“Open to all” does not mean “pleasing to all”

The LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society issued a statement yesterday.

It starts with thanks for support from various groups (including One Law for All) and a chronology of the exciting events of the last couple of weeks, the first being an invitation from the SU to come in for a chat.

Friday 20th

In the meeting, the LSESU advanced that we were not providing a safe space for Muslim students to interact, as the pictures on our Facebook page were offending Muslims.

But again – why is an Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society expected to provide a safe space for Muslim students to interact? Why is that an issue? Are all student societies expected to provide a safe space for their own opposites to interact? Wouldn’t such an expectation render all student societies utterly meaningless and void? Or is it only the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society that is expected to do that? But in that case…why the fuck?

On the 25th the SU clarified this point somewhat:

When activity comes under the banner of the Student’s Union it should be open to all members…….. The images which are posted there present a clear barrier to entry for a large number of students at LSE……. the cartoons has caused not only reflects negatively on the LSE SU brand but more importantly has caused significance offence to our members.

So there we have the fundamental confusion: the confusion of being open with having no “barriers” when barriers are understood as “anything some students might dislike.” The activity is open to all members, but that doesn’t require it to be attractive to all members. At that rate there could be no musical society, because some people dislike music; there could be no socialist society, because socialism would “present a clear barrier” to free-market libertarians; there could be no feminist society, for reasons which there’s no need to spell out.

ASH made the same point crisply in response to the SU:

Disagreeing and even being offended by some of the contents of a social space do not represent a barrier to entry.

It must be dispiriting to be at university with people who have to be told that.

January 30th

We asked the SU to “cite the relevant literature that shows conclusively that “Muslim students cannot look at pictures of the prophet Muhammad”.” No answers received.

The LSESU Socialist Workers Society posted the posters on campus that included the following statement:

“The Atheist Society’s efforts to publish inflammatory “satirical” cartoons in a deliberate attempt to offend Muslims serve to highlight a festering undercurrent of racism.”

Budding George Galloways, all of them.

…we have now changed the name of the Facebook group back to “LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society”.

During the two weeks of the on-going investigation, the LSESU has not been able to justify their request to remove the ‘Jesus and Mo’ cartoons from our website and their request to change the name of our Facebook group with reference to the LSESU constitution or bye-laws.

The SU answered our letter, but was still unable to state explicitly the effective and binding bye-laws on which their request has been based. Therefore, we are back to our old name, and will stay with our name until the SU can prove to us that we are in violation of any of their regulations or bye-laws.

We await further developments.



  1. eric says

    The images which are posted [on a web site] there present a clear barrier to entry [to a web site!] for a large number of students at LSE…….



  2. piero says

    An excellent reply. I didn’t expect any less from the Atheist Society, but it was great to read such a good summary of the real issues involved.

  3. Lycanthrope says


    Sure, they’re welcome. Doesn’t mean I’m going to clean up my act just for them and go out of my way to beg them to come in.

  4. skephtic says

    I am a little curious about this. If, say, the ASH should find the advocacy for death penalties for blasphemy and adultery offensive, will the LSESU immediately censure the Christian and Islamic groups for posting the bible and the koran, and have them removed to make the Christian and Islamic groups a “safe place” for secularists? I’m just trying to figure how this all works… :-p

  5. says

    The Muslim’s claim that “Allah is the One True God, and Mohammed is his prophet” is offensive to atheists, also offensive AND blasphemous to non-Muslim theists. So their statement of faith makes their clubs inherently hostile to non-believers… and I’m fine with that. Is this a practice run for trying to ban other non-Muslim clubs? If so, maybe someone should wise up now, rather than set a nasty precedent.

  6. MichaelD says

    What would happen if the whole ASH society tried to join the muslim one?

    Is there a student labor party group or something like that on campus? Do they have to be nice and open and hold their tongues about political ideas or parties?

    This whole thing screams religious entitlement and privilege.

  7. says

    As long as there are no bylaws saying that such and such a person is not allowed to join the club, then there is nothing barring Muslims from joining the atheist club. Each club is not supposed to be a safe space–if they were, then they would be called that instead of clubs. Yeah, the student union really doesn’t have a point or any grounds for their actions.

  8. says

    If, say, the ASH should find the advocacy for death penalties for blasphemy and adultery offensive, will the LSESU immediately censure the Christian and Islamic groups for posting the bible and the koran, and have them removed to make the Christian and Islamic groups a “safe place” for secularists?

    You don’t even need to go that far. The Bible condemns gay men outright, but does that stop gay men from joining Christian student clubs? Are Christian clubs being forced to put away their Bibles or rip out the offending passages to make their clubs safe spaces for gay men? I seriously doubt it.

  9. eric says

    Here’s hoping the author of Jesus and Mo now does a strip on this.

    Jesus: “Bartender, you need to remove the Bud sign from over the bar. Its preventing me from having a good time.”
    Mo: “And this barstool is too hard. You must get padded barstools.”
    Bartender: “Why don’t you guys start your own bar? That way you can decorate it any way you want.”
    Jesus and Mo: “Racist.”

  10. Felix says

    “reflects negatively on the LSE SU brand”

    OH, FFS!
    What a bunch of wannabe marketing executives and telephone sanitation engineers.

  11. Josh Slocum says

    Barriers to entry? Well, that could be solved with Trigger Warnings(TM) couldn’t it? Perhaps the folks at Slacktiverse could consult on the appropriate and proportional use of such warnings.

  12. Jeff says

    It is clear that there’s an unconscious understanding that the muslim students are dangerous, repressed becuase of cultural pressure to do so. It’s best to be prepared for the uncivil to behave as they are likely to in a civil environment. When a pack of feral dogs roams the neighborhood, you can tolerate them as long as they don’t become a problem but you don’t invite them to the party. I know, these folks are human and have human faculties but the standard better be higher than that or they’ll demonstrate their primate natures all over your house.

  13. says

    Well true, if I set up a Facebook atheist group I won’t much want feral dogs joining it, so maybe I will post lots of images of Brian and Snoopy and other risible dogs so that their fee-fees will be hurt and they’ll go somewhere else to be feral.

  14. Jeff Johnson says

    It would be interesting to see how this situation would play out in reverse. If the atheists point out images, symbols, actions, or words of the Muslims that they find offensive to their sense of human dignity and decency and truth, would there we equal deference paid?

    I’m offended by the hijab, the chador, the niqab, the abbiya, all of which are symbols of Muslim patriarchal oppression of women. I’m offended that a woman’s testimony is only worth half that of a man in Sharia law. I get offended when Muslims speak reverently of how perfect their book is, as if it weren’t just one more cultural artifact to be contrasted and compared critically with all the other excellent writings available in the library. I get offended by the corruption of the english language by the slave-like servitude represented in suffixes like PBUH.

    All of these things are rude insensitive barbaric insults to the progress of humanity, to reason, to the principles of liberty and justice and equality. The Muslims must be made aware of the horrible brutality and primitive depravity of their insulting behavior and beliefs. It is incredibly insensitive of them to disregard the feelings of atheists.

    Let the administrators begin asking the Muslims to adjust their lives and behaviors out of consideration for and respect of Western secular humanist values.

    Somehow I think it wouldn’t receive the same attention. There are two reasons for that.

    One is the instinctive, reflexive, unjust deference paid to all things religious.

    The second, and I think the primary reason behind this difference, is the fact that nobody is really worried that atheists are going to start blowing stuff up in order to be praised by their fellows and to earn blessings and glory from an imaginary being in the sky.

    The LSESU is demonstrating their cowardice and their willingness to pay respect to a sub-culture simply because far too frequently its members have shown themselves crazy enough and uncivilized enough to go to any lengths to harm and butcher and slaughter anyone who dares to question their claims of absolute superiority and perfection.

    This represents a deep failure to recognize and to stand in defense of the principles that ought to be the foundations of learning at any respectable institution of higher learning.

  15. Midnight Rambler says

    What would happen if the whole ASH society tried to join the muslim one?

    That was my immediate thought as well. If the LSESU is going to get this stupid, it sounds like it’s time for the Muslim group to demonstrate that it’s providing a safe space for atheists.

  16. says

    When “safe spaces” gets used in this kind of context… (*Excuse me while I smash my teacup against the wall*… Ah. Composure regained). It’s just the kind of drivel which has infiltrated so deeply into the kind of places whose entire freakin’ purpose is to promote rational, critical, SANE thinking. Academia and journalism. “Safe spaces” to interact are for people who are actually victimised, not for their victimisers – perhaps the memo on the kind of people who tend to lead FOSIS in the UK (I’ll give you a clue. Pantybomber) hasn’t yet reached the bright sparks at LSE SU. “Safe spaces” for violent, racist, homophobic, misogynist fanatics is yet another example of the abuse of language and terminology which makes me zone out automatically whenever I hear the latest trendy PoMo PC term. Maybe the atheists and freethinkers would take the initiative, get on the offensive and zerg rush the SOAS Palestine Soc for their abject failure to provide “safe spaces” for interaction? Two can play at that game my sisters and brothers! I won’t be holding my breath though guys. I wouldn’t want you to get smeared with a charge of Islamofauxbia anti-Islamic racism . Sorry, I forgot, in the UK the Shari’ah-compliant EUSSR satellite of Londonistan publishing a cartoon of He who must not be portrayed is an offensive, racist, possibly actionable offence generating infinite butthurt, but biting and punching somebody in the face because he’s a filthy infidel Jewpig “Zionist” because you disagree with his political views is hardly not providing “safe spaces for interaction” now is it? “Self-defence”, apparently. Certainly not in the eyes of some UK District Judges ! Positively f@<I=n' Orwellian.

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