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Strong religious belief is no excuse for intimidation
by Joan Smith
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. The first has received very little public attention, despite the fact that students who belong to the college's Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society were unable to go ahead with a perfectly legal discussion of sharia law. They'd come to Queen Mary, University of London to hear Anne Marie Waters speak on behalf of the One Law For All campaign, when an angry young man entered the lecture theatre. He stood at the front and used his mobile phone to film the audience, claiming he knew where they lived and would track them down if a single negative word was said about the Prophet. The organisers informed the police and the meeting cancelled.
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