A SCUFFLE over a pineapple called Mohammed broke out at Reading University yesterday after members of the Reading University Atheist, Humanist and Secularist Society (RAHS) refused to remove it from their stall at a freshers’ fair.
The prickly fruit, according to this report, was intended draw attention to RAHS’s upcoming debate, entitled “Should we respect religion?”
According to the society, they displayed a pineapple bearing the name Mohammed on their stall, to:
Encourage discussion about blasphemy, religion, and liberty.
A society spokesperson said.
We wanted to celebrate the fact that we live in a country in which free speech is protected, and where it is lawful to call a pineapple by whatever name one chooses.
In the afternoon, group members were given their marching orders. They were informed they had to leave the fair by a member of Reading University Student Union (RUSU) staff. The reason given was that several complaints had made against the “offensive” pineapple, although RAHS members insist they were not made aware of any such protestations.
The society refused to remove the fruit due to their “commitment to freedom of expression”. They were then told by the RUSU member:
Either the pineapple goes, or you do.
A struggle ensued for possession of the fruit. It was seized, but later returned it to its owners, who renamed it Jesus.
According to the RAHS, a small group of students then gathered around the table and forcefully removed the pineapple’s name tag. The society was then “forced to leave the venue”, accompanied by security staff.
The society voiced its disappointment at the chain of events, saying:
Our intent in displaying a pineapple labelled ‘Mohammed’ was to draw attention to cases where religion has been used to limit freedom of expression and other fundamental rights.
A spokesperson from the student activist group Student Rights said that the ejection:
Effectively amounts to a punishment for blasphemy, and should be deeply concerning for those who support freedom of expression on our university campuses.
The group said:
Whilst hate speech on campus is unacceptable, students do not have the right to impose their religious sensibilities on others, and they must accept that they may be offended by those who do not share their convictions.
The actions of the Atheist Society may have been provocative, but its members should have every right to express their views and not be censored. Instead of closing down debate Reading University Student Union should be encouraging students to interact with one another rather than pandering to the hurt feelings of the devout.
The university’s student union has yet to respond.
Hat tip: Remigius