11 February: An important stand for free expression
One Law for All held a successful rally in defence of free expression on Saturday 11 February 2012 opposite the Houses of Parliament. Hundreds braved the cold weather to join the rally at Old Palace Yard.
The rally followed several incidents in London recently where freedom of expression was curtailed in favour of fear of causing offence. In one incident, a talk on sharia law by One Law for All’s Anne Marie Waters was cancelled following threats of violence. Rhys Morgan was told by his school to remove a picture of Jesus and Mo from his Facebook page – a picture he had used in solidarity with the University College London Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society who had been asked by their student union to remove the same image. Both UCL and the London School of Economics have since passed draconian motions which will further restrict religious criticism or satire at their schools.
Speakers at the rally included A C Grayling, Nick Cohen, Caroline Cox, Gita Sahgal, Keith Porteous Wood, and Rhys Morgan.
The event was sponsored by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science UK and featured Richard Dawkins who told the crowd to ‘stop being so damn respectful’ and that without freedom of speech, society would be a ‘scientific, technological, moral dark age’.
Maryam Namazie of One Law for All closed the rally by remembering those, around the world, who are fighting for freedom of expression, often at cost of their lives.
Actions to mark the occassion were also held in other cities, including Germany, Portugal and South Africa. Some highlights included a solidarity rally in Warsaw, Poland, a fundraising dinner for One Law for All in Melbourne, Australia and the start of a campaign by Women’s Initiative for Citizenship and Universal Rights in France to denounce discrimination faced by women due to the application of unfair laws in France.
The Free Expression Day of Action was endorsed by hundreds of people and organisations.
As a follow up to the day, One Law for All has initiated a campaign in defence of 23 year old writer, Hamza Kashgari, who faces execution in Saudi Arabia for tweeting about Mohammad, Islam’s prophet. To support the campaign, click here.
Some photos of the London rally can be found below. More to follow.