Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Free Speech

Islamic State Says Bangladesh the New Battleground.

with one comment

Islamic State Says it is Expanding to Bangladesh.

Islamism has been a major problem in Bangladesh since the Liberation War for National Independence in 1971.

The fight for freedom was met by genocide. This had the active support of Islamist groups, including the forerunners of the present Bangladeshi branch of the  Jamaat-e-Islami – an organisation which has a strong British organisation, notably in London’s East End.

The genocide in Bangladesh began on 26 March 1971 with the launch of Operation Searchlight,[3] as West Pakistan began a military crackdown on the Eastern wing of the nation to suppress Bengali calls for self-determination.[4] During the nine-month-long Bangladesh war for independence, members of the Pakistani military and supporting militias killed an estimated 26,000[5] to 3,000,000[2] people. According to more recent statements by Bangladeshi and Indian sources, some have estimated that between 200,000 to 400,000 Bangladeshi women were raped in a systematic campaign of genocidal rape.[6][7] Other sources put the level of rapes as only a few hundred.

The Bangladesh Genocide Archive posts this:

There is no doubt whatsoever about the targets of the genocide. They were: (1) The Bengali militarymen of the East Bengal Regiment, the East Pakistan Rifles, police and para-military Ansars and Mujahids. (2) The Hindus — “We are only killing the men; the women and children go free. We are soldiers not cowards to kill them …” I was to hear in Comilla [site of a major military base] [Comments R.J. Rummel: “One would think that murdering an unarmed man was a heroic act” (Death By Government, p. 323)] (3) The Awami Leaguers — all office bearers and volunteers down to the lowest link in the chain of command. (4) The students — college and university boys and some of the more militant girls. (5) Bengali intellectuals such as professors and teachers whenever damned by the army as “militant.” (Anthony Mascarenhas, The Rape of Bangla Desh[Delhi: Vikas Publications, 1972(?)], pp. 116-1

Bangladesh is currently in turmoil as members of Islamist groups, notably senior members of parties like  have been sentenced to death for their participation in these atrocities.

This follows this: (Wikipedia)

The 2013 Shahbag protests, associated with the Shahbag central neighbourhood of Dhaka, Bangladesh, began on 5 February 2013 and later spread to other parts ofBangladesh, and became known as Gonojagaran Mancha (National Awakening Stage; gono means people, jagoron means awakening, and moncho means platform).[peacock term][dubious ] The people demanded capital punishment for Abdul Quader Mollah, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment, and for others convicted of war crimes by the International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh.[5][6] On that day, the International Crimes Tribunal had sentenced Abdul Quader Mollah to life in prison after he was convicted on five of six counts of war crimes.[7][8] Later demands included banning the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party from politics including election and a boycott of institutions supporting (or affiliated with) the party.[9]

As a counter movement this was formed, (Wikipedia)

In 2013 Hefajat-e-Islam was formed after the allegation that some of the protestors in the Shahbag movement, were involved in publishing of content offensive to Muslims on blogs.[15] which is demanding capital punishment for Bangladesh liberation war criminals.[4] They arranged a rally towards capital city Dhaka, demanding enaction of capital punishment of the “atheist bloggers” involved in the Shahbag movement and a blasphemy law.[16][17][18]

The 13 points of the Islamist group includes:[19]

1. Restore the phrase “Complete faith and trust in the Almighty Allah” in the constitution

2. Pass a law in parliament keeping a provision of the capital punishment of death sentence to prevent defaming Islam.

3. Taking measures for stringent punishment of against self-declared atheists and bloggers, who led the Shahbaghmovement, and anti-Islamists who made derogatory remarks against the Muhammad. Also taking steps to stop the spread of “propaganda.”[20]

4. Stopping infiltration of all “alien-culture”, including shamelessness in the name of individual’s freedom of expression, anti-social activities, adultery, free mixing of male and female and candle lighting.[15] Stopping harassment of women, open fornication and adultery, sexual harassment, all forms of violence against women and an end to the tradition of dowry;[20]

5. Make Islamic education mandatory from primary to higher secondary levels canceling the women policy and anti-religion education policy.

6. Officially declaration Ahmadiyyas as non-Muslim.[15][20]

7. Stopping setting up sculptures at intersections, schools, colleges and universities across the country.

8. Lifting restrictions on prayers for ulema in all mosques across the country, including Baitul Mokarram National Mosque;

9. Stopping Islamophobic content in media;[20]

10. Stopping anti-Islam activities by NGOs across the country, including in the Chittagong Hill Tracts;[20]

11. Stop attacks and extrajudicial killing of ulema;[15]

12. Stopping harassment of teachers and students of Qawmimadrassas and ulema;[15]

13. Freedom for all arrested ulema and madrassa students and withdrawal of all cases filed against them, compensation for the victims, and bringing the assailants to justice.

This is happening now:

Bangladesh government has summoned the Pakistan high commissioner in Dhaka after his government said it was ‘deeply disturbed’ by the execution of war criminals Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Salauddin Quader Chowdhury.

A senior foreign ministry official on Sunday night told bdnews24.com that High Commissioner Shuja Alam had been asked to visit the ministry on Monday.

He would have to explain his government’s comments on the internal matter of Bangladesh, the official added.

Jamaat-e-Islami Secretary General Mujahid and senior BNP leader Chowdhury, both sentenced to death two years ago for 1971 war crimes, were hanged in the early hours of Sunday.

And this.

In the latest edition of the militant group’s online propaganda magazine, IS calls for strategic expansion to Bangladesh or as it refers to the country ” Bengal”

The Islamic State (IS) militant group has warned that it is preparing for fresh attacks in Bangladesh “to rise and expand in Bengal.”

The group dedicated a full article to their activities in Bangladesh or “Bengal” as it refers to the country in the latest edition of its online propaganda magazine Dabiqwhere its strategic expansion to countries like Bangladesh is discussed at length.

The article titled The Revival of Jihad in Bengal claimed that while IS was busy preparing for further attacks, the secular Awami League government continued to “twist the facts” on the ground and play a blame game. That perhaps refers to the claims by the Bangladesh government that there was no Islamic State presence in the country and that elements out to destabilise it were behind the murders of two foreigners.

The IS also referred to the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-Jamaat alliance as a ‘coalition of murtaddin (apostates)’.

“The former government, which consisted mainly of a coalition of murtaddin from both the BNP and the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, foolishly thought that the call of tawhid, jihad, and khilafah would be crushed by the martyrdom of a few righteous scholars,” read a paragraph of the article.

However, the IS article calls the banned Islamic militant outfit Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) a “proper jihad organisation in Bangladesh based on the Kuran and Sunnah.”

The Hindu. 21st November.

Our beloved comrades, the secularist Bangladeshi Bloggers, are caught at the centre of these conflicts. The report linked to below, on Al Jazeera, which was broadcast last night, cannot be too highly recommended.

Blogging is a dangerous business in Bangladesh.

Four secular bloggers have been brutally murdered this year and a publisher linked to one of them was recently slashed to death.

Police blame religious hardliners for the killings, and there are fears that more attacks could follow. But it is not just hardliners who are causing concern.

The government, too, appears to be cracking down on free speech. Some bloggers are now leaving Bangladesh, while others have gone into hiding.

In this edition of 101 East, we meet people whose lives are in peril because of the opinions they share online.

Al Jazeera

Written by Andrew Coates

November 23, 2015 at 1:07 pm

Andrew Fisher: Solidarity!

with 9 comments

Andrew Fisher, Respected and Much-Liked Comrade.

Everybody has had a go at Andrew Fisher over the last few days.

I haven’t heard complaints from Ipswich yet, a non-1% elite town which Andrew visited earlier this year.

He came and talked to the Ipswich Trades Council and the Suffolk People’s Assembly on anti-austerity economics.

Fisher’s message is summed up in this review of his book, The failed experiment and how to build an economy that works. (2014)

With eloquence and passion Fisher argues debt and growth are not the real issues, the economic problems we face are in fact “the consequence of political decisions”. The conditions that neoliberalism demands in order to supposedly free human beings from the slavery of the state – minimal taxes, the dismantling of public services and welfare, deregulation, the breaking of union.

Those listening to him didn’t go to Cambridge. But they included trade unionists, teachers, clerical and manual workers, retired people, Labour Party members, and supporters of socialist groups, Greens and anti-cuts activists.

We were distinctly impressed – and he’d travelled all the way from the wilds of Sarf London to speak to us.

As Labour Briefing is one the best read left weeklies round here we are equally pleased to see his contributions in the paper.

The Guardian lays down the present charges:

Jeremy Corbyn is under mounting pressure to dismiss his policy adviser, Andrew Fisher, as a second, stinging letter of complaint about his past support for candidates from other parties was leaked to the Observer.

Fisher was suspended by Labour general secretary Iain McNicol on Friday, two weeks after Emily Benn, former parliamentary candidate for Croydon South, lodged a complaint to the party, saying Fisher backed the Class War candidate in her constituency ahead of the general election in May.

In a move that angered many at the top of the party, Corbyn said he still “had full confidence” in Fisher who would continue to work for him, though he respected the “integrity” of the general secretary’s office.

But in a new blow to Corbyn’s defence of his aide, the Observer has obtained another letter sent on Tuesday to McNicol from a former treasurer and executive member of the Labour party in Brighton, Peter van Vliet, about separate alleged instances of Fisher backing rival candidates. Van Vliet protested “in the strongest possible terms” that Fisher had encouraged people to back Green candidates before the 2010 general election. The Greens’ Caroline Lucas went on to take the Brighton Pavilion seat from Labour with a majority of just 1,252 votes.

Van Vliet told McNicol he found it “unacceptable that Mr Fisher is now allowed to remain a party member” because he urged people to consider supporting parties other than Labour.

After Benn’s complaint, Fisher apologised for putting out a tweet in August 2014 which said: “FFS if you live in Croydon South, vote with dignity, vote @campaignbeard.” @Campaignbeard was the Class War candidate’s Twitter account. Fisher maintained that the tweet was a joke and did not indicate his support for Class War at the time, a line since backed in public by Corbyn’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

The Sun helpfully adds to the list,

JEREMY Corbyn’s top aide was suspended last night over footage of him admitting he was tempted to beat up a former Labour bigwig.

The Sun played the party a video of Andrew Fisher saying he was tempted to “thump” ex-cabinet minister James Purnell for not being left-wing enough.

He was filmed saying “It took every sinew of my self-discipline not to thump him” over his views on welfare reform.

The wider context is well-covered by Phil here: Andrew Fisher’s suspension isn’t about rule-breaking – it’s about factional struggle.

These are some more points.

  • James Purnell – involved in a serious Expenses scandal – was Work and Pensions Secretary from 2009 – 2009 (when he resigned, claiming disagreements with Gordon Brown – but see previous link). As such he presided over the Flexible New Deal – the precursor of the present Work Programme. It was based on the principle that rpivate companies would ‘provide’ the programme for the out of work, and that they would be put into “work placements” – unpaid work. This is how the Guardian represented his policy in 2008, “James Purnell accused of introducing US ‘workfare’ with benefits reform. Work and pensions secretary says under white paper proposals virtually everyone claiming benefits will have to do something in return”. It may be imagined that it was not only Andrew Fisher who took a dislike to the man.
  • The ‘Class War Tweet was made in August 2014. That is pretty far outside of the General Election. Now, much as the Tendance likes Ian Bone, Class War is generally considered something of a joke on the left. Not, indeed, as funny as the Posadists. But pretty amusing.  Note to Labour Party, the Tendance  has tweeted backing for J. Posadas’ views on Communist Flying Saucers and intelligent dolphins.
  • That Andrew said some nice things about Carolyn Lucas and some Green Party policies,  is something he shares with about 99% of the British left – excepting steel-hardened comrades like Andrew Coates. He did not back the Green Party.

There is quite a list of other notorious “tweets” (here).

For once Ken Livingstone has followed the Tendance’s lead (on our own Tweets and Facebook).

He suggested on Channel Four yesterday that Andrew Fisher was ‘aving a larf.

As also suggested here: Andrew Fisher’s comedy career is all over. David Osland.

Odd, innit, that when right-wing gits make off-colour remarks this is proof of what great characters they are.

When a lefty shows a bit of rancour, and humour…all hell breaks lose.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 8, 2015 at 12:56 pm

Student Union bans Speech by Heroic Volunteer who Fought with Kurds Against ISIS Genociders.

with 8 comments


Macer Gifford: “wanted to shine a light and to show the Kurds aren’t alone.”

The Tab,

The Union banned a YPG fighter from talking at the University – in case he influences others to go and fight.

Ex-student Macer Gifford fought in Syria for five months earlier this year with the Kurdish Group YPG against Islamic State, and was due to give a speech at the University yesterday.

President of the Kurdish Society, Kavar Kurda, organised for him to come in, but was told Macer would not be given a platform to speak because “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist”.

Activities and Events Officer, Asad Khan, said the decision was “because there were concerns an event with a person speaking about their experiences fighting in Syria could lead to others going and fighting in the conflict”.

He said in an email: “In every conflict there are two sides, and at UCLU we want to avoid taking sides in conflicts.”

“Kavar claims Asad went on to say how he “doesn’t agree with western definitions of groups.”

Kavar told The Tab: “Asad went down the same route as CAGE and other questionable organisations by appealing to white middle class stereotypes and told me the only reason Macer wasn’t arrested was because he is ‘white and middle class’.

“I find it astounding such an institution like UCL are unwilling to take a side in this conflict

“If you don’t support Kurds and the YPG, only ISIS are left. Where’s the freedom of speech? What about human rights?”

Asad had expressed concerns to Kavar about the human rights record of YPG, citing UN reports which detailed how YPG had “carried out recruitment of child soldiers”, but Kavar says the sources were “random” and Asad had “gone out to find anything remotely negative against the group, dismissing the huge applause for them around the world”.


Asad said the Syrian crisis is a “contentious topic” and defended his decision to block the speaker.

He told The Tab: “It is important to note the rooms these activities take place in belong to UCL rather than UCLU and we liaised with UCL, who in turn wanted to seek advice from the police.

“When they didn’t get a reply, to stay on the side of caution, UCL also leant towards not providing a platform.

“The Syrian crisis is a very contentious topic with many different groups, and although I understand YPG are fighting against ISIS the situation is far too complex to understand in black and white as expected by the student.

“I don’t think UCLU can disregard an Amnesty International report as well as one from the UN Independent International Commission. Despite signing a commitment in 2014 to demobilise all under-18 fighters, the Human Rights Watch have reported that YPG have recruited child soldiers, some of them below the age of 15.

“In this context, despite the fact YPG aren’t a terrorist organisation, I think there is enough evidence to show they have committed human rights abuses, for which reason it is not appropriate for UCLU to be associated with someone who chose to go and fight for them.

For the Kurdish reply to these allegations:

YPG General Command: Amnesty International Report is Contradictory

The General Command of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) has released a detailed statement responding to the Amnesty International Report, published on 12 October 2015 and titled, “We Had Nowhere Else to Go – Forced Displacement and Demolitions in Northern Syria”.

Underlining that the report is contradictory and puts the credibility of the organisation at stake, the YPG higlighted the following points in response to the report which drew worldwide reaction due to its attempt and effort to defame the People’s Protection Units by means of unfounded claims;

Not many people think that backing the YPG’s fight against the Islamist genociders of ISISis “contentious” and, not a “black and white issue” and  “far too complex” to take sides in.

It would be interesting to find out the stand of Kahn’s own organisations on this and related topics.

“…my main involvement in university has to be with Pakistan Society where I was the events organiser and in the Islamic Society where I led Charity Week in my final year. Profile.

And there is this:

Asad Khan had votes deducted but still won

• Allegations of mass electoral fraud sees last minute disciplinary meeting

• Asad Khan and Mohammad Ali named in complaints seen exclusively by The Tab

• Union panel docks Asad Khan one per cent of his votes

Fraud allegations have been levelled against victorious candidates of this week’s Union elections, Asad Khan and Mohammad Ali.

Asad, who will serve as the £25K-a-year Activities and Events Officer, had one per cent of his first preference votes docked after an official complaint was made to the Union.





Written by Andrew Coates

November 5, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Islamists Hack Bangladeshi Secularist Publisher to Death.

with 2 comments


Beloved Martyr Faisal Arefin Dipon.

The Daily Star (Bangladesh) reports,

The owner of Jagriti Prokashony Faisal Arefin Dipan was stabbed dead at Shahbagh in the capital hours after assailants knifed another publisher of books written by slain blogger Avijit Roy along with two bloggers at Lalmatia.

In the both the attacks – which are similar in nature, the perpetrators locked the victims inside their offices before leaving the scene.

Both the publishers published books of blogger and US citizen Avijit Roy who was killed in attack on February 26 near Teachers and Students Centre of Dhaka University.

“Dipan died of stab wounds found in the shoulder,” Muntasirul Islam, spokesperson of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), told The Daily Star.

Abul Kashem Fazlul Haque, father of Dipan, told journalists after the murder that those who have targeted those promoting free speech might be behind the attack.

Read the rest of the story: Publisher killed in second attack in Dhaka.

Attack on publishers: Gonojagoron demo tomorrow

Following the brutal attacks on country’s publishers that killed one and injured three others, leaders of Gonojagoron Mancha (National Awakening Stage, gono means people, jagoron means awakening, and moncho means platform) have called for a countrywide demonstration tomorrow.

Around the world people will be standing with Bangladeshi progressives against the enemies of humanity who attacked our beloved friends and comrades.

The BBC,

Bangladeshi secular publisher hacked to death

A Bangladeshi publisher of secular books has been hacked to death in the capital Dhaka in the second attack of its kind on Saturday, police say.

Faisal Arefin Dipon, 43, was killed at his office in the city centre, hours after another publisher and two secular writers were injured in an attack.

They are the latest victims in a series of deadly attacks on secularists since blogger Avijit Roy was hacked to death by suspected Islamists in February.

Both publishers published Mr Roy.

Mr Dipon was found dead at the Jagriti Prokashoni publishing house, in his third-floor office.

“I saw him lying upside down and in a massive pool of blood. They slaughtered his neck. He is dead,” his father, the writer Abul Kashem Fazlul Haq, said, quoted by AFP.

Earlier on Saturday, armed men burst into the offices of publisher Ahmedur Rashid Tutul.

They stabbed Mr Tutul and two writers who were with him, locked them in an office and fled the scene, police said.

The three men were rushed to hospital, and at least one of them is in a critical condition.

The two writers were named by police as Ranadeep Basu and Tareque Rahim.

Mr Roy, a US citizen of Bangladeshi origin and critic of radical Islamism, was murdered in February. His wife and fellow blogger Bonya Ahmed was badly injured in the attack.

Three other bloggers have since been killed.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 31, 2015 at 4:53 pm

Bahar Mustafa to Face charges on claim about Tweet, “kill all White Men”.

with 10 comments

Bahar Mustafa, welfare and diversity officer at Goldsmiths Students' Union

Bahar Mustafa: to Organise Encounter Group  for all Tweeters? 

London woman charged after alleged #killallwhitemen tweet 


A student diversity officer who came to prominence in a race row after allegedly tweeting the hashtag #killallwhitemen has been charged by police with sending a threatening communication.

Bahar Mustafa, of Goldsmiths, University of London, is set to appear at Bromley magistrates court on 5 November.

The 28-year-old from Edmonton, north-east London, faces two charges. One is sending a communication conveying a threatening message between 10 November 2014 and 31 May 2015. The second is for sending a grossly offensive message via a public communication network between 10 November 2014 and 31 May 2015.

Mustafa was initially accused of racism for asking white men not to attend a students’ union meeting intended for ethnic minority women and non-binary attendees.

She then became embroiled in a separate row, accused of using the hashtag #killallwhitemen on her Twitter account, which has since been deleted.

A Met police spokesman said in a statement: “A woman interviewed under caution regarding a complaint of racially motivated malicious communication made on a social media network has been summonsed to court.”

Mustafa is neither an employee of Goldsmiths nor a student, but an employee of the independent students’ union, elected by union members.

Mustafa remained in her position as welfare and diversity officer after a petition for a motion of no confidence fell short of the 3% of union members required to trigger a poll.

After the furore, Mustafa denied that her initial request for white men to stay away from a union meeting was racist or sexist, and said she had received rape and death threats.

  • This article was amended on 7 October 2015. It originally referred to “non-binary” women. That should have been non-binary attendees. This has been corrected.

First of all: it is ridiculous that the law is brought in to deal with people’s brain seepage on Twitter.

I am not a lawyer – outside the Barracks – but from the 6 week sentence for Jake Newson for grossly offensive tweets onwards there are serious concerns about these laws.

At the time of that particular prosecution this comment was made. (Guardian)

Thomas Hughes, executive director of free speech organisation Article 19, said the charity is “extremely concerned by the number of arrests and prosecutions for comments made online in the UK. Nobody should go to prison simply for causing offence. This is not only our view but a violation of international legal standards that protect speech that shocks, offends or disturbs.”

There are many other examples of courts cases, and this summary indicates the far too broad scope of the legislation:

Number seven: menacing tweets

A tweet that is grossly offensive, or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character, will offend the Communications Act 2003. The Crown Court considered Paul Chambers’ tweet “… I am blowing the airport sky high” to be menacing, however the High Court overturned its decision. The High Court ruled that the Communications Act would not prevent satirical, iconoclastic, or rude comment, expression of the unpopular, unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, humour, comments that are distasteful or even painful to those subjected to them, silly jokes or jokes in bad taste that a person would be likely to brush aside or empty bombastic or ridiculous banter. A tweet that is indecent, obscene or menacing in character could result in a fine or a prison sentence of up to six months.

The test: If a tweet could create fear or apprehension in the minds of anyone who may reasonably be expected to see it the tweet could be considered a menace and an offence under the Communications Act.

Twitter and the law: 10 legal risks in tweeting from or to the UK.

There is no need to be a top Barrister to see that these criteria are wide enough to invite both malicious prosecution and to allow an intolerable degree of snooping into people’s expression of opinion.

More on this:  Freedom Of Speech (Even For Bahar Mustafa).

Secondly, as a white woman and former postgraduate (MA in Gender Media and Culture) of Turkish origin who is now a full-time student union officer at the very bourgeois Goldsmith’s College Mustafa is not exactly on many people’s lists of oppressed minorities in London.

This is not her opinion. She has stated earlier this year (Independent),

“I, an ethnic minority woman, cannot be racist or sexist towards white men because racism and sexism describe structures of privilege based on race and gender and therefore women of colour and minority genders cannot be racist or sexist, since we do not stand to benefit from such a system.”

This Blog is all in favour of nostalgic revivals of 1970s identity politics, apparently where the Goldsmith’s MA course finished.

But this should be on a kind of Sealed Knot basis, between consenting adults.

It may be hard for those of Turkish origin, probably of an orthodox Sunni background,  to claim victimhood in Turkey itself, for reasons that the name Kurd will indicate, not to mention the Alevis. But that is no reason for white middle class and prosperous Londoners of Turkish origin who have paid for expensive courses in Gender Media and Culture not to join in the fray when they can.

Mustafa has been, apparently, a “diversity and welfare officer”.

Our own judgement is that Goldsmith’s should organise a special diversity event for black, ethnic minority, white trash, and white men (one hopes, not those already killed), not to mention every gender there is, and non-binary attendees.

People will be able to call each other every name under the sun.

In the spirit of 1970s revivals I would call it an “Encounter Group”.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 7, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Warwick Students’ Union Backs Down from Denying Free Speech to Maryam Namazie.

with 6 comments

NSS welcomes Warwick Student Union’s decision to allow Maryam Namazie to speak

Posted: Mon, 28 Sep 2015 09:40

The National Secular Society has welcomed Warwick Student Union’s decision to host secular campaigner Maryam Namazie. The Union reversed their ban on her speaking following huge public pressure.

Ms Namazie had been blocked from speaking at a Warwick Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society event after the Student Union said the ex-Muslim campaigner could ‘insult’ religion. The SU were also concerned that Namazie, an NSS honorary associate who campaigns for human rights and equality, could ‘incite hatred’.

Informing Ms Namazie of their initial decision to block her, the SU wrote: “There a number of articles written both by the speaker and by others about the speaker that indicate that she is highly inflammatory, and could incite hatred on campus. This is in contravention of our external speaker policy”.

In a frank apology on their website, the SU admitted they had “failed, and failed badly in this case” and promised to “act immediately to examine how that happened, and to it put it right”.

NSS executive director Keith Porteous Wood commented: “We welcome the Student Union’s change of heart and hope their ‘continued commitment to free speech’ is reflected in actions as well as words. Freedom of expression is under growing threat, particularly when it involves discussions surrounding Islam. Every act of appeasement to those intent on closing down debate encourages self-censorship and depletes this freedom further.

“Freedom of expression is not only a pre-requisite for resolving challenging problems but for the functioning of democracy itself.

“The Student Union’s decision has saved it and the University from an escalation of this unfortunate situation and potentially even a legal challenge further down the line.

“While this case has ended in the right outcome, we still have grave concerns about an external speaker policy which says guests on campus must ‘avoid insulting other faiths’. This is extremely broad and open to a wide variety of interpretations, and therefore extremely restrictive to freedom of speech.

“Universities have a legal duty to defend freedom of expression and in our view certain Student Union policies may be working in direct conflict with that duty. This is an issue we hope to discuss with the NUS in the coming weeks.”

Statement from the Students’ Union:

Warwick SU has a process for assessing any potential risks or legal issues associated with any external speaker, and it is now very clear to us that in this case that process has not been followed.  Speaker invitations that may involve such issues are routinely considered by the SU President, who will also take advice from senior SU staff. This did not happen on this occasion. Neither the SU President, nor senior SU staff, were consulted as they should have been. This is a significant error for which there can be no excuse.  There is a great deal that we now must put right, and these are the first steps that we are putting into place:

1) The proper process has now been followed, as it should have been in the first place. The application by the Warwick Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society for Warwick Students’ Union to host Maryam Namazie as an external speaker has now been considered and approved.

2) The SU is now seeking to meet promptly with the leadership of the Warwick Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society to make the necessary arrangements for the event to take place in the format they have requested.

3) Warwick SU will issue an unequivocal apology to Maryam Namazie for this egregious and highly regrettable error.

4) Our process as to how we assess requests to host external speakers is very clear. However, it is also equally clear that how this process is communicated and understood by everyone in the SU who needs to be aware of it has failed, and failed badly in this case. We need to act immediately to examine how that happened, and to it put it right, and we will.

We want to assure everyone of Warwick Students’ Union’s continued commitment to free speech. We also want to take this opportunity to apologise to everyone who has expressed concern, or disappointment, or who has been hurt by this significant error and, as we said above, we will be issuing a full and unequivocal apology to Maryam Namazie.


This is welcome news.

That there remains a difficulty that will continue in other venues can be seen from the reaction of some ‘leftists’ who tried to cast doubt on Maryam Namazie’s politics – as if that were the criterion to give or to deny people free speech.

There is little doubt that the malevolent legacy of the kind of approach advocated by the former site Islamophobia Watch and its Master, Bob Pitt, who took it upon himself to wage war on left-wing opponents of Islamism, can be felt at work here.

To this way of thinking strong criticism of Islam, and above all, attacks on the politics based on the Qu’ran, are intrinsically Islamophobic.

Whether we agree with the Hekmartists’ (Mansoor Hekmat (منصور حکمت; June 4, 1951 – July 4, 2002) political practice, or their detailed ideas, or not, there is little doubt that Islamism is a major problem.

The views of people who have direct experience of it as a tyrannical ideology of states like Iran (Namazie’s country of origin), are of great importance.

In this respect secularism is just a matter of defending free-speech and the freedom of the state from rule by one faith: it is a call for material liberty. 

Furthermore this is not just something happening far away:  The ex-Muslim Britons who are persecuted for being atheists  28 September 2015 BBC.

An investigation for the BBC has found evidence of young people suffering threats, intimidation, being ostracised by their communities and, in some cases, encountering serious physical abuse when they told their families they were no longer Muslims.

There are also local councils that seem to have little awareness of the issue or any policy on how to protect these vulnerable young people.

There are no official statistics on apostasy in British Islam, and only a few academic studies based on a tiny handful of individual cases.

But growing numbers of ex-Muslims are sharing their experiences on online forums. Coming out as a non-believer at an age when young people of all backgrounds can rebel over relationships and cultural expectations means it’s often hard to identify religion as a factor.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 28, 2015 at 10:56 am

Isis Threaten Sylvania: Banned from Passion for Freedom Exhibition.

with 4 comments

Isis Threaten Sylvania by the artist Mimsy is removed from Passion for Freedom exhibition at London’s Mall Galleries, after police raise security concerns. Below, Guardian critic Jonathan Jones reviews the artwork.

Isis Threaten Sylvania is a series of seven satirical light box tableaux featuring the children’s toys Sylvanian Families. It was removed from the Passion for Freedomexhibition at the Mall galleries after police raised concerns about the “potentially inflammatory content” of the work, informing the organisers that, if they went ahead with their plans to display it, they would have to pay £36,000 for security for the six-day show.

In Isis Threaten Sylvania, rabbits, mice and hedgehogs go about their daily life, sunning themselves on a beach, drinking at a beer festival or simply watching television, while the menacing figures of armed jihadis lurk in the background. “Far away, in the land of Sylvania, rabbits, foxes, hedgehogs, mice and all woodland animals have overcome their differences to live in harmonious peace and tranquility. Until Now,” reads the catalogue note. “MICE-IS, a fundamentalist Islamic terror group, are threatening to dominate Sylvania, and annihilate every species that does not submit to their hardline version of sharia law.

The Metro says,

The controversial piece shows loveable hedgehogs, rabbits, and mice living their everyday life in the fictional land of Sylvania – all while ISIS militants are seen lurking in the background.

A description for the piece in the exhibition catalogue reads: ‘Far away, in the land of Sylvania, rabbits, foxes, hedgehogs, mice and all woodland animals have overcome their differences to live in harmonious peace and tranquillity.

‘MICE-IS, a fundamentalist Islamic terror group, are threatening to dominate Sylvania, and annihilate every species that does not submit to their hard-line version of sharia law.’

The artwork was created by London based artist Mimsy, who reacted angrily to suggestions that her piece was not ‘real art’.

I love my freedom’, she said.

‘I’m aware of the very real threat to that freedom from Islamic fascism and I’m not going to pander to them or justify it like many people on the left are doing.

Explaining the police decision, a gallery spokeswoman said: ‘Mall galleries was approached by Westminster Police who expressed concern about the potential risks of including Mimsy’s work.

They made it clear there would be an additional policing cost if the work was included in the exhibition and indicated this cost would be passed on either to the artist or to the exhibition organiser.’

Background to the pictures (Metro March 2015).

All is not well in Sylvania…

An artist going by the name Mimsy has created a scathing satire of ISIS, and the west’s reaction to the terrorist group, using Sylvanian Family dolls.

The project, which is called MICIS, comprises of two images depicting the happy, care-free world of Sylvania, with threatening figures clad in black clothes and carrying guns and ISIS flags, lurking in the background.

Talking exclusively to Metro.co.uk, Mimsy explained what motivated her to create this project: ‘I was inspired by the theocratic barbarism of ISIS, the obvious fear of terrorism in the west, and the neo-liberal denial of any actual threat.’

Mimsy then went on the tell us why she chose to express these views with Sylvanian Family dolls.

She told us: ‘I played with Sylvanian Families frequently as a child of the early 90s, and for some reason thought they were the perfect depiction of innocence.’

She went on: ‘there is also a one-dimensional childish element to the image that perfectly summarises the mentality of religious fundamentalists. They are blowing themselves up and murdering for a cause that is as so flat, thin and childish, it may as well be depicted as if it were a toy set in an ARGOS catalogue.’

As the staff of Charlie Hebdo learnt in the most horrific of way, religious fundamentalists don’t like satire. So it’s hardly surprising Mimsy has decided to remain anonymous.

When asked to give us more information about herself, the artist simply said: ‘I’m a person who loves the free world, loves democracy (with all it’s flaws) and most of all loves satire.’

We love the Sylvanians.

We love you Mimsy. 

Shame on the Censors!

Written by Andrew Coates

September 27, 2015 at 11:17 am