Written by Student Rights on 13 February 2012 at 5pm

Student Rights at the Rally to Defend Free Expression

On Saturday 11th of February the Old Palace Yard opposite the House of Lords was the scene of a Rally to Defend Free Expression, organised by One Law for All. Despite the cold, there was an excellent turnout to see a wide range of speakers, including AC Grayling, Richard Dawkins and Nick Cohen as well as a large number of student speakers and other organisations.

Student Rights Researcher Rupert Sutton also spoke at the rally, and the following is a transcript of his short speech:

The news that an event discussing Sharia Law had been disrupted and threatened by a Muslim man on the 16th January was one of the most serious attacks on secularism we’ve seen on a UK campus for a long time, but it was by no means an isolated incident. 

At Student Rights we have seen a massive increase in the amount of extremist speakers on UK campuses over the last couple of years. 

Even in the last few weeks this has included the harassment of the LSE Atheist Society over the Jesus and Mo cartoons, a week of hard-line creationist events across the country, and the start of a speaker’s tour from Hamza Tzortzis, a radical Muslim apologist, starting last week.

At Student Rights, essentially what we are trying to do is campaign to ensure that these platforms are balanced and that these people can’t spread their hateful views without any kind of opposition. Unfortunately, when students do stand up to these kinds of views they are often described as Islamophobes, or as racist, and this is simply absurd. 

So, it is so good to see so many people here today willing to turn out to defend their freedom of expression, their freedom to criticise religion, and as well to criticise those who defend religion blindly as to not risk giving offense to people. 

Thank-you very much for turning out today, it’s great to see you all here.

A recording of this speech can be found 42 minutes into this podcast made by The Pod Delusion