Recap: The Jesus and Mo Fiasco

Posted by Dan | Posted in Censorship, Rants, Religion | Posted on 10-02-2014


Long before Adam Ant copyrighted his face, there lived this dude called Muhammad…

In case you haven’t been following the latest Jesus and Mo circus, here’s the run-down:

In October last year, two students at the London School of Economics — Chris Moos and Abhishek Phadnis — were harassed by security at their Freshers’ Fair because of their t-shirts. Their shirts had Jesus and Mo cartoons which security considered too offensive. The cartoons are below:









This got some attention online and eventually the LSE apologised for their treatment.

You might have thought this would be the end of the matter, but a few weeks ago the students were invited onto the BBC’s Sunday morning debate programme The Big Questions. The topic that week was “Should human rights always outweigh religious rights?” (In my opinion the answer is a resounding yes.) It’s worth a watch, even if just to gawp in amazement at the number of people simultaneously claiming rights of others should be restricted whilst asserting their beliefs deserve special privileges. This programme also introduced me to Maajid Nawaz, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate and co-founder of The Quilliam Foundation, who I thought presented himself brilliantly and was the champion of the debate.

BdzWOP-CMAAsdwvNear the end of the debate the students open their shirts to reveal — shock horror! — the t-shirts. Camera immediately cuts away from the focal point to random audience members instead. While the shirts are eventually shown it’s only from an unclear angle. Cue more amusing/depressing comments from the audience members.

Not wanting people to think that all Muslims are hyper-sensitive or condemn free expression, Maajid Nawaz picked the most timid of the t-shirt cartoons and sent this tweet from his personal Twitter account:


…and that’s when the internet exploded.

Maajid quickly became the victim of an overwhelming torrent of abuse and harassment. His personal details were leaked and he received numerous death threats, along with threats of violence against him and his family. Upstanding citizens like Mohammed Shafiq made sure to inform Muslim communities across the world of his blasphemy, no doubt contributing to the tide of threats being hurled at Maajid to this day. Despite him having tweeted from his personal — not his work — Twitter account, it soon impacted his job after calls for his deselection from the next general election.

How was this reported in the media? Mo was not only obscured by a giant black egg, but also had his shoulders removed. Y’know, just in case a pair of cartoon shoulders might cause offence.


Screenshot taken from

Screenshot taken from–an-open-letter-to-the-editor

As you may have gathered, I’m not overly fond of the way people walk on eggshells when it comes to the topic of Muhammad depictions. I believe that allows extremists to define the official stance on the matter, and the media slapping giant eggs over Mo just reinforces the message that intimidation does work and is an effective way to keep people quiet.

I submitted a written complaint to and received the following reply:

Thank you for sending us your views on the Jesus and Mo cartoon story which ran on Channel 4 News on Tuesday 28 January 2014. As we are sure you can appreciate, this is a very sensitive subject for many viewers. Channel 4 News editorial staff gave great consideration to the issues involved and believe that they reached a fair and balanced judgement, weighing up the potential for offence to some viewers by showing the depiction of the Prophet Mohammed and the necessity of showing the cartoon in full.The senior editorial team decided that the showing of the entire illustration, whilst likely to cause offence, was not integral to the story, and therefore took the decision to pixelate. Whilst we acknowledge your views, we believe that on balance this was the correct decision and as a rule, where we consider the likelihood of significant offence to our audience, we will attempt to mitigate against that. As to not pixelating the image of Jesus, it was not felt that the same level of offence was likely to be provoked as the image is commonly depicted in cartoon form.We appreciate you taking the time to contact us and be assured your comments have been logged for the information of our News team.Thank you again for taking the time to contact us. We appreciate all feedback from our viewers; complimentary or otherwise.
Steve Reynolds
Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries

(My friend Terry Firma, who received exactly the same reply, delivers a rather wonderful critique of this response here.)


Aaaand that about brings us up to the present day. I would prattle on about why I have a problem with religious censorship, but frankly I can’t top this outstanding piece by one of the original offenders — the aforementioned Abhishek Phadnis: Publish and Be Damned.


[My interview with the Author of Jesus and Mo –>]

Comments (2)

Do you actually have a friend called Terry Firma? Because that might be my favourite name of all time.

OhThatBethanSadly it is a pseudonym.
He writes some good stuff:

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