Stick to Economics.

Back in 2012, the London School of Economics Atheist, Secularist and Humanist organization posted a comic from the religious satire website “Jesus and Mo” on their group’s Facebook page.  When some of the Muslim students were offended, the school didn’t do something rational like send out an email suggesting that the right to free speech in a pluralistic society will mean they’ll occasionally run into something that might upset them.  Nope.  Instead, they decided to basically categorize “religious blasphemy” as an offense.   That way, people’s religious sensibilities could be preserved while those who only want something as trivial as the right to free expression can go pound sand.

Good job, guys.  Here’s their wisdom further explained:

The LSESU passed a motion proposing that ‘Islamophobia is a form of anti-Islamic racism’. The Union resolved “To define Islamophobia as “a form of racism expressed through the hatred or fear of Islam, Muslims, or Islamic culture, and the stereotyping, demonisation or harassment of Muslims, including but not limited to portraying Muslims as barbarians or terrorists, or attacking the Qur’an as a manual of hatred”.

It said it would take a firm stance against all Islamophobic incidents at LSE and conduct internal investigations if and when they occur.

I honestly don’t think these people could investigate their way out of a wet paper bag with a GPS, flashlight, trail of bread crumbs, and a great big neon arrow flashing the words, “This Way to the Great Wet Paper Bag Egress!”

First of all, I’m still in the dark as to how Islam is considered a “race”.  It’s a religion, and a pretty broad one at that.  Considering the range of cultures and ethnicities that have adopted it, there’s little sense in accusing someone of racism of all things when someone says something that happens to be insulting to their faith.

Second, the “-phobia” part of Islamophobia means “irrational fear of”.  Kind of like legislating against the insidious Sharia threat in places like North Carolina, or assuming that every Muslim wants you to convert to Islam and then blow up a building.  It’s not, however, writing a comic strip poking fun at Islam and Christianity.  That’s religious satire, and freedom of expression.

c/o South Park

Third, that’s the point.  The fact that the content of these comics can get the student union of a university to create regulations targeting blasphemy is at the heart of the issues the comic’s author has been trying to address.  There’s no hate or fear directed at either Christianity or Islam (which he deals with pretty even-handedly, at least form the ones I read), and there’s no demonization of either Jesus or Mohammad.  A lot of the humor is in their trying to talk their way through the logic of their own holy books … which I suppose some people might find offensive.

Lastly … this is just about Islam.  There’s no indication that they passed similar resolutions to shield the delicate ears of any other types of believers.  Maybe something’s already on the books … or maybe their members are just a little less childish about it.

Well.  That was last year, in any event.  Want to know what happened this year’s Fresher’s Fair? Same old crap, almost exactly the same reason:

A row over free expression has broken out at the London School of Economics after members of the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Student Society were told they would be physically removed from the annual Freshers’ Fair unless they covered up t-shirts deemed “offensive”.

Student Union officials removed materials from the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Student Society stand and demanded that the group removed t-shirts they were wearing featuring satirical Jesus and Mo cartoons. When asked for an explanation, LSESU officials stated that several students had complained about the t-shirts.

They were being accused of creating an “harassing” and “offensive” environment.  Because if it’s one thing we should never do in civilized society is say or do anything that might possibly be construed as insulting to someone’s religion, even if it’s something as innocuous as wearing a T-shirt with a comic on it.  Here’s the “offending” shirt, by the way:

The offending Jesus and Mo T-shirts. Sorry, there’s no better resolution I can find.

See, what I find offensive is the fact that a non-trivial percentage of the Islamic world will lose their minds over things like this.  The Dutch cartoonist who had the audacity to draw Mohammad’s image in a statement about free speech?  Death threats were his reward.  The US Army accidentally disposes of a Quran in an incinerator?  Riots in the streets, property destroyed, and people dead.  Maybe the good folks at the LSESU should realize that caving in to people who cry about the offensive nature of free speech is only going to embolden them to demand more.

The members of the secularist organization put on jackets and zipped them up after being threatened by security with physical removal from the premises if they did not.  Even after they complied, they were followed around from room to room to make sure they kept the jackets on and did not attempt to create any more “offensive” atmosphere.

Their entire statement is here.

Again, LSE appears to only care about walking on eggshells with regard to the Muslim population in the school, apparently not giving a shit about the fact that they’re clearly violating free speech and free expression to achieve that end.  I guess since the regulations only call out Muslims and “Islamophobia”, there’s nothing to keep anyone from creating an offensive or hostile environment for people like, say, non-believers who wish to bring people’s attention to the unbelievably disproportionate response some members of the Islamic world have to anything that offends their religion.

Personally, I think they can go take a long walk off a short pier.  If anything, we are under an obligation as a secular, pluralistic society to make sure we make fun of every religion with an even hand and a (reasonably) light heart.  I’m not saying we should go around shouting, “Mohammad sucks” or something, but both he and the religion he helped create should be the target of as much satire and criticism as any other religion*.  Free speech means nothing if it’s going to be curtailed the second someone is upset by it.  On that note, I leave you with another picture of Mohammad, this time on a prayer rug:

* this obviously excludes what isn’t protected by the First Amendment, like calls to violence, discrimination, fear-mongering, etc., like the kind of crap you almost-but-don’t-quite-hear on Fox News or conservative talk radio.

This entry was posted in Freedom from Religion, Religion and Public Life, Religion in the News and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Stick to Economics.

  1. Wow. There’s that. And there’s the US, where we can say whatever the hell we want cuz we have a right to, even if it’s not true (Fox News).

  2. Hijabi says:

    I wish I could have been there to stand up for these people in the T-shirts. I am a Muslim who wears hijab and I know what ACTUAL discrimination feels like. Pictures of prophets is nothing I’d ever think to call “discrimination” and certainly not “racism”. Who gives a flying fart about images? I follow the teachings of the Quran in that I love my fellow humans no matter what they believe and would stand up for someone whose rights are being trampled on by assholes. I’m frankly insulted by the very idea of these nitwits getting their panties in a bunch over cartoons that are actually pretty damned funny. As an artist, I have thought about putting together a comic book style collection of Quran stories to make them more understandable by everybody. Nothing controversial, even …. But who knows, I might end up being a target if I do. Also, that picture of Muhammad on the prayer Rug made me laugh… His head’s on fire and the guy standing there in red’s body language… What the hell is that expression? Priceless.

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