Oct 02 2013

Thames Valley v secularism

Remember Reading University Student Union and its affiliated group Reading University Atheist, Humanist, and Secularist Society? The group that had a pineapple named Mohammed on its table at last year’s Freshers’ Fayre and got kicked out of the fayre by the Student Union as a result? I wrote about it almost exactly a year ago, quoting their statement via the NSS:

Among the material displayed on our stall was a pineapple. We labelled this pineapple “Mohammed”, to encourage discussion about blasphemy, religion, and liberty, as well as to celebrate the fact that we live in a country in which free speech is protected, and where it is lawful to call a pineapple by whatever name one chooses.

Towards the end of the afternoon, we were informed by a member of RUSU staff that there had been complaints about the pineapple, despite the fact that no complaints had been made at any point to anybody on the stall. Our commitment to freedom of expression meant that we refused to remove the pineapple from our stall. After a few minutes, we were told by another member of RUSU staff that “Either the pineapple goes, or you do”, whereupon they seized the pineapple and tried to leave. However, the pineapple was swiftly returned, and shortly was displayed again, with the name Mohammed changed to that of Jesus.

Shortly afterwards, the second RUSU staff member returned and ordered RAHS to leave the Freshers’ Fayre. At this point, a group of around five students, some of whom self-identified as Muslim, approached the stall and began to criticise us, asking and telling us to remove the pineapple. Though these students mainly engaged in discussion, one removed the label from the pineapple without our permission.

In the end they felt compelled to leave, so they did.

Now a year on, the Student Union has disaffiliated the ASH group and declared it dissolved, so they are again outside the tent for the Freshers’ Fayre. They’re there now, for another twenty minutes.

Apparently Reading University’s Student Union simply doesn’t allow avowed atheism or secularism or humanism. That’s no good.



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  1. 1
    Graham Mullan

    it would seem that Reading USU do not understand that nobody has the right not to be offended.

  2. 2

    “Either the pineapple goes, or you do”

    Were Reading University Students Union performing a script supplied by Monty Python? Because I can just picture John Cleese (dressed in gown and mortar board) delivering that line perfectly.

  3. 3

    Maybe the point is that RUSU doesn’t want to be used as a forum for hate speech, and pinapple Mohammed could very easily be seen as a hateful exercise of “free speech.”

  4. 4

    Maybe the point is that RUSU doesn’t want to be used as a forum for hate speech, and pinapple Mohammed could very easily be seen as a hateful exercise of “free speech.”

    What’s “hateful” about it? For Pete’s sake, real people name real kids “Mohammed” all the time. And “Jesus.” What is “hateful” is punishing people for doing something that doesn’t ACTUALLY hurt anyone.

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