Well here’s a good thing I didn’t know about – a talk that Charlie Klendjian of the Lawyers’ Secular Society (he was on that Big Questions episode, sitting I think next to Maajid) did in December, in which he does a fine job of needling Universities UK.
Well, well, well. Who would have known?
In the year 2013, in a western liberal secular(ish) democracy, segregation is not segregation
as long as it’s…driven by “genuinely-held” religious beliefs.
It’s a brave new world.
Talking of bravery, or rather the lack of it, I had never actually heard of “Universities UK” or
their Chief Executive Nicola Dandridge until a few weeks ago.
They really are exploring the outer reaches of the old saying that “any publicity is good
publicity”, aren’t they? Yep, I’ll give them that. Well you’ve certainly got your publicity, Nicola,
so congratulations to you and your team on that. Sterling effort. Quick round of applause,
please, everyone, for Nicola and her team.
A comrade, definitely.
So, now I have this conspiracy theory. I’ll tell you about it if you promise not to tell anyone,
ok? Seriously, this is massive, it’s right up there with fake moon landings.
I think Universities UK don’t actually care about free speech, or not in any meaningful sense. I
think they only care about keeping Islamists happy. At any cost. Any cost whatsoever. If that
includes turning the clock back on hard-fought gender equality then so be it.
Well if they’re so keen to turn the clock back with this “separate but equal” policy of theirs,
then I think we should turn the clock back too. I think we should borrow another phrase from
history, this time from the anti-drugs campaigns of the 1980s: “JUST SAY NO”
If Islamists want to separate men and women, or implement any of their other madcap
seventh century ideas, everyone should JUST SAY NO. Say it with me, come on, it’s panto
season, “just say no” after three…1, 2, 3…JUST SAY NO.
You are allowed to say no to Islamists, Nicola. There’s no law against it. Yet.
Seriously. Such a comrade.
Today he wrote a statement on the matter of Maajid Nawaz and Jesus and Mo and the LibDems.
The LibDems, you remember, said yesterday:
The Liberal Democrats are a party of respect, tolerance and individual liberty. We fundamentally believe in freedom of expression and as such defend Maajid’s right to express his views. But as a party we urge all candidates to be sensitive to cultural and religious feelings and to conduct debate without causing gratuitous or unnecessary offence.
Maajid made his own statement:
My view, that as a Muslim I was not offended by this cartoon, originally featured on a BBC programme without advanced knowledge that I would be shown the image. I then posted this to my social media in order to clarify my view, which was by now televised, that as a Muslim I was not offended.
But moderate language and a respect for others’ opinions is at the heart of both Liberalism and my understanding of what Prophet Muhammad (صلّى الله عليه وسلّم) teaches us. I wish to take this opportunity to re-assert that although I do not agree with those who have interpreted my comments in a way that I did not intend – and although I continue to hold to my belief in both Islam and freedom of speech – I respect the right of all those who have taken offence to express themselves peacefully.
I do regret if, in expressing my own views, I have caused inadvertent offence to any side in this debate.
In conclusion, I bid you all salam (peace) and request that we all allow ourselves to put this unfortunate incident behind us.
So here is Comrade Charlie Klendjian’s at the LSS:
The LSS fully supports Maajid’s right to tweet a Jesus and Mo cartoon and we feel no need to qualify that support with the word ‘but’.
We stand with Maajid and we are dismayed at the reaction to such a harmless act, and in particular we are appalled at the explicit death threats against him.
For the LSS the issue of offence is irrelevant to a discussion of free speech. The question here is whether someone has the right to post the cartoon. It’s an embarrassingly simple question deserving of an embarrassingly simple answer. The answer is ‘yes, because it does not infringe anyone else’s rights’. This is GCSE-level morality and human rights, if that.
We haven’t had blasphemy laws in the UK since 2008 and we don’t miss them. We don’t want them back – not today, not tomorrow, not ever. And nor do we want an unwritten, de facto blasphemy law in its place. The LSS opposes all blasphemy laws anywhere in the world. Anyone who thinks freedom of expression should be limited on the grounds of offence or disagreement fails with flying colours to understand the function and importance of free speech, and consequently they also fail to understand the very essence of freedom itself.
It’s not for Maajid to justify what he did; it’s for others to justify why he shouldn’t have done it. The burden of proof is squarely on their shoulders. So far the only ‘reason’ delivered up is that some people didn’t like the cartoon. The solution to that is mercifully simple: don’t look at it.
Holding religious ideas to account and challenging them – no matter how sacred some people might consider those ideas – goes to the very heart of secularism. Once we accept that certain discussions are beyond limits on the basis some people might be ‘offended’, we open the door to limitless harm. We enter a chaotic marketplace where the only currencies are intimidation and fear. We enter a competition where the winning prize is how offended someone claims to be. We want to live in a democracy, not a madhouse.
There’s more; read it all; it is just what we need.