Vive Charlie Issue 19 - Page 32

The LSS has come under fire recently for its decision to support the Sharia Watch UK / Vive Charlie Mohammed cartoon exhibition in September, and in particular for our decision to share a platform with the Dutch MP Geert Wilders and Paul Weston, Chairman of the political party Liberty GB.

Being a decent bunch of lawyers who respect the rule of law, the LSS’s decision was put to a democratic vote of the whole membership. The membership voted in favour of the LSS speaking at the event.

So, has the LSS completely lost the plot, or are there sound reasons for this decision which might resonate with secularists and the wider public? Well, all I can do is set out some arguments for why the LSS should share a platform with Wilders and Weston, and hope that I carry my readers with me. Here goes…

Free speech in the context of Islam is today perhaps the most pressing issue for secularism and indeed for democracy generally, the world over. When people are getting killed purely for drawing Mohammed cartoons and other infringements of Islam’s insane blasphemy codes, it’s important that secularists support an event like this as robustly as possible. The number of people willing to stage such an event is shrinking by the second – sadly, for good reason. If Mohammed can’t be depicted then Islam can’t be challenged, at which point democracy dies a horrible death.

Supporting from the sidelines by remarking banally, backside-coveringly and while subtly slipping in a dagger that “Everyone has the right to free speech, even bigots” is simply not good enough. It’s weak. Deep down, I suspect those who trot out this stock phrase know they’re being weak.

The best way to support an event like this; the best way to show the LSS is truly committed to free speech; and the best way to show solidarity with those who have been killed and who continue to risk their lives, is to publicly associate ourselves with the event and to speak there in a spirit of solidarity with the other speakers.

Individual views towards Wilders and Weston will differ but in the context of this event those views are irrelevant, for this reason: we mustn’t create a “hierarchy of victims” of blasphemy codes where Charlie Hebdo are at the top but others, for whatever reason, are at the bottom.

As events only this year in Paris, Copenhagen and Texas have shown, people at this exhibition will be risking their lives. Unless someone can convince me otherwise, as far as I am concerned the life of Wilders or Weston is worth precisely the same as that of a Charlie Hebdo journalist. Creating a victim hierarchy is a variation on the “free speech is important, but” theme. Those at the bottom are degraded; their right to free speech is deemed less important; and threats and violence against them are deemed less appalling.

Here comes the elephant in the room. Please consider this a “trigger warning” and proceed immediately to a

“safe space”.

The LSS is right to share a platform with Geert Wilders and Paul Weston

By Lawyers Secular Society Secretary, Charlie Klendjian

@LawSecSoc LawyersSecularSociety


Charlie Klendjian cancels speaking engagement at Mohammed Exhibition.

LSS Secretary Charlie Klendjian has unfortunately had to cancel his forthcoming speaking engagement at the Sharia Watch UK / Vive Charlie Mohammed cartoon exhibition on Friday 18 September, for personal reasons.

The LSS membership recently voted for the LSS to be represented at the event. The decision to pull out of speaking is a purely personal decision of Klendjian’s.

The LSS is still happy to fully support the event and to be publicly associated with it. In fact, the LSS is currently making every effort to send a replacement speaker.