Satirical art using children's toy characters from the Sylvanian Families to mock Islamic State (ISIS) has been banned from a freedom of speech exhibition over fears of muslim violence.
The work was censored from the schedule at the Passion for Freedom exhibition at London's Mall Galleries after police raised serious concerns about the possibility of a terrorist atrocity against visitors. Police feared crazed jihadis
would take offence and launch a reprisal attack in response to the heavily mocking artwork.
Officers told exhibition organisers they would have to pay £36,000 to hire extra security if the piece was displayed, forcing the gallery to remove it from display.
The works mocked the Islamist fanatics by showing them lurking in the background of ordinary family scenes depicted as characters from the popular Sylvanian Families toy set. A description for the piece, called ISIS Threaten Sylvania, said:
Far away, in the land of Sylvania, rabbits, foxes, hedgehogs, mice and all woodland animals have overcome their differences to live in harmonious peace and tranquillity.
MICE-IS, a fundamentalist Islamic terror group, are threatening to dominate Sylvania, and annihilate every species that does not submit to their hard-line version of sharia law.
The decision provoked outrage from both the artist, Mimsy, and people online, who said the terrorist group should not be able to dictate what the British public can see. Mimsy said:
I love my freedom. I'm aware of the very real threat to that freedom from Islamic fascism and I'm not going to pander to them or justify it like many people on the left are doing.
Author Ben Goldacre tweeted:
Dear The British Police, I want you to protect free speech from violence, maybe spend less time on cannabis smokers?
Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg said:
Concerns over terror are being inflated to such an extent that perfectly legitimate, non-criminal expression, is being shut down across Britain: from university campuses, to theatre stages, to art galleries. The upcoming extremism
bill could worsen the situation further. In the case of the Sylvanian Families exhibit, we need to do more to ensure that police work with venues to promote freedom of expression, not stifle it.
The US rapper Tyler, the Creator says he has been banned from the UK because of the nature of his lyrics. The Odd Future co-founder recently cancelled four dates including an appearance at Reading/Leeds and tweeted that it was because the authorities
were unhappy with his subject matter.
His manager, Christian Clancy, went into more detail on his Tumblr, saying
Tyler has been banned from entering the UK for somewhere between 3 to 5 years per a letter from the secretary of state for the home department of the UK. The letter specifically cites lyrics he wrote 6-7 years ago for his albums Bastard and Goblin
, the type of lyrics he hasn't written since. Highlights from the letter include that his work encourages violence and intolerance of homosexuality and fosters hatred with views that seek to provoke others to terrorist acts.
Earlier this month Tyler cancelled the Australian leg of his world tour after a feminist group launched a petition to have him denied a visa to enter the country. The group, Collective Shout, cited objections to lyrics that include references to rape
and violence against women, as well as historic behaviour on earlier tours.
Complaints about Tyler seem to stem largely from songs on his self-produced 2009 mixtape Bastard, which includes lines such as you call this shit rape but I think that rape's fun as well as references to raping Goldilocks and committing
suicide. Most of that record was written when Tyler was a teenager and he has since written about how he's moved on from the sentiments expressed on it.
Comment: Once you start banning rappers like Tyler, the Creator, where do you stop
The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) of Northern Ireland have defended their prosecution of James McConnell, the Christian preacher who called Islam Satanic.
In a letter sent to the National Secular Society, the PPS have doubled-down on their decision to take the case to trial, after the NSS warned that their actions had created a chilling effect on free speech. A Christian
organisation warned that many churches will be wary of what they place on the internet until this case is heard and the law is clarified.
Pastor McConnell is being prosecuted under the Communications Act 2003 for sending a grossly offensive message. The Pastor said during a sermon that Islam was a doctrine spawned in hell and that while there may be good Muslims in the UK, he didn't trust Muslims generally.
In response to a letter of concern written by the National Secular Society urging the PPS to reconsider its course of action, the Prosecution Service have claimed that their controversial decision is in the public interest ,
and have vowed to press on despite a raft of criticism from Christian groups, the National Secular Society and an imam, Dr Muhammad Al-Hussaini, who said he strongly upholds the moral right of Pastor McConnell and myself, as Christian and Muslim, to
disagree about matters of doctrine and belief.
The PPS added in their response to the National Secular Society that they had balanced the relevant public interest considerations in their treatment of the case, but that due to the gravity of the preacher's sermon and
the circumstances of the offence and the offender they were right to deal with the matter by way of an informed warning.
Pastor McConnell rejected this warning, which would have remained on his criminal record for 12 months, and this led to the case proceeding to trial at the PPS's insistence.
Extraordinarily, the complaint about McConnell's sermon reportedly came from Dr Raied Al-Wazzan, who recently praised the Islamic State and said that Mosul had become the most peaceful city in the world under IS rule. You
can go from east to west of the city without fear, he claimed. Al-Wazzan is now described as the main prosecution witness in the case against McConnell.
There has been widespread condemnation of the PPS's actions, but Assistant Director Michael Agnew wrote that he remained of the view that the evidence Test for Prosecution is met and that a prosecution was justified given that
McConnell has refused to accept the warning.
NSS campaigns manager Stephen Evans said:
This baffling decision to persist with the prosecution of Pastor McConnell represents a reckless and grievous encroachment upon his - and everybody else's - fundamental right to free expression.
In our view Pastor McConnell was well within his rights to refuse a warning that would have remained on his criminal record for a year, particularly given that he clearly did not incite violence in his sermon and the PPS do not even
appear to claim that he did. Given that, the PPS's behaviour seems even more extraordinary.
Whatever the outcome of this case, the actions of the Public Prosecution Service are likely to have a chilling effect on everyone's freedom to speak openly about their beliefs.
In an open and free society, we should all feel able to express our beliefs and opinions without fear of criminal sanction - regardless of how unpalatable others may find them.
The weapon of 'offense' is increasingly being used to stifle free expression. The desire to live in a harmonious and tolerant society is a noble one, but will not be achieved by the suppression of fundamental freedoms.
We again urge the PPS to drop this case and issue a full apology to Mr. McConnell.