Students win LSE apology over ban on T-shirts depicting Prophet Mohamed and Jesus Christ

 

Education Editor

A leading university has apologised to two students who were threatened with expulsion from a freshers' fair if they failed to cover T-shirts depicting a cartoon of the Prophet Mohamed and Jesus Christ.

Christian Moos and Abhishek Phadnis say they were "harassed" by security officials for wearing the T-shirts and told displaying a depiction of Mohamed - prohibited under Islamic law - could constitute harassment of a religious group.

The incident happened when they were representing the London School of Economics' students' union's Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society at the fair.

Now the LSE says its director, Professor Craig Colhoun, has apologised for their treatment, adding:  "With hindsight, the wearing of the T-shirts on this occasion did not amount to harassment or contravene the law or LSE policies."

He told the students: "Members of staff acted in good faith and sought to manage the competing interests of complaining students and yourselves in a way that they considered to be in the best interests of all parties on the days in question."

In a statement, the two students said - whilst they welcomed Professor Calhoun - they were "disappointed" it had taken the threat of legal action to secure it and that no apology had come from the LSE students' union - which had originally approached them over the T-shirts - or from Professor Colhoun over the behaviour of security staff.

The students had been planning to take the incident to a judicial review in the High Court.

Their statement noted that the LSE had been unable to produce any evidence of complaints about the T-shirts, adding:  "We continue to believe that there were, in fact, none."

The LSE's apology comes at a time of rising controversy over freedom of speech on university campus which saw Universities UK, the body which represents vice-chancellor, withdraw controversial guidance which suggested it was all right to segregate men and women at meetings if an outside speaker demanded it,

The statement from the two students on the Students' Rights website said of the incident: "This is no way for a university to maintain its duty to protect freedom of expression on campus."

LSE pro-director Professor Paul Kelly told the BBC Radio Four programme Today that the university had been attempting to balance the rights of different students in a dispute but had "got the judgement wrong".

"In general, our attitude is very tough in promoting free speech at public events, lectures and student societies.

"This was a complex event because it's a welcome event.  It's when students from 130 countries arrive in the UK all together.  Freedom of speech still applies there but it wasn't the same as us objecting to a student society event or a public lecture or if Christian - as he later did - hosted an event where students wore the T-shirt.  That's fine.

"Given the complaint that Christian and Abhishek put forward with the backing of solicitors looking for judicial review, we had to taker legal advice.  It was always a grey area.  Yes, I got the judgement wrong but it was a complex decision."

Mr Moos said:  "It was simply two students exercising their right to freedom of expression that they have as much as any student who might wear religious symbols or T-shirts expressing their faith.

"If somebody was wearing a racist or violent or gory T-shirt, that would be a totally different situation."

At the fair, the two students covered up their T-shirts to avoid expulsion.

News
A poster by Durham Constabulary
news
Arts and Entertainment
books New York Times slammed over summer reading list
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Software Developer - Norfolk - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Software Developer - Norf...

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine