The Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) has been banned from the premises of University College London (UCL) (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0313/11032013-meeting?utm_source). The iERA held an event at UCL on March 9th entitled "Islam or Atheism: What makes more sense?" and in a scenario lifted straight out of Saudi Arabia, enforced segregated seating by gender (with women sitting at the back of course). And that's not all, separate entrances to the venue allowed for women to enter through one door, and men through another. In a breach of UCL policy, people who refused to comply were asked to leave the auditorium.
Though UCL deserves credit for standing up to medieval misogyny, a pattern has emerged in British universities in recent years in which Islamist extremists have been given free reign. I hope that UCL's brave stance is a sign that the tables are beginning to turn.
It has long been feared that UK universities are a breeding ground for Islamic extremism. Several terrorists - such as Glasgow Airport suicide bomber Kafeel Ahmed - were active members of university Islamic Societies, and many more were apparently radicalised through teachings and lectures attended at UK institutions (http://conservativehome.blogs.com/files/1292336866_1-1.pdf). Radical and extremist preachers are commonplace; Abu Usama adh Dhahabee, who advocates the murder of apostates and homosexuals, spoke to UCL's Islamic Society in 2009. Bilal Philips, who was recorded by Channel 4's Dispatches advocating the rape of children when he said "The prophet Muhammad practically outlined the rules regarding marriage prior to puberty, with his practice he clarified what is permissible and that is why we shouldn't have any issues about an older man marrying a younger woman, which is looked down upon by this [Western] society today, but we know that Prophet Muhammad practiced it, it wasn't abuse or exploitation, it was marriage" (http://vimeo.com/19598947) spoke at Queen Mary the same year. The list goes on and on and on.
I and my audience were threatened by an intruder at a talk I was to give on sharia law at a London University last year - he would track us down, he said, if we said anything negative about the Prophet Mohammed. Some members of the audience applauded. Soon after this, the London School of Economics Student Union passed a motion prohibiting Islamophobia as "a form of racism expressed through the hatred or fear of Islam, Muslims, or Islamic culture and the stereotyping, demonization or harassment of Muslims, including but not limited to portraying Muslims as barbarians or terrorists or attacking the Quran as a manual of hatred" (http://www.studentrights.org.uk/article/1846/no_to_islamophobia_debate_at_lse_an_eyewitness_opinion). This all-encompassing edict disallows anything remotely critical of Islam and represents a gross interference with freedom of speech and debate.
While coming to the aid of vile Islamist hatred and extremism, many "left-wing" students seem to have no problem taking to the auditoriums to protest against anyone speaking out in defence of Israel - or even just being Jewish. Israel's Deputy Ambassador to Britain had his speech disrupted at an Essex University (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4350701,00.html) recently, and Jewish students in Edinburgh last year said that a "toxic atmosphere" against Jews there was causing them to leave (http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/93495/university-students-quit-after-toxic%E2%80%99-antisemitism-edinburgh).
The students shouting down Jews or Israelis are of the same mentality no doubt of the "We are all Hamas now" brigade who are happy to take to the streets calling for Jews to be gassed, as happened in Antwerp in 2012 (http://www.timesofisrael.com/idf-bands-european-tour-takes-nasty-turn-during-gaza-operation/). Just as disturbing were the despicable comments of the Mayor of Malmo in Sweden who, in response to increasing anti-Semitic attacks in the city, stated that Jews should "distance themselves from Israel" if they wanted to be safe (http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-EdContributors/Article.aspx?id=306097). (Would an elected European politician suggest Muslims distance themselves from 9/11 for the same reason?)
What on earth is going on? When did the political left and student activists become the defenders of religious brutality and totalitarianism (Hamas), the defenders of misogyny (gender segregation), and the haters of Jews ("Hamas, Hamas, all Jews to the gas")? As a left-winger myself, I can't help but feel tainted by association. I regularly receive emails requesting that I distribute details of anti-Israel marches and rallies; the assumption being that because I am a trade unionist, an advocate of public ownership, and a member of the Labour Party, it goes without saying that I am a rabid hater of Israel and an unquestioning supporter of all things Palestinian.
Universities are helping this disease to spread and it is up to them to help come up with a vaccination. Extremists of any religion should not be permitted to advocate rape, terrorism, Jew-hatred, or misogyny on university premises. Nor should they be allowed to send women to the back of the bus - under any circumstances. Surely this is the minimum we can expect. Well done UCL.
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