A student paper is at the centre of a row over ethical standards after publishing a secret recording of what appears to be homophobic comments made by a student society member.
The Mancunion student newspaper has been criticised by both Manchester University's Student Union (MUSU) and the chair of the global aspirations of women's society, whose meeting was 'covertly' filmed.
The student paper published extracts from a recording made by first year student Colin Cortbus, who attended the society's public meeting on Wednesday.
The Middle Eastern studies undergraduate asked a member of the society whether, “in the Islamic society in which you strive for,” they would “feel comfortable, personally and morally, to kill a gay man".
According to the Mancunion, a female student replied: "Absolutely," and described homosexuality as an "atrocity, because it goes against what God says".
The student was also asked if she, in her "ideal" Islamic state, would feel confident to kill a man if he "did something as completely innocent as kiss another man outside the Students’ Union," to which she reportedly replied: "Yeah, absolutely. But it’s the fact that you can’t just see it as it is. People have this issue that the punishment, penal code, everything is so completely inhumane, but who even says that these things are inhumane?”
In response to the article, the society published a lengthy statement on its Facebook page, part of which read:
"We would like to begin by expression my concerns regarding the under hand tactics employed by yourself (The Mancunion) as a means to get a scoop for your newspaper.
"You failed to put our discussion into perspective for the aims of global aspirations of women's society endeavours to discuss the plight of women here at home and globally and looks to political alternatives to end oppression, subjugation and the dishonour of women and hence includes Islam as in the debate along with secular/ liberal systems as an alternative.
"When we look at the discontent in which people are living in this society as well as the widespread chaos all we seek to do is to simply raise discussions as to the nature of these problems and how islam as an ideology (in its true form and not what is currently available in the Muslim world as they defiantly [sic] do not represent Islam and its tenants) as an alternative.
"The fact that you have pin pointed only the discussion on the punishment system in Islam shows that you are ignorant of Islam as a political system, and hence decided to play the media rhetoric of Islam equates to harsh punishments and lack of humanity."
Scroll to the bottom of the article read the society's statement in full
Cat Gray, the MUSU's wellbeing officer said: "We are deeply concerned with the covert filming of a student event within the Union. We are also deeply concerned by the suggestion that comments of a homophobic nature have been made."
A spokesperson for the MUSU executive team added: "The front page of this week’s Mancunion carries a story that many students will find unsettling.
"We are committed to ensuring that the spaces we run and the student activities we support are safe and non-threatening for all of our students. We are opposed to discrimination in all of its forms and consider homophobia unacceptable.
"The Students’ Union will always seek to keep out Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans students free from intimidation and discrimination."
The spokesperson added the union has launched an investigation into both the student society meeting and into the way the information was obtained.
"This investigation will be thorough and the Exec Team will take whatever action is necessary at the end of it to address any problems uncovered by it," they added. "We expect to conclude the investigation by the end of the month."
A description of the society on MUSU's website reads: "[Our purpose is] To highlight the universal aspirations of women and create discussions on campus as to what these are and what can be done about it. As well as creating an environment in which students can come together and discuss concerns."
Jack Mellish, a Manchester biomedical science student, wrote on the society's Facebook:
Raheem Kassam, director of Student Rights, the group which published the footage on YouTube, added:"What this video shows is the shockingly intolerant attitudes perpetuated by a minority of extremists on British university campuses.
"That young people studying in diverse environments can host and endorse messages of hatred and violence such as the one displayed here is cause for great concern and we hope the authorities at the University of Manchester will be investigating this incident in a swift and transparent manner".
Manchester University refused to comment on the incident, saying it was a student union matter. The Mancunion has been contacted for comment but has not yet responded.
If you have been affected by any issues in this article, contact the MUSU's confidential advice service on the ground floor of the Students’ Union building or call 0161 275 2952.
The society's statement in full:
"We would like to begin by expressing my concerns regarding the under hand tactics employed by yourself as a means to get a scoop for your newspaper. You would think after the Levenson [sic] enquiry regarding the lack of ethics surrounding the journalistic world you would have decided to approach this matter with integrity. Especially since having approached the society and asking whether we would be willing to do an interview which we approved of, you still slyly chose to record the workshop we were holding without our permission or the permission of anyone else that was present.
Secondly, you failed to put our discussion into perspective for the aims of global aspirations of women's society endeavours to discuss the plight of women here at home and globally and looks to political alternatives to end oppression, subjugation and the dishonour of women and hence includes Islam as in the debate along with secular/ liberal systems as an alternative. When we look at the discontent in which people are living in this society as well as the widespread chaos all we seek to do is to simply raise discussions as to the nature of these problems and how islam as an ideology (in its true form and not what is currently available in the Muslim world as they defiantly [sic] do not represent Islam and its tenants) as an alternative.
"The fact that you have pin pointed only the discussion on the punishment system in Islam shows that you are ignorant of Islam as a political system, and hence decided to play the media rhetoric of Islam equates to harsh punishments and lack of humanity. This leads us to think that either you are trying to implicate a certain view about us or that you failed to hear the rest of the recording. Just to further enlighten you Islam is an ideology just like any other ideology, it is more than just a punishment system. It is established on a fixed creed which gives sovereignty to its creator based upon its intellectual basis, like capitalism creed is based on the detachment of god from life. It's value system which is built upon god consciousness and obedience to the rules established through the Quran and Sunnah as its basis, (unlike capitalism promotes the value system of sovereignty belongs to man and he has the freedoms) hence our values of honour, dignity, security, preserving the mind, preserving life, and protecting the creed are established and maintained through the laws based upon the above sources which are then enshrined through social, judicial, educational and economic governmental institutes.
"When these are all working together harmoniously, only then would it lead towards a tranquil and safer society and if it does not then we suggest you put Islam on the docks but until Islam can be seen in its entirety i suggest you stop taking snippets to further your attempt to malign Islam. So I hope you can appreciate why we resent the statement you made about us ‘advocating the execution of homosexuals and chopping off the hands of criminals’ when not once in the discussion was any of this advocated. It was a hypothetical discussion in which people were open to discuss their views, which or may not have necessarily been that of the society.
"As for whether these discussions should be taking place on campus, and whether they are a cause for concern then we would say is it not the very value by which you decided to sneakily record our workshop, that we are discussing these? People hold various views and opinions about a number of issues on campus, including fascists who are openly allowed to propagate their views, under the guise of freedom of speech. What we ask of you is not to be intolerant towards debate especially when it goes against the grain of what you ardently hold on to."
- Global Aspirations of Women
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