Clareification: The Final Word – I Hope!

I have now seen a copy of the “offending” issue of Clareification. I have, unfortunately, given my word not to post it. The key reason is that is is full of the names and pictures of undergraduates: who are the main targets of this edition of the college rag. So I won’t be doing so.

However, I can provide you with a summary of the issue in question.


The cover is here.

Page 2

– A cartoon suggesting that the Clare Fair-Trade stall profits are invested in the arms trade.
– An advert for the May Ball.
– An article on a spoof poll, suggesting that Clare undergraduates vote for members of the opposite gender.
– A short editorial which rambles on about the unedifying content of the Gospels, the provinence of the Christian imagery of the cover, includes a few Clare College in-jokes, and then says “Plus I hate Islam”.
– An unintelligible cartoon about Richard Dawkins, which features a woman in a niqab.

Page 3

– College gossip, relating to rumours about undergraduate romances, illustrated by a medieval picture of a man baring his heart. The man might be Jesus.
– A fake horoscopes feature, which speculates about college romances.

Page 4

– Manifestos for candidates running for UCS President.

Page 5

– A picture of a man wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood, purporting to be an undergraduate, with a caption that makes an incomprehensible in-joke about the death of an undergraduate on “Christ’s pieces”.
– A fake ballot paper, making jokes about candidates for UCS president
– Commentary on the UCS Presidential candidates, filled with college in jokes.

Page 6

A weekly diary, which includes:
* A picture of the “Behead those who insult Islam/Freedom go to Hell” protestors
* A quiz, in multiple choice form, which purports to help decide whether they are “the Islamic world”. Students are asked to decide what their reaction would be to finding a “ginger haired man” kicking a puppy, being called a rapist, or – echoing the recent controversy involving the Pope’s speech – being asked to come up with something an unnamed religious figure “brought into the world which was not evil”. The answers range from “ignore it”, “laugh at it” “argue against it” to “blame the puppy” and raping the person who made the accusation.
* Further in-jokes about college hustings.
– A lengthy article which ridicules the Gospel of St Mark – which was apparently given out to the student body by the Christian Union – and exploring the contradictions and inconsistencies in the Gospel. A certain proportion of the article is in Biblical Greek. The article is closely argued, and cites academic sources. It is pretty hard hitting, and includes the suggestion that the Messianic prophecies have not been fulfilled. It compares Jesus to a “builder who’d fucked off with the deposit and has left a note saying that he’ll come back to finish the job”. It also suggests that the early evangalists did not mention Jesus, or the resurrection. I could go into further details: but you get the general idea. The final paragraph suggests that most muslims do not read the Quran, because they do not understand classical Arabic.

Page 7

– Almost the whole of the page consists of a continued exegesis of the Gospel of St Mark.
– A short spoof in-jokey letter to the editor about bias by a UCS Presidential candidate, accusing her of racism.

Page 8
– A cartoon about a college football player who has broken his arm.
– An impossible-to-understand in joke about an undergraduate having sex with a ferret.
– A joke about an undergraduate rigging the college Presidential election.
– Three lookalikes: one featuring Pat Butcher, one featuring Hillary Clinton, and one featuring the student union President and the MoToon cartoon, bearing the caption: “One is a prophet of God, a great leader and an example to us all. The other was a violent paedophile”. The pictures are mis-captioned, in the manner of a Private Eye “Lookalike” feature.


I am kind of astonished that this story has got as far as it has.

Let’s remember how we arrived here:

1. Clare College immediately recalled the edition when it saw the content. I do not know why they did so. However, I suspect that it is because the editors reproduced a MoToon.

2. I do not know whether any complaints were received by Clare College before they took this action.

3. The students were apparently then moved from college. I do not know why this happened. Disciplinary proceedings were commenced. I am told that they are now completed, and that the students will not be “sent down” (i.e. expelled).

4. An article on the affair appeared in the student press. It was also run by Cambridge Evening News, which referred to a racist cartoon and other vile material.

5. I do not know whether complaints from any students or other members of the public were made to the college or to the police.

6. It has been reported that the Acting Senior Tutor, Dr Patricia Fara, and the chaplain have apologised to “leaders of the local Muslim Community, and also with other religious leaders”

7. The Cambridge Muslim Welfare Society issued a statement calling for a “full and unconditional apology” from the students, and invoking “its duty before Almighty Allah and before humanity to defend the honour and good name of the Final Prophet”

8. The 19 year old student editor was interviewed by the Cambridgshire police, under caution, in relation to an offence under the Public Order Act 1986. The offence in question is, I understand, either section 4A or section 5: possibly with a “religiously aggravated” element. The charging decision has been left to the Crown Prosecution Service.

I do not know how this affair reached this stage. I suspect that what may have happened is that the police either investigated the students following a specific complaint, or took action on their own initiative.

It would have been open to the police to decide that there was no evidence of an offence. The view of a criminal barrister to whom I have shown the edition is that there would be sufficient evidence to consider a charge for a public order offence, where there was a religiously aggravating element. The statement “I hate Islam” is a relevant factor. Treating the Gopel of St Mark flippantly, and the joke about “Christ’s pieces” might also form the basis of a prosecution: although this is less likely. The relevant offences, in any event, are very broadly drafted, and cover merely “insulting” behaviour which would cause a person “distress”.

In any event, particularly in the present climate, it is understandable that the police would cover themselves by passing the decision on whether or not to charge the students to the Crown Prosecution Service, which is the normal procedure in cases where there is prima facie evidence of an offence.

The further question – whether the CPS, applying the Code for Crown Prosecutors would decide whether it is in the “public interest” to prosecute – is a more difficult one. It is certainly possible, but by no means certain, that a prosecution will follow.

Ask yourself the following questions:

(a) Should 19 year old undergraduates, in the middle of their academic careers, be subject to the stress of a formal police investigation, and the risk of a subsequent prosecution, under an offence which is particularly broadly drafted, and arising from the publication of satirical material and a cartoon in a college magazine?

(b) Should Clare College have apologised to “religious leaders” for this material?

(c) Was it appropriate or necessary for the undergraduates to have been moved from their rooms in College in the middle of their term?