Student society censored at University of Manchester

Earlier this week the Free Speech and Secular Society (FSS) at the University of Manchester planned to display a cover of Charlie Hebdo on its stall at the ‘Refreshers Fair’ in memory of those killed.

However, the society was told by the student union that it could not display the magazine, as the fair “was to be a comfortable and inclusive environment where people should not feel ridiculed”.

As a result, the society decided to compromise, placing the cover inside a leaflet which displayed a warning about the content.

This is just the latest in a long line of incidents in which student unions have essentially imposed blasphemy codes on students.

In January 2012, student groups at both University College London (UCL) and the London School of Economics (LSE) were told to remove ‘Jesus and Mo’ cartoons from their Facebook pages.

Meanwhile, in October 2012, the Atheist, Humanist, and Secularist Society at the University of Reading was ejected from the Freshers’ Fayre after displaying a pineapple labelled ‘Mohammed’ on its stall.

A year later, the same society was disaffiliated from the union after refusing to sign a statement in which it agreed to refrain from causing offence.

In the same week, students at LSE were again targeted by the student union, and forced to cover t-shirts featuring ‘Jesus and Mo’.

The LSE student union was later forced to apologise to the students, stating: “the wearing of the t-shirts on this occasion did not amount to harassment or contravene the law or LSE policies”.

As we have written in the past, students do not have the right to impose their religious sensibilities on others – and student unions should certainly not be doing this on their behalf.

To do so homogenises and infantilises religious students – and the fact that Islamic Society members at the University of Manchester have “expressed their displeasure” at the censorship of the FSS highlights this.

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