Wednesday, February 14, 2007


This is a tale about Cambridge University as it is today. It tells of student pranks, of reactionary University authorities, of the abolishment of free speech on campus, and of the climate of fear instilled by the Disrimination Laws.

A 19 year-old student at Clare College, Cambridge, printed a copy of one of the Mohammed cartoons next to a photo of the President of the Union of Clare Students in the student rag, Clareification. The caption read "violent paedophile" and the other was "a prophet of God, great leader, and example to us all." It is not known which caption referred to which photo. The piece was submitted as part of this week's theme of religious satire. The copy was entitled Crucification.

Since publication on Friday, the shit has hit the fan in a spectacular fashion.

i) The College authorities have hit the panic button and have called a Court of Discipline to decide on the student's fate. However, this seems all but sealed given some of the comments from College authorities,

Senior Tutor, Patricia Fara,

"Clare is an open and inclusive college. A student produced satirical publication has caused widespread distress throughout the Clare community. The college finds the publication and the views expressed abhorrent. Reflecting the gravity of the situation, the college immediately began an investigation and disciplinary procedures are in train."

She has also requested that students hand over all copies of Clareification back to her so that they can be "destroyed".

Book burning at Cambridge?

I would pay good money for a copy. If you have one, email me. There's strangely nothing on ebay.

ii) The College has also cut funding for the paper and

iii) called the police, who replied (sensibly) that

"This is a matter for the university authorities to deal with."

iv) In typical union fashion, Calum Davey, President of the Clare Student Union decides to speak for all the students, offering his "deep regret" and adding

"This material does not reflect the views of Clare students"

v) Local Muslim leaders have predictably "expressed outrage" over the publication.

vi) Oh, and the boy in question has been taken into hiding for "his own protection". Nowhere is this spelled out why. Has he received threats? It is not clear.

Now the National Secular Society has joined the debate, with Terry Sanderson, President of the NSS publishing a statement passionately defending the right to free speech,

“We are shocked that the staff and even the students union at this supposedly liberal college have joined the attack on this student because he had the temerity to poke fun at religion. Free expression is such a precious commodity and is under such ferocious attack at present from religious interests that it is disgraceful that no-one is standing up for this young man’s right to be rude about religion – even about Islam.”
and contrasting Clare College's shameful capitulation to religious censorship with the French authorities' recent spirited defence of free speech,

“We would like to draw your attention to a case that is pending in France at the moment, in which a satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, has been brought to court by an Islamic organisation for re-publishing the Danish cartoons that are at the centre of so much controversy. In the French case, academics, artists and politicians of all hues have rushed to the defence of the magazine. Letters of support and statements defending free speech have been issued by some of the most influential people in the country – including Mr Sarkozy, who is potentially the next President of France. Your own reaction does not bear comparison with the principled French reactions. It sides with the oppressors and censors who are doing so much to retard open debate in academe and elsewhere."

If you would like to write to the College authorities to express your feelings, the email addresses are;

The Master, Professor Tony Badger:

The Senior Tutor, Dr Patricia Fara:

Students' Union President, Calum Davey:

thanks to Pub Philosopher for the addresses

This is a local blog, which apparently is not connected with the College, despite the title, Clare Politics. Posts on the subject are starting to roll in.

Update; someone who has actually seen the magazine (and appears to be generally in favour of free speech) finds the contents "frightening and unnecessary"

via Harry's Place