Article
Written by Student Rights on 3 February 2012 at 2pm

LSESU ASH Society thank Student Rights

This article was originally posted on the LSE Student Union website. It is reproduced below:

 

Statement LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society - February 2nd

 

Dear atheists, secularists, humanists and freethinkers,

First of all, we wanted to say a big "thank you" to all members of the society. The support we have received in the past two weeks from you, the National Secular Society, Student Rights, One Law for All, and especially the British Humanist Association and the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies has been amazing.

Many of you have written us personal emails and contacted the SU, expressing their concern about how the society is being treated. Your support has been tremendously helpful in getting us through the last two weeks, so thank you for that!

Now the most important thing is that you stay in touch with us and help us to protect the society and its members from unreasonable requests and defamation.

 

A lot of things have happened in the past two weeks. In order to keep you informed about what has been going on, we have made a chronological summary of the recent events:

 

January 19th

Contacted by the LSESU and invited to “a meeting to discuss some of the issues around recent postings on facebook etc.”

 

Friday 20th

In the meeting, the LSESU advanced that we were not providing a safe space for Muslim students to interact, as the pictures on our Facebook page were offending Muslims. Nevertheless, the SU told us expressly and repeatedly that we were not being accused of Islamophobia.

 

Monday 23rd

We received an email from the SU “officially informing you that you must take the cartoons down.”

This statement was sent to us just minutes before the Beaver went to print, so we did get a chance to respond to this request publicly.

In response to these email and statement, we were asking the SU under what regulations of the SU Constitution or bye-laws they were bringing these charges against us, what the 'the offensive nature of the content' was, and what threshold they use to make that determination.

 

January 24th

We sent an email to Nabeel Moosa, the president of the LSESU Islamic Society regarding her statement that we “have sought to marginalise a large proportion of the LSE student body while also causing harm to the welfare of Muslim students who have been subject to a hateful campaign against their beliefs and liberties.”

We asked her to “back up the allegations with evidence”, and if unable to do so, “withdraw her statements publicly so that they do not constitute slander”.

Until now, we have not heard back from Nabeel.

In the Beaver, there were comments reported to have been made that "Alex Peters-Day (LSESU General Secretary) condemned.....the calls from the LSE SU ASH Society to publish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad" and "there will be repercussions for their actions from both the SU and the LSE itself, but warned the LSE may take time investigating the matter" and Lukas Slothuus' (LSESU Community and Welfare Officer) reference to the "Islamophobic" actions of the ASH society in calling for a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad."

 

We wrote to Alex Peters-Day and Lukas Slothuus, making clear that we have not "called for" publication of the cartoons – members of the Facebook group have published them on our Facebook page. Also, we made clear that calling our actions “Islamophobic” alleges that we had engaged in any kind of anti-Muslim bigotry – which we have not, and never would allow any member of our Facebook page to do. 

 

"Alex and Lukas denied having made these comments. Nonetheless, they refused at that time to write to the Beaver in order to retract or change the comments."

 

We also contacted the LSE directorate and they have confirmed to us that we are not being investigated by the LSE, but that this is considered a matter internal to the SU.

 

 

January 25th

In response to this, the SU replied:

“When activity comes under the banner of the Student’s Union it should be open to all members........ The images which are posted there present a clear barrier to entry for a large number of students at LSE....... the cartoons has caused not only reflects negatively on the LSE SU brand but more importantly has caused significance offence to our members.

There are no clear guidelines on what is and isn’t always offensive......Because of this it is down to the LSE SU exec to decide in times like this what stance and action to take.”

The SU asked also asked us to change the name of our Facebook group so that the cartoons posted there "do not only reflect negatively on the LSE SU brand".

 

January 26th

Our response to that was:

“Disagreeing and even being offended by some of the contents of a social space do not represent a barrier to entry.........We welcome the fact that you acknowledge that the ASH society is not in breach of any bye-laws or regulations of the LSESU.

 

We also temporarily changed the Facebook Group’s name to “Atheists, Secularist and Humanists at the LSE”. We pointed out that this was in no way an admission of guilt or that the SU had the right to ask us that given the lack of arguments they presented to argue their case. Rather, we complied temporarily with this request purely as a gesture of good will in order to maintain a good climate of discussion between the LSESU ASH and the LSESU. We made clear that once we considered this issue resolved, we would change our name back.

 

The motion “No to racism – no to Islamophobia!”

Two individuals proposed in a motion that the SU combat “the hatred or fear of Islam, Muslims, or Islamic culture, and the stereotyping, demonisation or harassment of Muslims, or attacking the Qur’an as a manual of hatred”.

In response to that, we rallied to re-propose the motion so that it protects the Muslim community, but not their religion:

“Believers (Muslims) are worthy of our protection, while beliefs (Islam) are worthy of our scrutiny, criticism and scepticism. This is a university, and it would be nothing without the free exchange of ideas.”

 

The LSESU passed its first blasphemy laws with the votes of the far left and Islamic society. However, we managed to garner a total of 179 votes against this motion (339 for, 24 undecided), which is a victory by itself.

 

January 30th

We asked the SU to “cite the relevant literature that shows conclusively that “Muslim students cannot look at pictures of the prophet Muhammad”.” No answers received.

The LSESU Socialist Workers Society posted the posters on campus that included the following statement:

"The Atheist Society's efforts to publish inflammatory "satirical" cartoons in a deliberate attempt to offend Muslims serve to highlight a festering undercurrent of racism.”

In response to this, we filed a complaint against the LSESU SWS society:

“After being portrayed in this manner by an LSESU society, we no longer feel the university to be a safe space for the society and our members. We feel that we are being targeted and marginalized. We must emphasize the gravity of the ma