A frightening thing happened Monday night at Queen Mary, University of London.
The school’s Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society planned an event which would have both religious and non-religious students discussing whether Sharia Law was damaging to human rights.
As quickly as the event began, though, it had to come to an end:
‘Five minutes before the talk was due to start a man burst into the room holding a camera phone and for some seconds stood filming the faces of all those in the room. He shouted ‘listen up all of you, I am recording this, I have your faces on film now, and I know where some of you live’, at that moment he aggressively pushed the phone in someone’s face and then said ‘and if I hear that anything is said against the holy Prophet Mohammed, I will hunt you down.’ He then left the room.
Because of the nature of the threat, the event had to be canceled.
Jenny Bartle, president of the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies (AHS), spoke out against the threat:
There’s the difference between religious fundamentalists and open-minded atheists. We’re willing to discuss and debate faith openly. We’re not afraid of criticism. You can’t offend us. We’re not afraid of any argument you want to throw our way.
Our members have as much right as anyone else to participate in the free inquiry, discussion and debate which should exist in universities. The threats our members have received are both troubling and repugnant and we reject all attempts to counter debate with violence. At the same time, we welcome the support from across faiths that many of our societies experience on campus to help us secure the freedom to have our say, just as we support them in having the freedom to have theirs.”
What we need now are more religious moderates speaking out against the extremists in their midst. Support open conversations. Support our right to criticize and mock. Support free speech without the fear of harassment or violence. Without your voices, nothing will change.
Here’s hoping they can reschedule the event with some extra security in place.
(Thanks to Robert for the link)