The society whose member was caught on camera saying she would feel comfortable killing homosexuals has been shut down but questions are now being raised over the delayed response of student leaders.
Manchester University's global aspirations of women group was secretly filmed at one of the society's meetings by a fellow student. The recording was passed on to student paper The Mancunion, who published extracts, but was prevented from posting the video by the university's student union (MUSU).
The Middle Eastern studies undergraduate who secretly filmed the discussion 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".
The 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 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?”
Instead of condemning the society member's views, the MUSU chided the Mancunion for publishing the covert filming, saying:
"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 university's wellbeing officer also came under the spotlight for her reaction to the incident.
After being heavily criticised by students, the union updated its statements twice. The student body was criticised by Douglas Murray, writer for the Spectator, who wrote: "Because one of the nicest things about diverse 21st century Britain is demonstrated by Manchester University Student Union’s ‘Wellbeing Officer’. This person – named Cat Gray – has had to respond to the video and has put her finger on the point by saying:
'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.'
"You see. Wrong done on both sides. If everybody only admitted that then perhaps we could all just get along. Can’t we?"
BBC's north west political editor Arif Ansari added: "This case raises wider questions about radicalisation on campus and how it’s monitored.
“It’s only through the initiative of one student, not the union or the university, which has led to Global Aspirations being exposed."
Several people voiced their concerns about the union's conduct on Twitter:
Following a complaint to Greater Manchester Police, who are currently investigating the incident, the global aspirations society has shut down.
A statement from the MUSU reads: "Following the incident at a meeting of the Global Aspirations of Women Society last week, the society was suspended from the union pending investigation and has now disbanded.
"The Exec Team continue to take a zero tolerance approach to homophobia on campus. Our focus is now on taking action as a Students’ Union to prevent similar incidents in future."
"We will complete our investigation into the circumstances that allowed these views to be expressed in our building, the conduct of the individuals responsible and will be taking appropriate action as a result."
Khadijah Afzal, a Manchester student and chair of the group, told the Mancunion: "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.
"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."
Kevin Peel, a Manchester councillor and member of the LGBT Labour National Executive, added: “I was surprised, I have to say, that people in a city as proud of its diversity as Manchester would hold these views.
“We should absolutely support freedom of speech, but people don’t have a right to say things when those comments infringe on the freedom of others.”
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