’t reasonably expect that kind of reaction, these discussions are incredibly important.

    It’s kind of an inoculation process for Islam. As an ideology it will have to learn how to deal with these things, without violence.

  2. 2
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    I actually agree with the statement of “What do you expect?”

    I expect more.

  3. 3
    Your Name's not Bruce?

    So if they don’t want to hear anything said against their prophet, maybe they should plug their ears.

  4. 4
    Cathy W

    “What do you expect?”

    I expect security to deal with the guy making death threats.

  5. 5
    julian

    I expect security to deal with the guy making death threats.

    You expect to much it seems.

  6. 6
    Stonyground

    Is that right then, you can make something be true by threatening to kill anyone who says that it isn’t?

    Or is it more true that if you resort to threats of violence you prove that you have lost the argument and know that you are wrong but can’t admit it?

  7. 7
    Tim Harris

    One hopes that the university authorities won’t be so craven as those at Rhys Morgan’s school and will chuck the fellow uttering threats out of the university and press charges. I notice, by the way, that the New Humanist blog says that most of the Muslim students at the event were ‘incredibly supportive’ of it. I think that needs to be noted; I should also like to see more about the stand being taken by ordinary Muslims against these thugs – and they need support in this, support that is not being provided by school authorities who threaten to expell a student for putting up a Jesus & M cartoon on his website (I do not how those thoughtful and, pace Julian, often quite funny cartoons can in any way be regarded as an instigation to hate, which is, I suppose, the excuse the authorities are making) or by security guards who take no notice of threats (I suggest, incidentally, that it should not only be the thugs who bring along cameras to such events: others should do so, too, so that such behaviour can be put on record).

  8. 8
    Rrr

    Stonyground, I agree. It means you have conceded a loss on argument and have to resort to (threats of) violence. Old Chinese proverb. Reportedly. The first one reduced to physicals loses.

    Argument over. As in coin forfeit. Play again? Y/N?

  9. 9
    Steersman

    “If I hear that anything is said against the holy Prophet Muhammad”

    Well, I have a late breaking flash for them. Ibn Warraq, in his astounding and highly recommended (including by R. Joseph Hoffmann) Why I Am Not a Muslim, provides chapter and verse, based on a great many early and later “Muslim” scholars, to justify the conclusion that Muhammad was a “pious fraud” at best and a thief, a brigand, an opportunist, an “unbridled libertine” – in short, an all-round prick of the first order – as the shortest elaboration of a much longer bill of particulars. And on which bill, or rather the tip of it, Warraq quotes Hume:

    “[The Koran is a] wild and absurd performance. Let us attend to [Muhammad’s] narration; and we shall soon find that he bestows praise on such instances of treachery, inhumanity, cruelty, revenge, and bigotry as are utterly incompatible with civilized society. No steady rule of right seems there to be attended to; and every action is blamed or praised, so far only as it is beneficial or hurtful to the true believers.”

    Maybe the University of London would prefer to burn both that book of Warraq’s and Hume’s in their pathetic groveling before the threat of, er, pursuit of not “provoking” or “sparking”, Islamic “displeasure”. Well tough. Free speech is a concomitant of democracy and if those Islamic fundamentalists – although Warraq argues that they are all such – wish not to accept those rules then they are welcome to leave – I’ll even contribute a nickel to speed them on their ways.

    It is a sad commentary on the state of Britain, the country that was if not the birth place of democracy then the one where its torch was relit after fifteen centuries of the dark ages, that some therein should accede to or condone such fascist and entirely reprehensible behaviour.

  10. 10
    Joaquin Rael

    Where’s our Muslim buddy Josh Rosenau to defend free speech? He’s been more than happy to come down on the “gnu” atheists ad naseum. Of course, what he’ll probably do is decry you as a bigot for ‘cherry picking’ news that places his fellow Muslims in a negative light.

  11. 11
    Ian MacDougall

    “Yesterday evening, One Law for All Co-Spokesperson Anne Marie Waters was to speak at a meeting on Sharia Law and Human Rights at the University of London. It was cancelled.”

    It’s the old, old story of what you get when you go down the road of appeasement. The tyrants and would-be tyrants have no respect for appeasers. Impressed by their weakness, they just make further demands, and more still, until they have all the control and power they want.

    The University’s security guard was indeed a real gem. He reportedly said: ‘If you will have these discussions, what do you expect?’ And in his own way, he was dead right. If you are going to exercise what freedom of speech you still have, expect some little Hitler and his pack of thugs to try to shut you up.

    Just as one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter, there is no easy demarcation line between criticism and ridicule, or between respect and intimidation. It is one thing to invade a private space like a mosque and start heckling ‘The Prophet’, and another altogether to criticise Islamic doctrines and practices in secular public meetings and public spaces. The Islamists cannot and will not see the difference.

    They will not stop until all public space in Britain is the interior of one huge mosque. Then they might, just might, be satisfied.

  12. 12
    'Tis Himself

    It’s interesting that this particular bunch of Muslims think the only way that Mohammed will respected by non-Muslims is through threats of violence.

  13. 13
    Ophelia Benson

    Josh Rosenau a Muslim? News to me. Last I heard he was a secular Jewish indifferentist – meaning he doesn’t care about god one way or the other.

  14. 14
    Ian MacDougall

    Though I am not a lawyer, my understanding is that in Britain a threat of assault is itself a form of assault at law, and that the police would be entitled to arrest the threatener on that charge. This would be regardless of whether the threat was made to a single individual, or to the group as a whole.

    But I may be wrong. If I am, I would say that the law needs amending to stop a drift into intimidation and violence.

  15. 15
    Steersman

    Ian MacDougall (#11),

    They will not stop until all public space in Britain is the interior of one huge mosque. Then they might, just might, be satisfied.

    Not even then unfortunately. Ibn Warraq in his Why I Am Not a Muslim [highly recommended] quotes Muir’s Life of Mahomet extensively to paint a far more damning picture of both Muhammad and Islam than I would have imagined:

    In the Meccan period of [Muhammad’s] life there certainly can be traced no personal ends or unworthy motives …. Mahomet then was nothing more than he professed to be, “a simple Preacher and a Warner”; ….

    But the scene changes at Medina. There temporal power, aggrandisement, and self-gratification mingled rapidly with the grand object of the Prophet’s life; and they were sought and attained by just the same instrumentality. Messages from heaven were freely brought down to justify political conduct, in precisely the same manner as to inculcate religious precept. Battles were fought, executions ordered, and territories annexed, under cover of the Almighty’s sanction. Nay, even personal indulgences were not only excused but encouraged by the divine approval or command.

    And specific to your observation:

    The name of the Almighty imparted a terrible strength to the sword of the State; and the sword of the State yielded a willing return by destroying “the enemies of God” and sacrificing them at the shrine of the new religion. “Slay the unbelievers wheresoever ye find them”, was now the watchword of Islam. “Fight in the ways of God until opposition be crushed and the Religion become the Lord’s alone”.

    As long as Muslims insist that the Quran and every last thing in it is the divine “Word of Allah” and immune to criticism so will it be used to justify all sorts of atrocities and beliefs inimical and antithetical to democracy. The West might as well clasp a viper to its bosom as permit the immigration of Muslims.

  16. 16
    Ian MacDougall

    Steersman:

    Yes. The problem is that Islam (meaning ‘submission’, not ‘peace’) is a particularly violence-prone religion. In fact, that is the reason why a lot of Muslims want to emigrate to the west.

    However, no western government is prepared to ban Muslim immigration. It would impose a religous test on immigrants, and would cause outrage in the Muslim world, with a lot of trade repercussions (most importantly including oil) against the country that did it.

    I recommend Samuel P Huntingdon’s “The Clash of Civilizations’ and two works on modern Islamism by Patrick Sookhdeo: ‘Global Jihad’ and ‘Understanding Islamist Terrorism’. if you have not already read them.

  17. 17
    Steersman

    Ian MacDougall (#16),

    No, haven’t read those ones yet; thanks for the recommendations.

    But the question of immigration is certainly a somewhat intractable problem. While there may be, as you mentioned, “trade repercussions” I would think that the economic advantages go both ways and those Muslim countries might need the revenue – as the recent threats by Iran over the US led embargo would seem to suggest – more than they need to get rid of surplus population or segments that are particularly fractious.

    Although there are, no doubt, some advantages to the West in importing workers, particularly those who are in the process of being weaned from their religion. But for those who haven’t been – and they seem to comprise the largest percentage – and are most likely to cause the most problems, it seems that a “religious test” is appropriate – not impossible given that other tests and criteria are already applied; or the riot act – or equivalent – needs to read to prospective immigrants – again, not impossible, as for example here in Canada I’m fairly certain that such immigrants are advised in no uncertain terms that FGM is absolutely illegal and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

    But in any case it seems that to not take some steps of some sort to forestall the problems inherent in importing a fifth column, inherent in the conflict between Western democracy and Islamic theocracy, is really the proverbial recipe for disaster – the recent events being only a hint and a foretaste.

  18. 18
    echidna

    Ian @14,
    Assault is the threat of violence, battery is the violence itself.

  19. 19
    evilDoug

    It would seem prudent, for such events in future, not only to have several people well-organized to record video, but to have several pairs of disposable ear plugs to hand out to the offendees.
    On a more serious note, a few high-power flashlights (“torches” for those in Blighty) shone on the lens of a digital camera of any sort, in an otherwise low-light situation, will most probably confuse its autoexposure to the point of rendering dimly lit things completely black. It is also unnerving for the person holding the camera. Having someone set to turn off all but emergency room lights might be helpful.

  20. 20
    Ian MacDougall

    echidna @ #18

    Thanks.

    My copy of Sripathy & Ogle, ‘The Law Handbook: Your practical guide to the law of New South Wales’ 6th ed, Sydney, 1997, p 848 says “The term battery has fallen into disuse and now, generally, the word assault is used to cover both situations.” Both situations being assault and battery.

    However, I had no idea if this was true in the UK or elsewhere.

    I would also like to know if, once having been ‘assaulted’ (verbally) one is entitled under the law and in what jurisdictions to exercise physical self-defence, using ‘battery’.

    “One Islamist filmed everyone at the meeting and announced he would hunt down those who said anything negative about Islam’s prophet. Outside the hall, he threatened to kill anyone who defamed the prophet.”

    I would imagine that the police would be entitled to act on that information, and to haul the Islamist before the nearest beak. Sooner rather than later.

  21. 21
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Mountains out of molehills… it is like people desperately need to be afraid of some “Other” while doing nothing(or the wrong thing) about real troubles in the world.

    I say “gun” occasionally, but what I think I really mean is “offense is the best defense.” Offense doesn’t have to be violence, but it does have to be active and fearless, to the extent that you are able. Why is a room full of people cowed by one person with a camera? Don’t they have cameras, and phones to call the police, and a pen and paper to write down the person’s licence plate number, and an Internet to spread the word?

    We have the numbers, not the Islamists. They can’t even convince most of their fellow Muslims to join in. All we have to do is recognize that they aren’t some evil team of caped super-villains, but a bunch of mostly isolated angry punks that really only have what power we give them. If we don’t give up ground, they don’t have the power to take ground, period.

  22. 22
    julian

    Why is a room full of people cowed by one person with a camera?

    Because they’re regular Joe Schmoe’s who neither expect to be placed in this situation or have any real experience with it?

    There’s a reason effective militaries and police forces emphasize training. Overcoming our natural ‘lambs to the slaughter’ like state takes work.

  23. 23
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Because they’re regular Joe Schmoe’s who neither expect to be placed in this situation or have any real experience with it?

    The folks from One Law For All don’t expect this, and have no real experience with it?

    … then again, we don’t have that problem here in America, so I’m probably missing some cultural aspect that makes everyone in Europe seem unreasonably afraid. Here in America we’ve got the world’s largest military to act as a security blanket, but I’m not suggesting random drone strikes as a solution.

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