Jesus & Mo: Stand up for free speech!

JUST minutes after learning that a Cardiff student had removed a Jesus & Mo cartoon from his Facebook page after his school threatened to expel him, I learned that an Indonesian man, who used Facebook to declare the non-existence of God, could face jail.

According to the BBC, civil servant Alexander Aan, 31, is now in protective police custody after he was attacked by an angry mob earlier this week. He may also lose his job over his posting on the social networking site.

Atheism is a violation of Indonesian law under the founding principles of the country.

Police said that according to Indonesian criminal law, anyone who tried to stop others believing in a faith could face up to five years in prison

Back now to the ongoing Jesus & Mo row. Wunderkind Rhys Morgan, 17, who received the James Randi Award for Grassroots Skepticism for outing a scam drug, got himself into hot water after he posted the J&M cartoon in solidarity with the University College London’s Atheist, Secular, and Humanist Society.

Rhys Morgan

Because that image from the comic Jesus and Mo was his Facebook photo for a week, he has been harassed and threatened at school by his classmates. The sixth-former was then summoned by his head of year and told to remove the cartoon. When he said no, he was threatened with expulsion. Rhys details the saga, under the head Intolerant Islam on his blog.

Maryam Namazie, who is calling for a rally on 11 February, 2012, in central London from 2-4pm in defence of free expression and the right to criticise religion, revealed that Rhys has now removed the cartoon from Facebook. In an email to Namazie, Rhys said:

Unfortunately, given the extreme situation, I’ve removed the image in question. They thanked me for being ‘co-operative’, even though the reason I did it was purely selfish – not being expelled. They didn’t actually state whether I was going to be, but based on their wording, it’s obvious that is what they were threatening.

One Law for All, which is organising the free speech rally, is also calling for simultaneous events and acts in defence of free expression on on the same day in countries world-wide.

The call follows an increased number of attacks on free expression in the UK, including demands by the UCL Union that the Atheist society remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon from its Facebook page. It also follows threats of violence, police being called, and the cancellation of a meeting at Queen Mary College where One Law for All spokesperson Anne Marie Waters was to deliver a speech on Sharia.

Two days later at the same college, though, the Islamic Society held a meeting on traditional Islam with a speaker who has called for the death of apostates, those who mock Islam, and secularist Muslims.

Said Namazie:

Whilst none of this is new, recent events reveal an increased confidence of Islamists to censor free expression publicly, particularly given the support received from universities and other bodies in the name of false tolerance, cultural sensitivity and respect.

The right to criticise religion, however, is a fundamental right that is crucial to many, including Muslims.

Clearly, the time has come to take a firm and uncompromising stand for free expression and against all forms of threats and censorship. February 11 is our chance to take that stand.

UPDATE: The BBC reports that celebrated author Sir Salman Rushdie, will not attend India’s biggest  literary festival  for fear of assassination by Muslim fanatics. The author had been due to speak at the Jaipur literature festival later this month.

He said he had been told by sources that assassins:

May be on the way to Jaipur to kill me.

FURTHER UPDATE: Teenage atheist Jessica Ahlquist, who won law suit that compelled her school to remove a tacky, unconstitutional, prayer thingummy from a hall wall continues to be the target of Christian rage.

Jessica Ahlquist

Rhode Island State Representative Peter Palumbo referred to her as “an evil little thing”, and on Wednesday, according to this report, four different Rhode Island florists in the Cranston area refused to deliver flowers to Jessica.

At least one florist claimed to be frightened of the potential backlash from angry Christians who do not want Jessica to receive any flowers.

Hat tip: Marcus Robinson (Indonesia report) and BarrieJohn (Rushdie)