UCLASH and Blasphemy
Last week UCLASH received a request from their Students’ Union to remove a depiction of the Prophet Mohammed from one of their Facebook events. This was made after a complaint from a Muslim student who claimed that he was offended by this image in which the prophet appears to be enjoying a pint of beer even though alcohol is strictly forbidden to Muslims.
Like most organisations, UCL has a robust equality and diversity policy:
UCL is committed to provide a learning, working and social environment in which the rights and dignity of all its members are respected, and which is free from discrimination, prejudice, intimidation and all forms of harassment including bullying.
The AHS takes welfare, equality and diversity policies extremely seriously but in this case the use of the picture does not appear to breach the university’s policy. UCLASH's President said: " That student representatives of the country’s first secular university should attempt such an act of censorship is disheartening. The Union officer [I have been speaking with] stated "I have spoken to other faith societies this year about their publicity and, for example, asked them to change it when it contravened UCL's equal opportunity statement" but she did not say we had contravened it ourselves."
James Skuse, Democracy and Communications Officer for UCLU, commented "we have invited Robbie to come to the Union and discuss these issues with us further." AHS President Jenny Bartle replied: "We have been helping Robbie since last week and will support UCLASH and UCLU in resolving their differences over this issue and to achieve a situation where both parties can agree the image was appropriate in the context, and does not constitute intimidation or harassment of Muslim students."
This is not the first time that an AHS member society has been caught up in a row over published material. In 2008, Warwick Atheists caused controversy with a poster showing religious symbols being put in a bin. Leeds and Southampton Atheists have both experienced intimidation when when they proposed showing material that some Muslims took offence to.
Written by Michael Paynter