THE University College London Union’s Atheist, Secularist & Humanist Society is staging a spirited fight-back over an attempt by the UCLU to censor its Facebook page.
The group uses a Jesus & Mo cartoon to publicise its weekly pub social in London, but was told to remove it because it may cause offence to Muslim students.
The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies immediately launched a petition against this brazen assault by the UCLU on freedom of expression, and within a couple of days the petition drew over 2,000 signatures. It reads:
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 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.
Explaining the background to the controversy, the Alex Gabriel blog said that the group had been sent a message by a student union official which stated that “a number of complaints” had been made about the use of the image – partly because, contrary to Islamic teachings, it depicts the “Prophet” Mohammed, and partly because it depicts him around alcohol.
The union then told the atheist society to remove the image immediately and inform them once this had been done.
Gabriel reports today that the petition is attracting signatures from around the world. His blog was reproduced on richarddawkins.net, prompting Richard to add his name. Numerous other significant figures, including Maryam Namazie, have also thrown their support behind the petition.
The National Secular Society stood behind us, as did the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies and numerous other atheist student groups in Britain. New Humanist reported on the day’s events; PZ Myers blogged about them at Pharyngula, and society members from UCL were contacted by the BBC and by radio broadcasters all the way from Australia.
While on the subject of censorship, the BBC gets a good arse-kicking here for carrying a 700-word-plus article about the rise in the number of “honour attacks” in the UK, yet managed to avoid using the key words “Muslim”, “Islamic” or “Islam”.
Incidentally, it is reported here today that a select number of conservative Muslim Biology students at University College London (UCL) have began boycotting lectures on evolution.
Hat tip: Paul Williams