And so it should

Chris Moos and Abishek Phandis write:

We are delighted to learn that LSE has issued an unconditional apology for the appalling actions of its staff, which led to us being intimidated and harassed in a manner that does not behove a university. We welcome the LSE’s admission that its staff gravely misjudged the situation, and their acknowledgement that we were well within our rights to wear ‘Jesus & Mo’ t-shirts on campus and that this neither amounted to harassment nor contravened the law or LSE policies. Even though it caused us great distress to be publicly harassed and humiliated by LSE and LSE Students’ Union (LSESU) staff, LSE’s response vindicates our decision to stand up for our rights. Given that the LSESU officials were the ones who started the chain of harassment, it is of particular importance to us that the LSE has pledged to retrain LSESU officials and further work with the LSESU to improve their handling of such straightforward situations and events in the future, particularly where issues of freedom of expression are concerned.

Here’s LSE’s statement of apology.

And so it should.

Here’s a photo of me wearing their Jesus and Mo t-shirt to a debate on banning the burqa at LSE after the scandal taken for Vice:

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Is the niqab a human right, security concern or symbol of oppression?

LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society public debate
Date: Tuesday 15 October 2013
Time: 6.30-8pm
Venue: CLM4.02, Clement House
Speakers: Akeela Ahmed, Edie Friedman, Taj Hargey, Maryam Namazie
Chair: Professor Chetan Bhatt

Is the Niqab (face veil) a human right, a security concern or a symbol of oppression? Given the most recent events, this debate will shed some light on this controversial topic.

Akeela Ahmed is the Director of the Christian Muslim Forum.
Edie Friedman is the founder and Executive Director of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality.
Taj Hargey is the Director of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford.
Maryam Namazie is the founder and spokesperson for One Law for All and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain.

This event is free and open to all with no ticket required. Entry is on a first come, first served basis. For any queries email or call 074 2872 0599.

LSE Update

2013-10-04As I reported yesterday, two Atheist Society members were told to take off their Jesus and Mo t-shirts or be kicked out of the LSE (London School of Economics) Freshers’ Fair. Today, even though they went in with their J & Mo t-shirts censored, they were still told to remove it.

Nothing like a university defending, err I mean violating free expression, to warm the heart…

Well the fight’s not over. Chris and Abhishek aren’t giving in and neither are we. Let’s makes sure the LSE understands that free expression is not for sale.

As I said before, I’ll be wearing a Jesus and Mo t-shirt to my debate on the burka at the LSE on 15 October and I suggest the audience wear them too. Jesus and Mo just got in touch to see which one I want. I’ll definitely get the burka-related one.

Anyway, here’s Chris Moos and Abhishek Phadnis’ accounts of both days with today’s account listed first:

An account of events at the LSE Freshers’ Fair on Friday, October 4th:

We (Abhishek Phadnis and Chris Moos) arrived at the Fair at 10 am. In silent protest at our treatment the day before (see account of events of October 3rd), and still unsure as to what parts of the t-shirts had allegedly caused “offence”, we put tape (with the words “Censored”, “This has been censored” and “Nothing to see here”) over the faces of the “Jesus and Mo” figures on the t-shirts.

Shortly after midday, the LSESU Deputy Chief Executive Jarlath O’Hara approached us, demanding we take the t-shirts off as per his instructions of the previous day. We explained to him that we had covered the “offensive” parts this time, and offered to use our tape to cover any other areas deemed “offensive”. He refused to hear us out, insisting that if we did not take off the whole t-shirt, LSE Security would be called to bodily remove us from the premises. He left, warning us that he was summoning LSE Security to eject us.

At about 2:30pm, Paul Thornbury, Head of LSE Security, delivered a letter from the School Secretary Susan Scholefield. The letter claimed that some students found our t-shirts “offensive”, even though we had covered up the “offensive” parts of the t-shirts. It claimed we were in possible breach of the LSE Harassment Policy and Disciplinary Procedure, and that our actions were “damaging the School’s reputation”, and “undermining the spirit of the LSESU Freshers’ Fair and good campus relations at LSE”. It concluded by asking us to “refrain from wearing the t-shirts in question and cover any other potentially offensive imagery”, and warning us that the School “reserves the right to consider taking further action if warranted”.

Shortly thereafter, having completed our work at the stall, we began packing up. As we were about to leave, Paul Thornbury returned to confirm we were leaving. We told him that we were, and as we left the room, we saw that he was accompanied by several security guards, LSESU General Secretary Jay Stoll and Deputy Chief Executive O’Hara. The Security officials left the building at the same time as we did, confirming our impression that they had only been there to monitor us, like the two security guards positioned at our stall the day before to stop us attempting to put our t-shirts back on.

We can confirm that the aforementioned Students Union and LSE Security staff were the only visitors to our stall who expressed offence at our clothing. We had students from all kind of backgrounds come to us to express their support and astonishment about the heavy-handed actions of the LSE and LSESU, including several students who self-identified as Muslims.

We are still in shock about the intimidating behaviour of the LSESU and LSE staff. Again, we strongly reject the claim that our clothing or behaviour could be reasonably interpreted as “harassing” or “offensive”. In any case, we believe that in an open and multi-cultural society, there can be no right not to be offended without undermining freedom of expression, which is essential to the functioning of universities as much as of wider society. [Read more…]

LSE: What happened to freedom of thought

Update: Here are some other LSE related posts:
Charges of Offence and Islamophobia are secular fatwas
LSE Student Union supports criticism of religion – just not Islam
The Right to offend is fundamental to free expression


Chris Moos and Abishek Phandis of the London School of Economics Atheist Society are being threatened with being kicked out of the LSE Freshers’ Fair for – get this – wearing Jesus and Mo T-shirts. Around ten guards had surrounded them – it’s down to two now. They have been told to remove their T-shirts; if they refuse they will be physically removed from the university.

LSE: what ever happened to freedom of thought?

Yes, we know people have a “right” and “choice” to wear the burka (which is a mobile prison for women) but two LSE students don’t have a right to wear a T-Shirt poking fun at religion?

Listen up LSE: I am coming to your university for a debate on 15 October on the burka, and guess what I’m wearing? A Jesus and Mo T-Shirt. Now where can I get one of those quick?

By the way, below is the offending T-Shirt and also the latest Jesus and Mo comic. I’d suggest you look away or call the guards now if you are one of those pathetic people who is so afflicted with cultural relativism and multiculturalism that you can no longer tolerate anything that is deemed offensive to Islamists. I say Islamists because “Muslims” are people just like you and I (shock, horror). Some will be offended by Jesus and Mo; others will find it funny. Most will not threaten or kill for it. It’s the Islamists that do that and who silence criticism and dissent day in and day out and evidently also today with the help of LSE guards. Shameful don’t you think?

T-shirt 1T-shirt 2

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Sharia Law – Divine Claims and Harsh Realities

I’m back from a really good panel discussion on secularism in Ghent. I’ll post my talk when I manage to type it up but am madly working with Sonya Barnett of SlutWalk to finish up the Nude Photo Revolutionaries Calendar, which is looking quite beautiful, thanks to Sonya. We’re sending it off to the printers tomorrow.

In case you are in London, Pakistani Human Rights Lawyer Sundas Hoorain and I will be speaking at the LSE KSW.1.04 opposite the Peacock Theatre tomorrow 5 March 2012, 7-8.30pm on “Sharia law – Divine claims and harsh realities” . The event is organised by the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society. A map of the location can be found here. Hope to see some of you there.