The London School of Economics (LSE) has been in the news recently thanks to a certain ex-lecturer who was a Marxist. But while Marxism retains some grip at faculty level in the LSE, it is — like many other universities — another variety of extremism that increasingly dictates events at student level.
At last week’s LSE Freshers’ Fair — as Student Rights document here — the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society were threatened with physical removal after being discovered to have t-shirts deemed to be — wait for it — ‘offensive’. Told to cover themselves up or face removal, the atheists were informed that their t-shirts might even be considered ‘harassment’.
So what was the nature of the t-shirts? Did they glorify, say, the former LSE graduate and noted beheader of Jewish journalists, Omar Sheikh? Or did they perhaps praise former Libyan dictator, LSE donor and erstwhile LSE guest lecturer Colonel Muammar Gaddafi? Alas no — the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society committed a far more egregious error. It appears that they transgressed pre-medieval Islamic blasphemy laws.
Two atheist students were found to be wearing ‘Jesus and Mo’ t-shirts (‘Jesus and Mo’ is an online satirical cartoon strip). It seems unlikely that any Christian student would have demanded the removal of the t-shirts. Depictions of Jesus are, after all, quite popular among Christians. In mainstream Islam, by contrast, you are not meant to depict Mo at all. Even an artist’s impression of a generic figure who is then called ‘Mo’ is nowadays assumed to be a picture of Mohammed and therefore blasphemy.
Having written in this place last year about the notoriously blasphemous pineapple of hate at Reading university, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by the extension of Islamic blasphemy laws to a t-shirt at the LSE. Anyhow — as so often, common sense was on the side of the atheists, but force — and the threat of force — was on the side of their opponents. So the atheists lost.
If one wanted to be downbeat about this I suppose one would cite the chap who said that when people see a strong-horse and a weak horse they will back the strong horse. On the other hand, if one wanted to be more upbeat, I suppose we could always reflect on where he is now.
More Spectator for less. Stay informed leading up to the EU referendum and in the aftermath. Subscribe and receive 15 issues delivered for just £15, with full web and app access. Join us.