From Jesus & Mo to Charlie Hebdo: Being a secularist in the face of the religious far-right

Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks, freedom of speak and the right to offend have been the subject of much debate in recent weeks.  But battles over freedom of speech have not just been fought violently in the street of Paris in recent years.  British Universities have seen some significant, though fortunately non-violent, conflicts of their own in recent years.  

 

One of the most famous was at the LSE, where the students of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Student Society were banned from wearing ‘Jesus and Mo’ t-shirts during a freshers’ fair.  One of the students, Chris Moos, came to talk to us about the affair on the 27th January.  As well as studying for a PhD, Chris writes for the Huffington Post, was nominated for the Irwin Prize for Secularist of the Year 2014 and campaigns against gender segregation, patriarchy, racism & political religion.


The B-Bar on the Barbican, which will hopefully become our regular venue, was packed out for the talk following some publicity in the Herald. Chris began his talk by running though the events of the freshers’ fair and subsequent controversy.  Initially prevented under threat of expulsion, from showing their t-shirts, then censured by the Students Union, Chris and his fellow society members eventually extracted a begrudging apology from the LSE.


But battles over the right to offend, an inevitable part of freedom of speech, go on.  Chris detailed some of his later confrontations with those who object to images of the prophet Mohammed being shown and the fallacious arguments used to criticise anyone who is deemed to offend Muslims.  The evening ended with an, at times, lively debate over the issues Chris raised.

 

 

Chris Moos