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Free Speech Wars: The Blasphemy Fashion Police

by Douglas Murray

Meet the latest victim of the “Cartoon Wars”: Maajid Nawaz, head of the counter-extremism Quilliam Foundation and prospective parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrat party. He was on a BBC program discussing free speech and the right to offend, when two students from a London Atheists and Secular Society were present. They were wearing T-shirts with a cartoon strip on them called “Jesus and Mo.” The wearing of such T-shirts has become a matter of principle for them since students manning the stall of the Atheists and Secularists society at the London School of Economics freshers’ fair last October were asked either to cover their T-shirtsup or be physically removed. No prizes for guessing who complained about the T-shirts, but it was not the LSE Christian Society.

This local infringement on freedom of speech caused some embarrassment for the LSE, and the debate over the dreaded T-shirts of hate rumbled on until December when the university authorities apologized for becoming the blasphemy fashion police.

But as everybody who remembers the Danish cartoons affair will remember, these things are never contained. Indeed so fevered is this debate that there are endless Hydra-headed spin-offs each time the cartoon wars crops up. Each time someone tries to chop its metaphorical head off, another cartoon affair pops up somewhere else.

In any event, this time the spin-off was the BBC Sunday morning discussion show on which the students turned up, again with their T-shirts. The BBC refused to show the T-shirts and some artful filming protected the audience from the full horror of having to see a stick-figure called “Mo” saying “How ya doin?” to Jesus, who is saying “Hey.”


This “Jesus and Mo” image, featured on t-shirts and in comic strips, is the source of controversy at the BBC and the London School of Economics. (Image source: jesusandmo.net)


During the debate, a number of Muslims pointed out how offensive they found this outrageous image, and how against the feelings of all Muslims it was. (Poor lambs! –ed.)  And Nawaz was the only one to point out that he, as a Muslim, did not find this offensive at all. Rightly amazed at the BBC’s genuflection to a new blasphemy law, when the program had finished, he sent the cartoon out to his twitter followers with a message saying that he thought his God was bigger than to find offense at something like this….


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