LSE Apologises To Atheist Students Over Mohammed Jesus T-Shirt Row

LSE Apologises To Atheist Students Over Mohammed Jesus T-Shirt Row

The London School of Economics has apologised to two atheist students for threatening to kick them of a freshers fair if they did not cover up their t-shirts depicting Mohammed and Jesus.

The incident, which took place in October, attracted nationwide attention, with famous atheist Richard Dawkins weighing in to criticise the institution.

Chris Moos and Abishek Phadnis, members of the LSE student union's Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Student Society, attended the university's freshers' fair wearing t-shirts with the controversial 'Jesus and Mo' cartoons.

Student Union officials demanded the students remove the t-shirts, and several other pieces of literature, because there had been complaints from offended passers-by.

Abishek Phadnis and Chris Moos in the offending tshirts

According to the students, a member of the LSE Legal and Compliance Team and Head of Security said that the wearing of the t-shirts could be considered "harassment", as it could "offend others" by creating an "offensive environment".

The students eventually agreed to cover up the t-shirts but said they "completely disagreed" with the students' union.

Although Moos and Phadnis say they "welcome" the LSE's admission, they have deemed it a "half-apology".

"We are disappointed that it took the threat of legal action to elicit an acknowledgement of our grievances, and that no apology has been forthcoming from the LSESU, whose grave misconduct began this chain of harassment.

"We are also disappointed that Professor Calhoun has failed to apologise for, or even acknowledge, our harassment at the hands of LSE Security and LSESU officers. We disagree with Professor Calhoun’s contention that they acted ‘in good faith’ in dealing with a ‘difficult situation’, and aver that the decisions in question were uncomplicated and taken unhurriedly, over two days."

At the time, Jay Stoll, the LSE SU General Secretary, said the t-shirts were "clearly designed to depict Mohammed and Jesus in a provocative manner" and that a number of complaints had been made.

A petition was started shortly after the incident, demanding LSE and LSESU issue a formal apology to the two students. At the time of publication, the campaign, started by student governor Jason Wong, had more than 2,500 signatures.

Dawkins' voiced his anger on Twitter after the incident in October:

The university posted the statement on its website:

"The London School of Economics and Political Science has today apologised to two students from the LSE Students’ Union Atheist Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH) who wore t-shirts depicting Mohammed and Jesus at the SU Freshers’ Fair on 3 October 2013 and who were asked to cover their t-shirts or face removal from the Fair. The Director of the School, Professor Craig Calhoun, has written to the students acknowledging that, with hindsight, the wearing of the t-shirts on this occasion did not amount to harassment or contravene the law or LSE policies.

"The two students, Mr Chris Moos and Mr Abhishek Phadnis, formally appealed to the School on 12 November.

"Professor Calhoun has also acknowledged the difficulties faced by staff dealing with the matter on the day: “Members of staff acted in good faith and sought to manage the competing interests of complainant students and yourselves in a way that they considered to be in the best interests of all parties on the days in question.”

"The School recognises that this apology will occasion debate and discussion. LSE and the LSE SU have already put on record concern over the nature of some of the social media debate on this matter in the past, which has been highly personalised. It is hoped that this will not be repeated. LSE takes its duty to promote free speech very seriously, and as such, will discuss and learn from the issues raised by recent events."

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