No longer a “safe space”

Alex Gabriel reports another front in the battle against “Islamophobia” (meaning, in the battle against any and all criticism or mockery of Islam). This time it’s LSE’s Student Union hassling LSE’s student atheist society. It has to do with the atheist society’s Facebook page not being a “safe space” for Muslim students.


Well don’t look at me, it’s not my idea. It’s what they were told:

Here’s part of the e-mail I got today from the society, who’ve just met with their union to discuss the issues:

Essentially, a large of group of Muslim students felt offended that there were pictures of Mohammed on the facebook group. As a result, they felt that our facebook group was no longer a ‘safe space’ for Muslims. Thus, they have ‘requested’ that we remove the offending images. Until an official complaint procedure is completed they cannot mandate we take it down. However, they made it pretty clear that would be the next step should we choose to keep the images.

Was the atheist society’s Facebook page ever intended to be a “safe space” for Muslims? Is that the point of such societies – to be “safe spaces” for their opposites? Aren’t people allowed to be X without also having to be a “safe space” for anyone who disagrees with them?

No no and yes. It’s just a new way to bully people you don’t like – conflate a difference in world view with a personal assault.


  1. Jeremy Shaffer says

    I’m sure it is a perfectly safe space for Muslims though I doubt it’s anywhere close to safe for Islam.

  2. FresnoBob says

    I learned a very long time ago to stay away from places that were not safe.

    I think I was about 4. It wasn’t complicated.

  3. maureen.brian says

    How can there possibly be “pictures of Mohammed” on anyone’s facebook page? For more than 13 centuries no-one has had the slightest idea what he looked like.

    What they seem to be objecting to is a sketch / diagram / cartoon of someone who is probably human, probably male and probably bearded. Yes, that would cover the Prophet but also about half the human race for over a millennium.

    Don’t they have essays to write or something?

  4. eric says

    To the muslim students: ‘safe’ – I do not think it means what you think it means.

    Aside to @3: intention matters more than artistic accuracy to these folk. You could draw a stick figure, and if you intend it to represent Mohammed, they’ll take offense.

  5. lordshipmayhem says

    The LSE should also look at the Islamic web sites, and launch the same kind of action against them if they’re not safe for atheists and non-Islamic theists.

    Not that I’m actually holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

  6. FresnoBob says

    The really sad thing is that for a not insignificant proportion of our population, university is the only place one is likely to get a full appreciation of the importance of free speech.

    It is truly shameful that this seems to be the best we can expect from within the university.

  7. JetClarke says

    Since when is a Facebook page even a ‘place’? Guess what Muslims.. if you are offended by a part of the Internet, stay away from that part! They didn’t ask you to visit, and they won’t miss you, and you can scurry back to whatever Muhammed-approved parts you usually lurk in.

  8. jolo5309 says

    Why would the atheist’s facebook page be a “safe space” for a bunch of muslims anyway?

    Why is anyone’s facebook page, other then their own, be a “safe space” for anyone?

    Why is one group of adult’s responsible for the other group to have a “safe space”?

    What the frack is a safe space?

  9. shouldbeworking says

    Portions of the internet deal with ways preparing pork for dinner and other yummy things. I guess the entire internet is unsafe for narrow-minded bigots.

  10. says

    So I could go to any Facebook page even remotely affiliated with my university, find something that offends me, and get the university to make them take it down?

    I mean, I’m a big fan of safe spaces, but not everywhere is going to be a safe space for everyone.

  11. says

    This just gets more and more bizarre! What are people who say such things thinking? Of course, atheist sites/societies/groups are not “safe places” for religious believers, if by that you mean a place where they will feel at home. The purpose of such societies is exactly the opposite, to make believers feel as uncomfortable about their belief as possible. How else are minds to be changed? If Muslims never allow themselves to experience cognitive dissonance, then Muslims are not safe to have around, because they will be going off like bombs whenever someone says or does something that makes them feel “unsafe”. What a world that would be!

  12. Alina Malcher says

    I think if it’s a private facebook page then that might be something else, but a University FB page representing an official society at the Uni, I am sure they have to be sensible to not “cross the line” for others??? I also would not want Holocaust denying or Anti-semite pictures displayed at Uni by a Uni Soc…Why would that be necessary to make your mark anyway???

  13. Sastra says

    When I hear the phrase “safe space” used in a context like this I immediately think of the sort of therapy groups which became popular in the 70’s and 80’s — warm, accepting places where you were allowed to express your fears, troubles, hopes and dreams without having to worry about being criticized or “judged.” The general assumption seemed to be that those attending were walking wounded in need of complete support — and an audience which would listen and validate everyone’s personal experiences and personal truths. In the cruel outside world members had previously been subject to harsh, dictatorial demands to live up to the expectations of other people. They had been hurt, and then refused to be heard.

    Thus, the need for the group. Here, in the Safe Space, you were free to be yourself. Your voice would be respected. You would be believed. You were okay just as you were. Nobody would try to change you — or change your mind about whatever you knew you knew.

    Maybe this image accounts for my tendency to view religious people in general — and Muslims in particular — as prone to think of themselves as victims, damaged and thus become oversensitive and easily bruised, with a childlike need for protection and an incapacity for any sort of disagreement or confrontation. And I wonder — if this way of viewing the religious means that their faith is never challenged, would it be worth the price to them?

    Maybe college administrators think that, when it comes to religion, they have to take on the role of Group Facilitator.

  14. evilDoug says

    Perhaps their mums need to install Net Nanny to keep them all safe and warm. Or maybe they need to wear burkas.

    When an adult deliberately goes and stands on the railroad tracks, the person I have sympathy for is the engineer.

    Every islamist web site that features or links to someone making statements advocating death to the kuffar must be regarded as unsafe, and must be the object of complaint.

  15. michaeld says

    If you ignore for a minute the don’t draw muhamad which as I understand is more about worshiping the image anyway and assume he’s drinking a Shirley Temple ….

    What exactly is then unsafe or offensive about the heads of 2 religions getting together in a social setting?

  16. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    The Muslims are objecting to a picture of Mohammed. Certain Muslim sects have decided that drawing Mohammed is a sin. What the people objecting the picture of Mo want atheists to follow a particular Muslim practice.

    If Muslims don’t want drawings of Mohammed then they shouldn’t draw him. But they should not expect that non-Muslims should obey the dictates of Islam.

  17. evilDoug says

    “What exactly is then unsafe …”

    I’ve being trying to figure that out. I get that Muslims are not supposed to make or possess images of Al or Mo. In Mo’s case, I think that this is to prevent, in essence, idol worship. OK, I’m fine with that (I think it’s silly, but I don’t make the rules for them). But when an image is come upon casually (which I don’t believe for a femtosecond was the case here – they went alookin’), why is that “unsafe”? Are they afraid they will immediately fall to their knees and worship the idolatrous picture? Is this part and parcel of the same extraordinary weakness and inability to resist temptation that results in the need to cover up every square millimetre of a woman’s body – even, as has been suggested by some cleric, to the extent of covering one eye because two are too tempting? Does Allah do nothing to protect his flock? Can he not help them to find the courage to turn their heads, or as hyperdeath notes, click back? I can’t help but wonder if, in spite of all the bluff and bluster, they know they are incredibly weak.

    As for the need for tiptoeing about because the group is an recognized U. society, I would ask this: What do people think goes on in an atheist society? You would have to be a recent teleportee from a distant galaxy to fail to recognize that atheists tend to spend a good deal of time dis’in religion. For most of us, it is because we’ve determined religion to be nonsense that we are atheists. We don’t pretend it isn’t nonsense to avoid tweaking delicate sensibilities. Now I would regard putting up posters of Mo in “public” areas of the Uni to be inappropriate. I might even regard it as dubious if the atheist society had a picture of Mo on their facebook page IF that picture also appeared directly on the main page of a “master page” for all of the university societies. If you have to go looking for it and you are offended, then boo fucking hoo for you. If you deliberately seek it out in order to be offended and then are offended, then good, you damned well got what you deserved.
    We just recently saw a case where a Muslim thug deliberately and with menace and malice took away the safety of an actual physical space of other people at a university. I have zero sympathy if a few Muslims find a miniscule corner of the internet “unsafe”.

  18. says

    How about a “safe space” for non-believers? The accommodationists appear to be saying that, perhaps because we know better, we are obligated to play nice and pander to the sensitivities of the religious, even at our own meetings and on our own websites/facebook pages.

  19. carlie says

    It feels like they are subverting the idea of a safe space. That phrase usually refers to an environment that takes into account the needs of a minority group. Muslims have a higher societal standing than atheists, so it’s a larger group barging in and tromping all over a smaller one.

  20. Rumtopf says

    I suppose the Sharia Law and Human Rights talk wasn’t “safe space” for Muslims, either. That’s why some of them felt the need to burst in with cameras and threaten people into cancelling the event, after organising the disruption on a Muslim message board. Yeah, they were totes just defending themselves, the dirty kuffar speakers against sharia law made them do it! All opposing opinions are offensive, see, and those who have them need to shut up and stop being so offensive!

    I hope I can make that protest, I’m angry. Stupid social anxiety.

  21. Amy Clare says

    Hmm. Safe space eh. What LSE obviously fail to realise is that for Muslims who are questioning their faith, who might want to seek a different perspective, the atheist society’s page *is* a safe space. For such people it might be actually comforting to have a student society where the prophet is mocked (if that’s what having a picture of him means), where Islam is criticised. Because at home, or with their peers, they might be on the receiving end of a lot of hostility for questioning or doubting Islam. To the point where they might not even want to speak up.

    An environment where all Muslims are assumed to be the same, all assumed to be strong believers, is actually the opposite of safe for those in that community who dissent or doubt. Those people have the quietest voices so should be looked after the most by establishments like universities.

  22. sailor1031 says

    “What are people who say such things thinking?”

    That this is another good opportunity to increase their power and make a little progress in the suppression of religious dissent.

    “If Muslims never allow themselves to experience cognitive dissonance, then Muslims are not safe to have around, because they will be going off like bombs whenever someone says or does something that makes them feel “unsafe”. What a world that would be!”

    What a world indeed! I can’t imagine it!!

  23. Irene Delse says

    Memo to student unions: don’t get taken in by religious intolerance that drapes itself in the garments of niceness. Also, educate yourself about the rationale of what a “safe space” is and how to use it. You will learn that it’s irrelevant in this case, because the mention “Atheist society” was right there on top of the page to serve as a warning to people with easily bruised feelings.

    It’s not difficult to understand. Websites devoted to fanfiction written by and for 14-year-olds get it.

  24. dirigible says

    What’s very clear is that LSE isn’t a safe space for non-theists. And that they are making sure that Facebook isn’t either.

    How they must be congratulating themselves for striking against oppression. No, I’m not being sarcastic.

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