Guest post: Brass bawls »« No principle at stake here

Remember eleven days ago?

There was a lot of news coverage of LSE’s apology to Chris and Abhishek on December 20, which I somehow missed because I was looking at something else.

The BBC for example.

Prof Paul Kelly of the LSE told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “The law in this case was complex and given the complaint, with the backing of solicitors, looking for judicial review, we had to take legal advice.

“This was always a grey area. So yes, I got the judgement wrong but it was a complex decision and it’s important to make that clear.”

Prof Kelly added that in the UK there was no US-style First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech “without qualification”.

He said the university had to weigh up the Human Rights Act, the 2010 Equality act and the 1986 Universities Extension Act.

“Each one of those laws is perhaps clear, but when they all come together we have to make judgements.

“In general our attitude is very tough on promoting free speech at public events, lectures and student societies.

“This was a complex event because it was a welcome event. It’s when students from 130 countries arrive in the UK all together.

“Yes, freedom of speech still applies there, but it wasn’t the same as us objecting to a student society event or a public lecture, or as Christian, as he did later, host an event where students wore the T-shirts. That’s fine”.

Chris saw it differently.

Mr Moos said the university had not provided any evidence of complaints from students and the comments they had themselves received on the day had all been positive.

“You are judging us on something for which there is not evidence,” he said.

He argued that in fact the decision should have been straightforward. “It was simply two students exercising their right to freedom of expression that they have as much as any other student who might wear religious symbols or T-shirts expressing their faith.

“It was extremely shocking that the LSE still tries to justify their decisions.

“If somebody is wearing a racist or violent or gory T-shirt, that would be a totally different situation.”

He said their T-shirts did not offend or harass anyone, not even by the most stringent standards.

“What I would ask Paul is, ‘Will you actually apologise for the actual harassment we have suffered?’ That’s the issue at stake. You have apologised for the decisions made but not for harassing, humiliating and intimidating us.”

Prof Kelly said he was sticking with the apologies already issued to the two students concerned.

The Washington Post reported. It’s the AP story, so nothing new, but it’s good to see that it got to the US.

Also the Telegraph.

Chris Moos and Abhishek Phadnis were threatened with being thrown out of the university’s Freshers Fair if they didn’t cover up the images, as they manned an Atheist Secularist and Humanist Society stall at the event.

Prof Kelly, pro-director at LSE, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It was a difficult judgment and I quite accept I called it wrong.”

The T-shirts featured a picture of Mohammed prohibited under Islamic law.

No they didn’t. It’s not a “picture of Mohammed”; it’s a double. Author has said so. How would Author know what Mohammed looked like anyway? How would anyone? It’s a cartoon. It’s a sketch. It’s not a genuine, literal, accurate “picture of” Mohammed. And anyway even if it were it wouldn’t be “prohibited” – Islamic law doesn’t govern the London School of Economics.

The Independent.

The Standard.

The Guardian.

ABC News in the US.

Happy New Year, Jesus and Mo.

Comments

  1. Al Dente says

    “What I would ask Paul is, ‘Will you actually apologise for the actual harassment we have suffered?’ That’s the issue at stake. You have apologised for the decisions made but not for harassing, humiliating and intimidating us.”

    I noticed this myself. Professor Kelly explained that what LSE did was wrong, why they reached the wrong conclusion, and that Chris and Abhishek should have been allowed to wear the Jesus and Mo t-shirts. Kelly did not say: “I apologize to you for LSE putting you through this unnecessary harassment.”

  2. maddog1129 says

    How in the world was the situation complicated? It looks so straightforward and simple to me.

  3. says

    maddog1129 (#2) -

    How in the world was the situation complicated?

    Backpedalling without tripping on one’s own feet is complicated, especially after stupidly walking through a minefield of controversy.

  4. yahweh says

    Calling the decision complicated is just face saving. It needed courage which Paul Kelly could not summon. Social forces – particularly threats – constrain us all and limit our ability to act morally. The last pope should have known this but apparently didn’t.
    This is why Sharia is so evil. The lesson of the holocaust is that we are all Germans.

  5. quixote says

    Well, I’m of part-Slavic extraction, who were a breed of Untermenschen suitable for extermination, but I know what yahweh means.

    For instance, I see torture and detention without trial as the defining characteristics of dictatorship. People living under dictatorship have the duty to resist, otherwise they’re complicit in whatever crimes the dictators do. Am I resisting? No. I write the occasional feeble blog post, but I keep paying the taxes that let the US continue torturing people. Because real resistance is too difficult.

    That’s the essence of being a “Good German.” And I’m sure that it’s no disqualification to be be Jewish or gypsy or anything else, unfortunately.

    It was rather horrible to find that out about myself. I’d always thought of myself as courageous and incorruptible. But once the structure around me turned criminal, I didn’t fight it (enough).

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