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Jan 23 2012

Free Expression Day of Action is our chance to take a stand

The One Law for All 11 February rally for Free Expression is being held in London from 14:00-16:00 hours at the Old Palace Yard opposite the House of Lords. [Here is leaflet for download and distribution.]

Confirmed Speakers at London Rally: Hasan Afzal (Stand for Peace), Jenny Bartle (National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies), Roy Brown (International Humanist and Ethical Union), Nick Cohen (Writer), Sue Cox (Survivors Voice Europe), Christopher Crowley-Jenns (Kings College London), Alex Gabriel (Blogger), A C Grayling (Philosopher), Faisal Gazi (Spittoon.org), Jennifer Hardy (Queen Mary Atheism Humanism and Secularism Society), Kenan Malik (Writer), Chris Moos (London School of Economics Atheist, Secularist, and Humanist Society), Rhys Morgan (Student activist), Maryam Namazie (One Law for All and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain), Yasmin Rehman (Campaigner), Pragna Patel (Southall Black Sisters), Gita Sahgal, (Centre for Secular Space), Terry Sanderson/Keith Porteous Wood (National Secular Society), Kate Smurthwaite (Comedian), Bahram Soroush (Labour Rights Activist), Rupert Sutton (Student Rights), Jac Thomas (Kings College London Atheist, Secularist & Humanist Society), Marco Tranchino (Central London Humanist Group), Anne Marie Waters (One Law for All) and Susan Zhuang (University College London Atheist, Secularist & Humanist Society). There will be a message from Richard Dawkins and the Jesus and Mo cartoonist.

The call for action follows an increased number of attacks on free expression in the UK, including a 17 year old Rhys Morgan being forced to remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon or face expulsion from his Sixth Form College and demands by the UCL Union that the Atheist society remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon from its Facebook page. It also follows threats of violence, police being called, and the cancellation of a meeting at Queen Mary College where One Law for All spokesperson Anne Marie Waters was to deliver a speech on Sharia.

The Day of Action has already been endorsed by nearly 100 groups and individuals including Jessica Ahlquist, Centre for Secular Spaces, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, Richard Dawkins, Equal Rights Now, Jesus and Mo Creator, Taslima Nasrin, National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies, National Secular Society, Salman Rushdie, Southall Black Sisters, and Peter Tatchell. To see the list and add your own, click here.

Moreover, One Law for All and the National Secular Society are following up on the incident at which a One Law for All meeting was cancelled at Queen Mary after death threats. Tower Hamlets police said this morning that investigations in to the incident are on-going. They are working with university security and examining CCTV in attempts to identify the offender. They have also offered a police presence when the speech is rescheduled. We reported that the person making the threats had been seen again at the Francis Bancroft building on Wednesday 17. Furthermore, Dominic Bell, Vice President of the Student Union at University of London, said that his union is ‘committed to freedom of speech’ and would aim to improve the quality of security at their events. He said the union is ‘working on improving our monitoring and assessment of risk and [he] will be meeting the Director of Student and Campus Services and the Head of Security more frequently to go through this’.

In addition to the London, there will be actions and acts of solidarity in other cities, including Australia, France, Gambia, Germany and Poland. To see the list or to add your own action or event, click here.

Clearly, the time has come to take a firm and uncompromising stand for free expression and against all forms of threats and censorship.

The right to criticise religion is a fundamental right that is crucial to many, including Muslims.

11 February is our chance to take that stand.

You need to be there.

Enough is enough.

For more information, and details of the Day of Action, visit One Law for All.
BM Box 2387
London WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
[email protected]

Join London Rally’s Facebook page here and Tweet #11FebFEDay.

The rally is sponsored by The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason UK.

Below is media coverage of the rally and attacks on free expression:

A Day to Stand up for Free Expression, South African Times Live, 24 January 2012 [external link]

How freedom goes, The Spectator, 22 January 2012 [external link]

Strong religious belief is no excuse for intimidation, The Independent, 22 January 2012 [external link]

11 February: A Day to Defend Free Expression, New Zealand’s Scoop, 20 January 2012 [external link]

Islamist stops university talk with threats of violence, National Secular Society Newsline, 17 January 2012 [external link]

7 comments

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  1. 1
    Graham Martin-Royle

    See you there.

    1. 1.1
      Maryam Namazie

      Please tell people about the rally too.

  2. 2
    Steersman

    No doubt you are looking into the legal aspects of the issues involved as is the British Humanist Association where I see a quote from you on their “Contact” page. But it seems to me on the basis of a very rudimentary understanding and limited knowledge that the UCL and LSE Student Unions really don’t have a leg to stand on in their efforts to limit the free speech of the various Atheist Societies. And likewise with the case at the Queen Mary College. And, specifically, there is this bit from Wikipedia on the topic of hate speech in the UK which seems to justify that conclusion:

    The Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 amended the Public Order Act 1986 by adding Part 3A. That Part says, “A person who uses threatening words or behaviour, or displays any written material which is threatening, is guilty of an offence if he intends thereby to stir up religious hatred.” The Part protects freedom of expression by stating in Section 29J:

    Nothing in this Part shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions or the beliefs or practices of their adherents, or of any other belief system or the beliefs or practices of its adherents, or proselytizing or urging adherents of a different religion or belief system to cease practicing their religion or belief system.

    While I expect that the situation is quite a bit more complex than the above suggests, I would be interested in knowing, as I expect is the case with the many others who are following the developments, and, if you are able to provide any details, whether the above is relevant and, if not, which laws are, and whether there is any legal defense fund being created to which I could contribute.

    Thank you. And thanks to you and the many others who are drawing the necessary line in the sand on this very important issue.

    Regards,
    Jim

  3. 3
    Bruce Gorton

    For some reason it gives me a connection error every time I try to go to those pages, but here is my column posted in solidarity.

    http://www.timeslive.co.za/opinion/columnists/2012/01/24/a-day-to-stand-up-for-free-expression

    1. 3.1
      Steersman

      Good article; I managed to access it with the link provided.

      And good quote to end it with; one might hope to see it replicated on thousands of placards at the rallies.

  4. 4
    Bjarni

    Oh look! There’s a dinner in Melbourne raising funds for OLFA.

    I might just see if I can get along to that and find out what I can do to help :)

  5. 5
    asif hameed

    religion wants to dominate world ,religion has made itself a sacred so that people cant
    investigate it , specially Islam does not allow people to criticise it or challenge it ,religious people just follow orders from their dead books and so called creatores, its shame on today’s human being that they cant understand the truth of religions,all religious people have been programmed by their older generations when they were innocent child ,its not something that they have learned themselves , they have been conditioned , they have been forced to accept the authority of religion , its really sad that people are not ready to understand this simple fact ,so they are fighting to protect a beleif which is not their own ,
    unfortunately for these followers these cartoons can be enough to harm their fellow human beings,

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