Muhammad cartoon row leads to resignation

University College London University College London Union has asked the atheist society to remove the cartoon

The president of a London university atheist society has resigned over a row about an image of the Prophet Muhammad.

The society at University College London (UCL) published an image on its Facebook page showing "Jesus and Mo" having a drink at a bar.

The atheist group was asked by the UCL union to remove it, but refused and started a petition defending its freedom of expression.

A student Muslim group began a counter-petition asking for its removal.

UCL's Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society said its president Robbie Yellon was stepping down to be replaced by former vice president Michael Thor.

"Robbie stepped aside because he signed up as president to organise events and run a student society," said Michael Paynter, secretary for the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies.

"He did not appreciate the stress he would be under when dealing with a controversy like this, so he wanted to make way for someone else."

'No need'

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association is continuing with its protest against the image, saying it has wider implications.

Adam Walker, the association's national spokesperson, said the two student groups had worked well together in the past and said the offence was unnecessary.

Start Quote

The principle is more important than who is being attacked - this time it is Muslims and Christians but in the future it could be atheists themselves”

End Quote Adam Walker Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association spokesman

"The principle is more important than who is being attacked - this time it is Muslims and Christians but in the future it could be atheists themselves.

"There is no need to print these things other than to cause offence and history has told us that these things cause offence."

He added: "I wouldn't say we're specifically pursuing UCL atheist society, it's more about the broader principle."

The image that started the controversy was taken from an online satirical comic called Jesus and Mo.

The twice-weekly comic strip, running since 2005, depicts Jesus and what creators say is a "body double" of Muhammad talking to a barmaid.

The row has prompted debate on the internet with prominent academic and author Richard Dawkins backing the atheist society.

UCL Union (UCLU) said in a statement: "The atheist society has agreed they will take more consideration when drawing up publicity for future events.

"The society was asked to remove the image because UCLU aims to foster good relations between different groups of students and create a safe environment where all students can benefit from societies regardless of their religious or other beliefs."

You can hear more on this story on Asian Network Reports on the BBC Asian Network.

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