Talk:'Stop being so damn respectful' say free speech supporters in London

Active discussions

OR notesEdit

  • 2pm – around 100 to 150 people are here at the start of the event
  • held at the Old Palace Yard (opposite the House of Lords, on steps of monument to George V)
  • leaflet said that it was a "rally in defence of free expression and the right to criticise religion" and said that this was launched as "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"
  • Event sponsored by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
  • 1st speaker from the Iranian Secularism Society
    • spoke about how "where they aren't in power, they [religious fundamentalists] are trying to restrict" freedom of speech
    • e.g. Rhys Morgan, sixth form student who was disciplined for putting a Jesus and Mo image on his Facebook page
    • freedom of speech is a "key principle that we need to defend"
    • said that the protest in London was being replicated "in South Africa, Australia, in Argentina" and other countries
    • "we speak for a great many in this country"
  • 2nd speaker - Anne Marie Waters, One Law for All campaign
    • "phobias" (e.g. Islamophobia) as a threat to freedom of speech, "the greatest freedom we have"
    • freedom of speech includes "the freedom to offend".
    • it's "all very nice not to hurt people's feelings", but "we have to offend" as "offence is dissidence"
    • when you offend someone, "don't feel guilty". everyone feels offended: "I'm offended too" by racism, female genital mutilation
    • "if we have to offend a few racists or misogynists along the way, all the better"
  • AC Grayling
  • Maryam Namazie read a statement on behalf of the author of the Jesus and Mo cartoon
    • asked when the last time you rushed into a church or mosque and interrupted a service demanding that they stop speaking.
    • compared with the many attempts by religious people to "bust in with rude and menacing demands"
    • but he does not want to silence religious speakers: "we want them to keep talking" as this will lead their ideas to be "inevitably laughed at".
  • Keith Porteous-Wood from the National Secular Society
    • criticised the idea that "criticism of Islam is Islamophobic" and being "Islamophobic is racist"
    • said the term Islamophobia was an attempt to "blackmail society" into silence.
  • Nick Doody, standup comedian
    • said that for comedians, freedom of expression means "the right to make jokes that people find offensive"
    • defended the principle that a joke and the subject matter of that joke are not the same: "you can find a 'knock-knock' joke funny without finding doors hysterical"
  • (14:21) Nick Cohen, journalist
    • criticised the fear and cowardice of politicians, educators and others: "universities become arid places" without free speech.
    • criticised Ken Livingstone as a "prize hypocrite" and said nobody in the liberal press will criticise Livingstone
    • said that journalists, politicians etc. should "admit your fears"–of violent reprisal by Islamists—as it will be impossible to face one's fear without admitting it first
  • (14:27) Rhys Morgan
    • after putting Jesus and Mo cartoon up on his Facebook, "I had started to receive threats" including having his "house burned down" and was told he was a "God-hater".
    • "My school wanted me to remove it" as it was offending Muslims
    • "implied that I would be suspended or expelled"—"that offended me"
    • Libel reform—"London is known as the libel capital of the world".
    • Chris McGrath case with Richard Dawkins over a book review
    • Burzynski clinic case against Morgan and others
  • (14:32) representative from QMASH, Queen Mary's Atheist, Secularists and Humanists
    • on 16 January, Muslim protestors outside their campus event on Sharia law caused "genuine intense fear" and "intimidation"
    • these were caused by a post on the Islamic Awakening website: "who gave these kuffar the right to speak?"
  • (14:35) Jim Fitzpatrick MP
    • "I had a run-in with Islamists in London... branded an Islamophobe and racist"
  • Jenny Barton from AHS
    • standing in solidarity with UCL, LSE atheists societies
    • "Academic discourse must be free"
  • Susan Zhuang, UCL Atheist Secularists Society
    • "maybe we were naive but we never thought it would come to this"
    • "we are defending freedom of expression for all"
    • "a society that compromises freedom of speech for some... is not a progressive society"
    • "a partial freedom to speak out is no freedom at all"
  • (14:40) Baroness Cox
    • spoke about law she is introducing to the Lords to regulate Sharia courts and councils, "quasi-legal systems" that promote "discrimination against women" through "differential access to divorce"
    • need to "eliminate gender discrimination" and "protect women in minority communities"
  • (14:45) Robert Sutton - student rights
  • Richard Dawkins
    • against religious ideologues who promote "mayhem and murder" and threaten beheading for an offence "no more serious than making drawings or writing a novel"
    • Jaipur literary festival
      • "Salman Rushdie was due to speak"
      • but "on this occasion, some local Islamic 'scholar'"... "threatened murder", "under pressure... the organisers bowed to the mob"
    • giving in to pressure isn't cowardise, it's simply "prudent"
    • "freedom of speech is not part of your culture" - nobody would express this idea "in such brazen terms"
    • told people to "stop being so damn respectful"
    • freedom of speech isn't just for things approved by the "central committee of the multiculturally correct"
    • without freedom of speech, we would "regress into a permanent state of intellectual babyhood" and would lead to "scientific, technological, moral dark age"
    • "every single step" of civilization has been done at the expense of someone who was offended
    • "we will never resort to violence or threats of violence", unlike opponents
    • "free expression is the only weapon we will use—cherish it, fight for it"
  • Kate Smurthwaite - star of "atheist bitchslap" YouTube video
    • following the video, she's had "hundreds and hundreds of threats" including threats of rape
    • she says she's a "human rights fundamentalist"
  • (14:57) Faisal Gazi
  • (15:04) Representative from GALHA, Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association
    • said that free speech has been an issue for gay people since Gay News case in 1976, where the publishers were taken to court for blasphemy for publishing 'The Love That Dares to Speak Its Name', a poem with Jesus being depicted as gay. Criminal convictions, fines, suspended prison sentence for editors.
    • modern threats to free speech coming from religious groups, backed up by Trotskyist: suggested that Jesus and Mo needs an equivalent for left-wing threats to free speech called "Trot and Schmo" (after Troskyists and schmucks)
  • (15:16) Sue Cox, Survivors Voice Europe
    • group for "survivors of Catholic clergy abuse"
    • was in Rome to protest against the Pope—elderly deaf sex abuse survivor was told by Italian police that a banner reading "Ratzinger Out" was offensive and required him to put it down
    • has a banner next to her desk from the London 'Protest the Pope' rally telling the Pope to "fuck off back to the 14th century".
  • (15:20) Pragna Patel from Southall Black Sisters
    • said that free speech was being challenged on "spurious grounds" to "appease the religious right" which was "in the ascendancy... in minority communities"
    • they protested against Khomeini's fatwa against Salman Rushdie with the slogan "religious leaders don't speak for us"
    • "human rights are not Western, they are universal, indivisible"
    • blasphemy and incitement to religious hatred laws exist to "control dissent"
  • (15:32) Atheism UK representative, Mark Embleton, spoke
  • (15:44) message from Andrew Copson, British Humanist Association was read out
  • message from International Humanist and Ethical Union read out
  • (15:51) Joan Smith, journalist
    • grew up without religion, "thrown out of the Brownies at age 9 for questioning the Brownie promise"
    • following Eric Pickles' comments against secularism, should be renamed from Minister of Communities to "Minister of the Christian Community"
    • said today's Daily Mail headline ("Christianity Under Attack") was "hysterical" and that the "threat we [secularists] pose is incredibly mild"
    • said she was not a militant atheist but a "militant secularist"
    • said she's been threatened by Islamists
  • (15:54) Maryam Namazie
    • defended a 23 year old Saudi blogger who wrote on Twitter about Mohammed
    • said it doesn't matter whether speech causes offense, it is irrelevant in the same way as whether a raped women's clothes are
    • Islamophobia is just "political words to scare people"
    • "how can we possibly not criticise Islam and religion?"
    • "we want people to be put first... not religion"
  • (16:00) presentations finished
  • probably 200 people at end.
  • was handed literature by 9/11 truthers and there was an evangelical Christian arguing the Bible with people

This is how I recorded it at the time and is as true a reflection of the event as I am able to give. —Tom Morris (talk) 20:09, 11 February 2012 (UTC)

If you need to confirm anything, there's full audio (not CC) available from the Pod Delusion website. —Tom Morris (talk) 20:39, 11 February 2012 (UTC)

Review of revision 1401527 [Passed]Edit

Attendee figuresEdit

In my OR notes, I said that the attendees figure was around 200. Various people have disagreed with that figure and think I may have unintentionally low-balled the number. Estimating crowd numbers is hard. The estimate of 200 was probably accurate for the start of the rally, and looking back at photos, File:Rally for Free Expression London 01.jpg (which was taken at 13:59) that is about accurate for the start. But there's more people later on, see File:Rally for Free Expression London 17.jpg (14:59) and File:Rally for Free Expression London 22.jpg (15:14, more than half way through the two hour rally), there is a greater density of people. I'm not sure what the appropriate action is with regards to correcting the figures. Truly, journalism is the first draft of history. —Tom Morris (talk) 12:05, 13 February 2012 (UTC)

If there is a need to correct factual information in the article (it being more than 24 hours post-publish), we put a {{correction}} notice at the top of the article, but do not change the factual information where it appears in the article text (it remains wrong there, which is why the attention-grabbing notice at the top).
I haven't looked yet at the details of this; will comment on the merits of issuing a correction, once I have. --Pi zero (talk) 14:47, 13 February 2012 (UTC)
Is the 300 to 400 figure wrong, or isn't it? The edit you'd proposed to the article changed the figure in the text and added a correction notice indicating that the figure the text had been changed to was wrong. One would have thought, on the face of it, a correction notice would be appropriate only if we thought the figure in the text was wrong (and we couldn't change the text even then, which is why we'd issue a correction). With the text staying the same, to keep the polarity of the notice it seems we'd be apologizing for getting it right. Am I missing something (and if so, what)? --Pi zero (talk) 15:13, 13 February 2012 (UTC)


Just going through my Google Reader, I found that linked to this story and used one of my Commons pics. Which is fine! —Tom Morris (talk) 23:28, 6 March 2012 (UTC)

Cool! :-) --Pi zero (talk) 23:55, 6 March 2012 (UTC)
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