Jesus & Mo: Stand up for free speech!

Jesus & Mo: Stand up for free speech! January 20, 2012

JUST minutes after learning that a Cardiff student had removed a Jesus & Mo cartoon from his Facebook page after his school threatened to expel him, I learned that an Indonesian man, who used Facebook to declare the non-existence of God, could face jail.

According to the BBC, civil servant Alexander Aan, 31, is now in protective police custody after he was attacked by an angry mob earlier this week. He may also lose his job over his posting on the social networking site.

Atheism is a violation of Indonesian law under the founding principles of the country.

Police said that according to Indonesian criminal law, anyone who tried to stop others believing in a faith could face up to five years in prison

Back now to the ongoing Jesus & Mo row. Wunderkind Rhys Morgan, 17, who received the James Randi Award for Grassroots Skepticism for outing a scam drug, got himself into hot water after he posted the J&M cartoon in solidarity with the University College London’s Atheist, Secular, and Humanist Society.

Rhys Morgan

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. The sixth-former was then summoned by his head of year and told to remove the cartoon. When he said no, he was threatened with expulsion. Rhys details the saga, under the head Intolerant Islam on his blog.

Maryam Namazie, who is calling for a rally on 11 February, 2012, in central London from 2-4pm in defence of free expression and the right to criticise religion, revealed that Rhys has now removed the cartoon from Facebook. In an email to Namazie, Rhys said:

Unfortunately, given the extreme situation, I’ve removed the image in question. They thanked me for being ‘co-operative’, even though the reason I did it was purely selfish – not being expelled. They didn’t actually state whether I was going to be, but based on their wording, it’s obvious that is what they were threatening.

One Law for All, which is organising the free speech rally, is also calling for simultaneous events and acts in defence of free expression on on the same day in countries world-wide.

The call follows an increased number of attacks on free expression in the UK, including demands by the UCL Union that the Atheist society remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon from its Facebook page. It also follows threats of violence, police being called, and the cancellation of a meeting at Queen Mary College where One Law for All spokesperson Anne Marie Waters was to deliver a speech on Sharia.

Two days later at the same college, though, the Islamic Society held a meeting on traditional Islam with a speaker who has called for the death of apostates, those who mock Islam, and secularist Muslims.

Said Namazie:

Whilst none of this is new, recent events reveal an increased confidence of Islamists to censor free expression publicly, particularly given the support received from universities and other bodies in the name of false tolerance, cultural sensitivity and respect.

The right to criticise religion, however, is a fundamental right that is crucial to many, including Muslims.

Clearly, the time has come to take a firm and uncompromising stand for free expression and against all forms of threats and censorship. February 11 is our chance to take that stand.

UPDATE: The BBC reports that celebrated author Sir Salman Rushdie, will not attend India’s biggest  literary festival  for fear of assassination by Muslim fanatics. The author had been due to speak at the Jaipur literature festival later this month.
He said he had been told by sources that assassins:

May be on the way to Jaipur to kill me.

FURTHER UPDATE: Teenage atheist Jessica Ahlquist, who won law suit that compelled her school to remove a tacky, unconstitutional, prayer thingummy from a hall wall continues to be the target of Christian rage.

Jessica Ahlquist
Rhode Island State Representative Peter Palumbo referred to her as “an evil little thing”, and on Wednesday, according to this report, four different Rhode Island florists in the Cranston area refused to deliver flowers to Jessica.
At least one florist claimed to be frightened of the potential backlash from angry Christians who do not want Jessica to receive any flowers.

Hat tip: Marcus Robinson (Indonesia report) and BarrieJohn (Rushdie)

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  • remigius

    I am struggling to remember when there has been so much atheist related activity, both in real life and on the interwires, so early on in a new year.
    In early 2009 we had the Atheist Bus campaign. That essentially told people that we were here. I think this year is the year that the religious nutjobs finally get the message that we are not going to put up with their crap any more.
    So let’s make a concerted effort to try to make 2012 the year that we finally get shot of all this this superstitious nonsense. And remember we haven’t got long to do it, the world ends in December!

  • The Woggler

    It’s not a good start to the year so far. Let’s hope that the religious flakes are as few in number as they are loud and obnoxious, and that the force of law stamps on them very hard.

  • Ed-words

    And in the US, the in Wash. D.C
    and the Fort Bragg both featuring
    R. Dawkins in late March.
    And America’s new sweetheart,Jessica Ahlquist.

  • AngieRS

    Don’t you just love it. The silence from the christian church is deafening. Yey always whine about their right to freedom of expression via crucifixes etc.

  • Since when do schools get to tell students what they can and cannot put on their personal facebook page? That in itself is utterly disgusting and repugnant, and threatening a student is pure bullying. Every single person in the school who was involved in intimidating that student or who stood by and allowed it to happen should be sacked. We cannot have a situation where students have their personal lives controlled by the cowardice of the school’s administration, and we cannot accept a situation where harassment, threats and bullying are tolerated because it is not nearly as important as the school’s reputation. I survived a situation like that, but not without some scars. Teachers have to learn that just because somebody is young does not mean they have no rights.
    This whole thing is getting a bit sinister. The UK seems to have started 2012 with a concerted effort to create a new cultural more that freedom of speech is no longer acceptable or desirable. I don’t like to use terms like rug-butters or muzzies, I don’t like to write off entire faiths or populations with a sneer and claim that any complaint about it is mere politically correct whining, and I of course don’t like atheists and secularists constantly being compared to Hitler… but I am not about to try to shut people who for saying things I don’t like or may, shockingly, offend me. I might point out that I am offended, but if they say “so what”? well… so what? Being offended is not a license to silence somebody else. This attempt at rewriting freedom of speech will not be accepted, no matter how many rug-butting muzzies, money-grubbing Jews, murderous Christians and baby-eating atheists are offended in the process.

  • alb

    I’ve just set the cartoon as my facebook picture as well. As with most things these crazies do, I wasn’t aware of it before they threw a hissy. Now that I know about it I hope to set a trend.

  • Stonyground

    It is interesting to note that all of the antagonists that Rhys Morgan cites on his blog are barely literate and incapable of rational thought.

  • Dess

    Yes, we need to act now for freedom of speech. If you think it’s getting bad now..wait for the next generation or two when the Muslim population will start to explode purely through the amount of children they have. Politicians seem spineless and only act to where they are going to receive votes. More Muslims=more Muslim ideology within our political classes.

  • Don

    Looks as though J&M is set to become a new icon of free speech. Good. The religious bigots may be targeting isolated freethinkers such as Rhys and Jessica but at least these brave youngsters know how much support they have.
    Time to step things up a gear.

  • Hitchens’apprentice

    Religion…….. the PLAGUE on Humanity!

  • remigius

    …and don’t forget to buy your Jessica Ahlquist T-shirt at –
    I’s gonna wear mine to the rally.

  • remigius

    They do them in hot pink and lime green, Barry!

  • Lazy Susan

    Atheism is a violation of Indonesian law under the founding principles of the country.
    Police said that according to Indonesian criminal law, anyone who tried to stop others believing in a faith could face up to five years in prison

    So much for those who argue that atheism is a faith.
    … and if I try to persuade you of the validity of, just to pick one faith at random, Islam, would that not count as me trying to stop you from believing in, say, Christianity?

  • I now point to this story as an example of what it would be like to live under a theocracy in the United States, and how we should be glad we have freedom of religion and we are NOT a Christian nation. Problem is, we’re not that far from being an unofficial theocracy. :-/

  • AgentCormac

    If this current spate of vindictive personal threats and outrageous attempts to suppress freedom of speech stir more people to think about atheism, or they compel more atheists, secularists, skeptics, freethinkers, call them what you will to come together, stand up to be counted and join organised groups like the NSS, then it will all have backfired on the idiot perpetrators. How sweet would that be?

  • Anonymous
  • Ed-words

    Jessica,Christina Rad of Roumania, and your own Ariane;
    the future looks good.

  • Har Davids

    The moment Rhys Morgan was threatened someone should have taken his school to court. Has Islam become the unofficial state-religion in the UK? Meetings cancelled under threat, schools threatening to expel people because of their Facebook content, is this the Great Society in the making? Where are the politicians and the police who allow this to happen?

  • Brian Jordan

    Cardiff High School where

    The school motto, ‘Tua’r Goleuni’ (‘Towards the Light’), reflects the school’s aspiration to assist all our pupils to fulfil their individual potential, to find new talents and to develop a love for learning.

    Oh yeah? They also quote Dylan Thomas but miss the most appropriate line

    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

  • Brian Jordan

    I wonder – could Rhys be a victim of “balance”? The NSS points out that South Wales’ Assistant Chief Constable has said

    “While there is a need for a careful balance in protecting freedom of speech, promoting or glorifying terrorism is unlawful and groups such as Muslims Against Crusades have no place in South Wales.

    Could the Cardiff establishment be smacking down a young lad to offset banning a meeting of hatemongers?

  • This balance idea seems quite popular at the moment. I believe it is actually quite handy for politicians who are trying to create a climate where it is seen as normal, even acceptable, to dilute or remove free speech in response to some nebulous threat that they have decided trumps such rights. SOPA and PIPA, for instance, were all about ‘finding balance’ between stifling speech and stopping piracy. I just want to know when corporate profits or religious sensibilities became the driving force of our culture rather than fundamental principles like freedom of expression or not giving in to threats and intimidation?

  • Ed-words

    Jessica Update 2: Those recalcitrant florists will be sued for
    breaking (tiny)Rhode Island’s discrimination laws.
    Her college fund is up to $50,000+
    How about a Rhys Morgan Fund?

  • remigius

    How about a remigius fund?

  • Ed-words

    The late Blossom Dearie used to play Ronnie Scott’s club.
    Here’s a salute to Jessica, AND a US geography lesson.Enjoy.

  • jay

    I’m not from UK but from what I’ve read this seems to be part of a larger assault on free speech under the ‘be nice’ umbrella. An example is the going after football fans for ‘offensive’ speech.

  • Jon R

    Jessica or Jennifer? The caption to the picture seems inconsistent with the article text. Unless those are two different people?

  • Barry Duke

    Whoops, my bad! Caption corrected.

  • Ed-words

    Her name is Jessica, like in “great kid”.

  • Ed-words

    “I just feel passionate about activism, and specifically
    activism for atheism.” Jessica A. 16 YEARS OLD!

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