The Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society at University College London is the object of attempted censorship by the university’s student union because the former used an image from Jesus and Mo on its Facebook page, and that, of course, is “offensive.”
Citing a “number of complaints” regarding both the depiction of Muhammad and the fact that the image shows him with a drink that looks like beer, the union contacted the ASHS president demanding that he remove the image as soon as possible…Pointing out that UCL was the first university in Britain to be founded on secular principles, the ASHS have refused to remove the Jesus & Mo image and have launched an online petitionto defend free expression at the university. The petition, which you can sign, includes the following statement:
“In response to complaints from a number of students, the University College London Union has insisted that the UCLU Atheist, Secularist & Humanist Society remove the following image from a Facebook event advertising a pub social. It has done so on the grounds that it may cause offence to Muslim students.
This is a gross infringement on its representatives’ right to freedom of expression taken by members of the first secular university in England. All people are free to be offended by any image they view. This does not give them the right to impose their beliefs on others by censoring such images.
We the undersigned urge the University College London Union to immediately halt their attempts to censor the UCLU Atheist, Secularist & Humanist Society and uphold its members’ right to freedom of expression.”
And then there’s an unpleasant little update:
Update: one of the Islamic societies at UCL, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association, has put out a statementarguing that the ASHS is wrong to refuse to take down the image from Jesus & Mo. The author argues that there is a difference between freedom of speech and freedom to insult, and suggests that once something has offended someone, it should be withdrawn:
“Once a particular act is deemed to be offensive to another, it is only good manners to refrain from, at the very least, repeating that act. In this particular case, when at first the cartoon was uploaded, it could have been mistaken as unintentional offense. When certain Muslims voiced their offense over the issue, for any civil, well-mannered individual or group of individuals, it should then be a question as to the feelings of others and the cartoons should then have been removed.”