A talk on sharia and human rights by NSS Council Member Anne Marie Waters' at Queen Mary College, London was cancelled at the
last moment because of an Islamist who made serious threats against everyone there.
The talk was due to take place on 16 January but before it started, a man entered the lecture theatre, stood at the front with a camera and filmed the audience. He then said that he knew who everyone was, where they lived and if he heard anything
negative about the Prophet, he would track them down.
The man also filmed students in the foyer and threatened to murder them and their families. On leaving the building, he joined a large group of men, apparently there to support him. Students were told by security to stay in the lecture theatre for
their own safety.
Jennifer Hardy, President of Queen Mary Atheism Society, who organised the event said:
This event was supposed to be an opportunity for people of different religions and perspectives to debate, at a university that is supposed to be a beacon of free speech and debate.
Only two complaints had been made to the Union prior to the event, and the majority of the Muslim students at the event were incredibly supportive of it going ahead. These threats were an aggressive assault on freedom of speech and the fact that
they led to the cancellation of our talk was severely disappointing for all of the religious and non-religious students in the room who wanted to engage in debate.
My One Law for All Co-Spokesperson Anne Marie Waters was to speak at a meeting on Sharia Law and Human Rights at the University of London last night.
It was cancelled by the Queen Mary Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society organisers after police had to be called in due to Islamist threats. One Islamist filmed everyone at the meeting and announced he would hunt down those who said anything
negative about Islam's prophet. Outside the hall, he threatened to kill anyone who defamed the prophet. Reference was made to the Jesus and Mo cartoon saga at UCL.
The University's security guard -- a real gem --arrived first only to blame the speaker and organisers rather than those issuing death threats. He said: If you will have these discussions, what do you expect? Err, to speak without being
threatened with death maybe?
It's been a dreadful week for free speech. A meeting at a prestigious London college had to be abandoned on Monday evening when
members of the audience were filmed and threatened by an Islamic extremist.
Then the president of a student society at another London college was forced to resign after a Muslim organisation called for a ban on a joky image of the Prophet Mohammed.
Finally, on Friday, the author Sir Salman Rushdie cancelled an appearance at India's largest literary festival, saying he feared an assassination attempt after protests by Muslim clerics.
Almost as sinister as this series of events has been the reaction to them.
Atheists, secularists and supporters of free speech rallied in London to protest what they feel is an increased confidence of Islamists to censor free expression publicly . Around 200 people gathered on the steps of the memorial to King
George V in Old Palace Yard opposite the House of Lords in Westminster.
Anne Marie Waters from the One Law for All group, which protests against sharia law in the United Kingdom, said that freedom of expression was the greatest freedom we have and included the freedom to offend .
Accusations of Islamophobia against those who reposted the Jesus and Mo webcomic was one of a number of incidents highlighted by speakers. Susan Zhuang from the University College London Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society spoke of the
reaction to the posting of the cartoon to their Facebook profile: maybe we were naive but we never thought it would come to this . The university's student union demanded that the group remove the cartoon, but the group declined and
launched an Internet petition to defend freedom of expression .
The blogger and activist Rhys Morgan, who had been previously threatened with libel for saying that the a clinic operated in Texas by Staislaw Burzynski was charging hundreds of thousands of dollars to cancer patients for unproven treatments, also
spoke of being threatened by his sixth-form college to remove the Jesus and Mo cartoon from his Facebook account. He said that the staff at his college implied that [he] would be suspended or expelled , claiming that the image offended
Muslims. He also said that he had got threats of violence including someone saying that his house would be burned down, and was called a God-hater .
The philosophy professor A. C. Grayling and the popular science writer Richard Dawkins both spoke at the rally, with the latter criticising the decision by the organisers of a literary festival in Jaipur, India, to kowtow to a violent threat
by rescinding an invitation to the author Salman Rushdie based on a demand by some local Islamic scholar . (Dawkins joked about how, unlike Islamic scholars, a true 'scholar' studies more than one book .)
Dawkins argued that people should stop being so damn respectful . Without freedom of speech, Dawkins said, society would be in a scientific, technological, moral dark age .