NSS sticks up for Clareification editor

Terry Sanderson, the president of the National Secular Society, has issued a press statement in support of the editor of Clareification, and written separately to the college and Students Union. The press release is reproduced in its entirety here, as we at MWW agree with every word:

Staff and students at Clare College should make a stand for free speech instead of backing those who would destroy it, says the National Secular Society (NSS).
Reacting to news that a student who published a satirical issue of the student magazine that poked fun at religion is to be disciplined, Terry Sanderson, President of the NSS said: “We are shocked that the staff and even the students union at this supposedly liberal college have joined the attack on this student because he had the temerity to poke fun at religion. Free expression is such a precious commodity and is under such ferocious attack at present from religious interests that it is disgraceful that no-one is standing up for this young man’s right to be rude about religion – even about Islam.”
Mr Sanderson has written to the master of Clare College, Professor Tony Bader and to the Senior Tutor, Patricia Fara as well as the president of the Students Union, Calum Davey, as follows:
“We write after seeing reports in the local Cambridge press indicating that a contributor to your student magazine Clareification faces disciplinary action for having printed items that some people thought were “offensive” or “inflammatory”.
“If these reports are true, we wish to register our profound disquiet that a supposedly liberal college has reacted in this way. The reaction risks undermining one of the most precious and important rights that we have in this country: freedom of expression.
“Satire aimed at religion is no different to satire aimed at any other ideas and should not be punished or restrained. The freedom to poke fun at those who take themselves too seriously is a time-honoured tradition in this country. Regrettably, it is rapidly being eroded by cases like this. We urge you to think again and stand four-square behind the satirists, instead of disciplining them.
We would like to remind all concerned that satirising religion – even if that religion is Islam – is not racism, as this episode has been dubbed. Religion and race have very different characteristics. We would have heartily joined the condemnation if the satire had been racially motivated, but according to the reports we have read, the issue of Clareification in question was devoted to religious satire.
“We would like to draw your attention to a case that is pending in France at the moment, in which a satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, has been brought to court by an Islamic organisation for re-publishing the Danish cartoons that are at the centre of so much controversy. In the French case, academics, artists and politicians of all hues have rushed to the defence of the magazine. Letters of support and statements defending free speech have been issued by some of the most influential people in the country – including Mr Sarkozy, who is potentially the next President of France.
“Your own reaction – as reported – does not bear comparison with the principled French reactions. It sides with the oppressors and censors who are doing so much to retard open debate in academe and elsewhere.
“We call on you to support the publishers of the magazine and to tell the would-be censors that their protests have been heard but that they will not prevail. Without the freedom to debate, discuss and, yes, mock, ideas and ideologies, there can be no informed political discourse. Satire is an indispensable tool in the operating of a truly free society.”

If you want to complain to the Cambridge Evening News for calling the cartoon “racist”, their contact details are here.


11 Responses to “NSS sticks up for Clareification editor”

  1. [...] There is another flurry of outrage, in Cambridge this time, because someone has published a picture of a seventh-century mystic. Apparently, it is absolutely forbidden to draw pictures of “the prophet Mohammed”, as the mystic is known. (I worry about that definite article, as I’m sure there have been other prophets from time to time.) Back in September 2006 (scroll down to Blodgett’s Jihad) we published a picture of this fellow, and it seems like a good idea to reprint it now, if only to remind readers just how outrageous such depictions are. When you have stopped quaking with fury – and outrage, of course – you can go and read this. [...]

  2. NoJags Neil says:

    Duly written. This is a truly disturbing episode. The Cambridge Evening News’s use of the term, “…racist cartoon and other
    vile material” is astonishing and terrifying. Will they be calling for the Clarefication editor’s beheading next?

  3. Frank Key says:

    During the first outbreak of MoToon outrage, it always seemed to me that the best response was the widespread dissemination of the pictures themselves. Only later did it occur to me that if more and more people made – and published – their own drawings of this 7th century person, the basic idiocy of the ‘outrage’ would become overwhelmingly obvious. Hence my own small contribution, republished today in view of the Clare College brouhaha (see the pingback at Comment 1, whatever a ‘pingback’ is, and no, don’t tell me, I’ll work it out…)So sharpen your pencils and get drawing!

  4. [...] National Secular Society has issued a press statement (via) in support of the editor of Clareification who has been moved to secure accommodation and is [...]

  5. Andy Gilmour says:

    Mildly piss-taking email now winging its merry way to the CEN folks.

    exactly what qualifications do ya need to get a job in journalism (based on their example)?

  6. Andy A says:

    exactly what qualifications do ya need to get a job in journalism (based on their example)?

    – Andy Gilmore

    Just being a twat, I think, Andy. Just being a twat. I wrote to the idiots yesterday (although I doubt a letter from afar will get in), sounding off not only on the ridiculous thing itself, but also on the fact that their story is just that, a story, not a feature article; has no byline; shouldn’t be commenting; comment is free but facts are sacred, as we know. So what the effin’ hell are they doing running a news story with comment in the use of the word vile? Who/what is a nameless news story to make such a value judgement? Journalism’s gone down the pan in the regions even more than it has nationally (along with the state of its grammar and punctuation, but that’s another story).

  7. Andy A says:

    Oh, bugger! Sorry, mate, I’ve spelled your name wrong!

  8. G. Tingey says:

    Relevant officials at Clare College:

    Get as many people as possible to write to these persons, in protest at their disgraceful behaviour, in censoring free expression of criticism of religion.
    ( Politely, of course )

    Here are the relevant persons:
    The Master, Professor Tony Badger:
    master@clare.cam.ac.uk
    The Senior Tutor, Dr Patricia Fara:
    pf10006@hermes.cam.ac.uk
    Students’ Union President, Calum Davey:
    cd361@cam.ac.uk

  9. NoJags Neil says:

    Response from Professor Badger:

    The issue at stake is not the publication of the cartoon but the possible
    incitement to prejudice in the whole edition against large sections of
    College Community – gays, Jews, Muslims – with college funding. Apart from
    the criminal law which is out of our hands. I hope that the standard
    disicplinary proceedings within the College will clarify whether there is
    an issue for disiciplinary action or not.

    Mmmm… “incitement to prejudice”, eh? Oh, dear. Then we get into the realms of who we may be prejudiced against. Am I allowed to be prejudiced against Nazis?

  10. I, too am actively assiting the poor student as best I can. Please see my blog to find out what I have done and what you can do to help. I have made contact with a student who knows what is going on so may have some insider info soon.

  11. martyn says:

    god help britain? your in for a long wait if that’s your plan