Anti-Gay Speaker at Westminster University

How is Westminster University supposed to create a safe space for LGBT students when they are fighting against their own Student Union?

On 19 February, The University of Westminster received confirmation of the appearance of a controversial and homophobic preacher one day before National Student Pride.

Speaker Sheikh Haitham Al Haddad is due to run his event titled "Who is Muhammad?" at the University of Westminster on Thursday 26 February. In past articles, he has referred to LGBT people as "'evil' and akin to burglars, thieves and sexual abusers".

Haddad also supports Female Genital Mutilation as he believes "women should be subservient", according to a video online where Al- Haddad is talking at Muslim Research and Development Foundation.

The confirmation of his arrival provoked an uproar within the University of Westminster's LGBTI Society. An online petition was launched immediately and overnight in just 36 hours, the petition had received over 2,300 signatures. The University of Westminster is preparing to welcome thousands of students for National Student Pride the day after Haddad's scheduled arrival, this has caused further concern for the wellbeing of LGBTI students.

How is Westminster University supposed to create a safe space for LGBT students when they are fighting against their own Student Union?

The Student Union for Westminster has stated "We are proud of the diversity of our community and promote tolerance and respect as a key principle in all our activities".

I ask you, how is allowing a homophobic speaker to preach at a university campus any sign of respect to the people it effects? By allowing Haddad to preach his views it provides a platform of hate which is what the LGBTI Society attempt to prevent on a daily basis.

I asked Eve Hartley, a spokesperson for the LGBTI Society, her views on the situation.

"It's disgusting that the university has opened its doors to a homophobic speaker. University should be a time where people can be themselves and be safe whilst in a learning environment"

The LGBTI society has called for an emergency meeting which will be taking place on Monday 23rd February. They have invited the Student Union, a spokesperson from the Islamic Society and the Interfaith Advisor to the event, although so far no one has confirmed the invitation. In the possible result of Sheikh Haitham Al Haddad still being allowed to speak at the university despite the campaign, the LGBTI society and allies will be heavily protesting.

Support has come from all over the UK and signatures have also been received from the USA, Australia, Norway and Columbia. This is not this isn't a religious debate. This is a homophobic agenda we're dealing with and we need to abolish homophobia and transphobia, especially in universities where students have the right to express who they are without discrimination.

This is the time to unite and show solidarity we need to show we have the RIGHT to a safe space and the right to say NO to preaching hate.

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