Free speech row at LSE over Prophet Mohammed and Jesus t-shirt
Atheist students kicked out of freshers’ fair for wearing t-shirt depicting Prophet Mohammed and Jesus
LSE has sparked a free speech row after BANNING atheist students from wearing t-shirts which depicted Jesus and the Prophet Mohammed.
Two members of the uni’s atheist society were threatened with expulsion from Freshers’ Fair unless they removed their t-shirts.
Student Union officers and security guards surrounded Abishek Phadnis and Chris Moos and forced them to remove their t-shirts because they were “in danger of eroding good campus relations and disrupting efforts to run a Fresher’s Fair.”
When they finally agreed to cover up their t-shirts, staff instructed security to follow them round the event.
The atheist students, were manning a stall as representatives of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society.
They say they were approached by Community and Welfare Officer Anneessa Mahmood who removed material from their stall without explanation.
A number of SU representatives allegedly then told the group to remove t-shirts they were wearing containing pictures from the satirical ‘Jesus and Mo’ cartoon.
According to the Phadnis and Moos, when the group asked the officials which rules they had broken, they were told that the SU did not need to provide a reason at that time.
Phadnis and Moos said: “We refused to take off our t-shirts or leave without appropriate explanation, we were told that LSE security would be called to physically remove us from the building”.
After resisting expulsion from the event, without being informed as to which rules they were in breach of, they say they were then approached by the Head of Security and a member of LSE’s Legal and Compliance team who informed them that the T-shirt could be considered ‘harassment’ towards other students.
They allege that five security guards then positioned themselves around the stall and insisted that the group wear jackets or coats to cover up their t-shirts.
According to the students, after they agreed to cover up the cartoon, “the head of LSE security told us that as he believed that we might open the jackets again when he was going to leave, two security guards were going to stay in the room to monitor our behaviour” and that the group were subsequently followed around for the rest of the event by security.
The Student Union denies restricting freedom of expression and say the t-shirts “were clearly designed to depict Mohammed and Jesus in a provocative manner” and that action was taken after they “received a number of complaints from other students”.
Atheist and professor Richard Dawkins has spoken in support of the students, tweeting that “Everything probably offends somebody, to be on the safe side, LSE Student Union, better ban everything.”
He later added: “I’m ‘offended’ by backwards baseball caps, chewing gum, niqabs, ‘basically’ and ‘awesome’. Quick, LSE Student Union, ban them all.
“Of course you are free to choose what offends you. But you should NOT be free to impose your choice on others”.
The British Humanist Association, of which Richard Dawkins is a Vice President, has since weighed in on the matter. Their Chief Executive, Andrew Copson branded the event “a sad indictment of the state of free speech at Britain’s Universities today” and that they are providing the students with legal advice about LSE’s actions.