Make Muhammad Your Facebook Profile Picture, Get Kicked Out of School?

Jen McCreight has an enraging summary of events:

[Rhys Morgan] chose that photo [as his Facebook profile] to stand in solidarity with the University College London’s Atheist, Secular, and Humanist Society. The group was caught in a firestorm after someone complained about the image being used to promote their pub social and school officials ordered them to take it down.

But now Rhys is stuck in a firestorm of his own. Because that image from the comic Jesus and Mo was his Facebook photo for a week, he has been harassed and threatened at school by his classmates. He was then summoned by his head of year and told to remove the cartoon. When he said no, he was threatened with expulsion.

I’m no expert on laws related to freedom of speech in the UK, so I can’t predict what will happen to Rhys. But what I can say is that this sort of treatment is wrong. Religious people should not be allowed to force their beliefs onto others, and that’s exactly what’s happening in this situation. Muslims can abstain from posting photos of Mohammed all they want, but they can’t force non-Muslims to do the same. Just like they can abstain from eating pork without totally banning pork from the school cafeteria. Disagreeing with religious ideas is not equivalent to a “hate crime,” and equating the two is a dangerous mindset indeed.

You can also read Rhys Morgan describe and reprint some of the abuse he’s been getting for this picture. Jen also has more on this 17 year old’s truly impressive, award winning record as a skepticism activist. Ophelia has more people being silenced for the sake of Muslim feeling—in addition to the one we already noted this morning.

Spread the word about this, Internet. Britain’s supposed to be a country with freedom of speech.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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