Joint Letter for Liberty: In response to LSE SU's mistreatment of students at Fresher’s Fayre
Dear Sabbatical Officers (Jay Stoll, Rosie Coleman, Anneessa Mahmood and Hannah Richmond),
We the undersigned are writing to convey students’ shock and concern over the use of physical intimidation and threat of force imposed on students and members of the LSE SU Atheist and Humanist (ASH) society at this year’s Fresher’s Fayre.
We are aware that LSE students and members of the ASH society faced physical intimidation and were threatened to be forcefully removed from campus for wearing t-shirts which allegedly depicts the religious figures of the prophet Muhammad and Jesus of Nazareth. We understand that the SU and Sabbatical Officers ordered LSE Security to remove students from their own campus for wearing such t-shirts. Indeed, Jay Stoll and Anneessa Mahmood were both present and supervised dozens of Security in demanding the students involved to comply with their request to take off such t-shirts or be forcefully removed from campus. We should also note, in shock and disbelief that Anneessa Mahmood at one point begun removing materials she disagreed with from the stall, without explanation nor prior warning.
We believe the use of physical intimidation and threat of force imposed on LSE students as outlined above to be deeply unjust and in blatant contradiction to the liberal values that LSESU has a responsibility to uphold. We would like to point out that the SU and Sabbatical Officers have both a moral, but also legal duty ‘to ensure freedom of speech is secured for its students’ as outlined in Part IV of the Education Act of 1986. In particular, we would like to point out sub-section II, which states clearly that ‘any premises of the establishment should not be denied to any individual or body of persons due to the beliefs or views they hold’.
The SU’s attempted justification of their action on the basis of the t-shirts being ‘offensive’ is no more than an arbitrary and subjective claim. The SU must not be allowed to arbitrarily label students whose views they disagree with as ‘offensive’, then justify the use of physical intimidation and threat of force on such students on the basis of their alleged ‘offense’. The right to take offense does not exist in the rule of law and is not conducive to a free and open society. Just as it is authoritarian and unjust for individuals to call for the banning of burqas on the grounds that it is ‘offensive’; it is equally authoritarian and unjust for the SU and Sabbatical Officers to ban students from wearing t-shirts on the grounds of it being ‘offensive’. Indeed, you are free to choose what offends you but you cannot impose your choice on others.
We the undersigned might not necessarily agree with the content of the t-shirt the students choose to wear, nor do we necessarily agree with the students’ decision to wear such t-shirts at Fresher’s Fayre. We believe strongly in the importance of combating anti-Muslim bigotry but believe equally in students’ right to free speech and free expression. We the undersigned would therefore like to offer the SU and Sabbatical Officers an opportunity to apologise for its blatant attack on free speech and mistreatment of students as well as a promise that future disputes will be resolved through peaceful persuasion and not threat of force.
LSE Student Governor & President of LSE SU Hayek Society
Also signed by:
Ben Rogers, Vice President of LSE SU Hayek Society
Sam Austrums, Vice President of LSE SU Conservative Society
Martha Petrocheilos, President of LSE SU Agents of Change
Louisa Townson, President of UCLU Conservative Society
Victoria Monro, President of UCLU Libertarian Society
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In the news:
Telegraph - http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/technology/jackrivlin/100010962/jesus-and-mohammed-t-shirts-banned-victory-for-the-sanctimonious-little-prigs-of-lses-student-union/
National Secular Society - http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2013/10/lse-student-society-intimidated-at-freshers-fair-over-offensive-t-shirts
Official Statement - http://www.secularism.org.uk/uploads/account-of-the-events-at-the-lse-freshers-fair.pdf