We must stop being so damned respectful, Dawkins tells London free speech rally

ONE of a number of high-profile speakers at yesterday’s Rally for Free Expression in London, Professor Richard Dawkins said that people should “stop being so damn respectful”. Without freedom of speech, Dawkins added, society would be:

In a scientific, technological, moral dark age.

Philosopher A C Grayling was one of the speakers at yesterday's rally. Photo: Tom Morris

According to this report, Dawkins also slammed the decision by the organisers of a literary festival in Jaipur, India, for “kowtowing to a violent threat” by rescinding an invitation to the author Salman Rushdie. Their decision was based on a demand by “some local Islamic scholar”. Dawkins joked about how, unlike Islamic scholars

A true ‘scholar’ studies more than one book.

Another speaker, Anne Marie Waters from the One Law for All group, which protests against sharia law in the United Kingdom, said that freedom of expression was “the greatest freedom we have” and that included “the freedom to offend”.

Accusations of Islamophobia against those who reposted the Jesus and Mo webcomic was one of a number of incidents highlighted by speakers. Susan Zhuang from the University College London Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society spoke of the reaction to the posting of the cartoon to their Facebook profile:

Maybe we were naive but we never thought it would come to this.

The university’s student union demanded that the group remove the cartoon, but the group declined and launched an Internet petition to defend freedom of expression.

The blogger and activist Rhys Morgan, who had been previously threatened with libel for saying that a clinic operated in Texas by Stanislaw Burzynski was charging hundreds of thousands of dollars to cancer patients for unproven treatments, also spoke of being threatened by his sixth-form college to remove the Jesus and Mo cartoon from his Facebook account. He said that the staff at his college “implied that [he] would be suspended or expelled”, saying that the image offended Muslims. He also said that he had got threats of violence including someone saying that his house would be burned down, and he was called a “God-hater”.