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
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
news

As anti-Semitic attacks rise, Grant Feller re-evaluates his identity

Life and Style
food and drink

Savoury patisserie is a thing now

News
news

Meet the primary school where every day is National Poetry Day

News
people Biographer says cinema’s enduring sex symbol led a secret troubled life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

News
In 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a 'dwarf planet'
scienceBut will it be reinstated?
News
The moon observed in visible light, topography and the GRAIL gravity gradients
science

...and it wasn't caused by an asteroid crash, as first thought

News
people
News
Researchers say a diet of fatty foods could impede smell abilities
scienceMeasuring the sense may predict a person's lifespan
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Life and Style
fashionThe Secret Angels all take home huge sums - but who earns the most?
Sport
football

Striker ignored Brendan Rodger's request to applaud audience

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

KS1 and KS2 Primary NQT Job in Lancaster Area

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education is urgently...

DT Teacher - Resistant Materials

£33000 - £34000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: Technology Teacher (Resis...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission, 1st yr OTE £30-£40k : SThree:...

IT Technician

£26000 - £27000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: Experienced Science Techn...

Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?