The second year Clare student responsible for last week’s publication of the Danish cartoon is back in Cambridge, Acting Senior Tutor Dr Patricia Fara has confirmed. This follows a period in which “the guest editor of the edition of Clareification was asked to leave Cambridge temporarily for safety reasons”. The student’s return coincides with meetings now taking place to ascertain the repercussions of the incident.

The issue of Clareification published on Friday February 2, which has sparked international media interest, was re-titled Crucification and focused primarily on religious satire. It published a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed, originally featured in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005. The magazine also included critiques of various religious passages and offered editorial opinion on the Koran and the Christian Gospels amongst other religious issues.

The magazine has provoked reaction among members of the Muslim community. Hicham Kwieder, Chairman of the Mosque Committee at the Abu Bakr Siddiq Islamic Centre in Cambridge, wrote to Varsity expressing “sorrow and anger” on behalf of the Committee and congregation. He noted the publication of “material which deliberately insults the honour of the Blessed Prophet Mohammed”, stating that “the Mosque condemns this provocation in the strongest terms”. He added “Incitement to religious and ethnic hatred is at all times immoral, and its consequences for harmony between communities and nations can be grave”.

The College has been keen to disassociate itself from the views expressed in Clareification, and has publicly announced that disciplinary measures are underway. Dr Fara confirmed that “this may include the setting up of a college Court of Discipline to decide upon action to be taken”. She said that the institution “has been in close contact with leaders of the local Muslim Community, and also with other religious leaders, to apologise for the offence that has been caused”. Face to face apologies were made at the Cambridge Islamic Centre. Kwieder has agreed that “the College and University in no way bear responsibility for this publication and the views which it contains”.

But there has also been criticism of the University’s “attack” on the guest editor. President of the National Secular Society Terry Sanderson declared “We are shocked that the staff and even the student 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”.

it is disgraceful that no one is standing up for this young man’s right to be rude about religion

Sanderson wrote to the Master of Clare College, Professor Tony Badger, Dr Fara and President of Clare Student Union Calum Davey to register “profound disquiet” at the College’s reaction. He highlights the inaccuracy of labelling the incident as “racism”, contending that “satirising religion – even if that religion is Islam – is not racism, as this episode has been dubbed. Religion and race have very different characteristics”.

MediaWatchWatch, an organisation established to protect freedom of expression, has also condemned local press for describing the cartoon as “racist” and referring to other content as “vile material”. On their website they argue that “The [guest editor of Clareification did nothing wrong. The only abhorrent thing about this affair is the fact that he now finds himself in hiding, he has been condemned by people who should be supporting him, and will apparently be punished for committing no crime.”

Dr Fara defended her position, claiming “I have never accused the guest editor of being a racist”. She added “I have been personally accused of calling Muslims ‘a race’ when they are not”.

Clare College has declined to comment on whether other students involved in the publication of Clareification will be involved in disciplinary proceedings. When questioned about any development in events, Dr Fara would only say that “the process is already underway and there have been several meetings”.

Nikki Burton

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