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Jane Kelly: Our universities fail to defend Muslims battling for human rights


I hadn’t been on a demo for years, not since student ‘sit-ins’ in the 1970s. What they were for I can’t recall, if I ever knew at the time. Ten years after that I sat down in Trafalgar Square to protest against the arrival of cruise missiles. Changing political sides in 1983, I took part in  rallies in support of Polish Solidarnoc. Since then, as things seemed peaceful and it was ‘the end of history’ or so we believed, my  involvement in direct action ended.

For the next thirty years life seemed pretty good lived within a secular, liberal welfare state. However in December 2013, I was out in Tavistock Square on a cold evening, demonstrating again. History had not ended after all and we were suddenly facing a totally unexpected new enemy. This time it had a foothold inside a leading university.

On the 16th December that year, during a debate at Queen Mary’s College, University of London,  after being made to walk through a ‘sisters only’ entrance, women were forced to sit at the rear of the lecture theatre with men at the front. From there they had been forced to write down any questions and pass them to the front whereas men could raise their hands and openly ask questions. The women students could only speak through men.

This followed an event the previous March when the Islamic Society at University College, London, had organised a debate between Hamza Tzortzis from iERA ( Islamic Education and Research Academy)  an international Islamic missionary group, which has been described as preaching hate,  and Lawrence Krauss, an American secularist. This was to take place before an audience segregated by gender in the same way practised in mosques. Krauss saw what was going on and threatened to walk out unless the seating arrangements were changed.

David Cameron said in the Commons that  he wanted such gender segregation at British universities banned. There was an online petition against what UCL were doing, signed even by that  old leftie A C Grayling, the Twittersphere went wild, and the segregation at UCL was stopped. But similar events had been going on throughout the year, and are probably continuing today.

Even the finest academic brain could not have predicted that in the 21st century, religion would  be back on the European agenda or  that our universities, instead of being bastions of youthful idealism, would cave in to Islamo-fascism. That instead of feminist groups female students would be told where to sit and how to dress. And it seems that our universities are still determined to acquiesce before the increasing force of Islam. This week it was revealed that Maryam Namazie, an Iranian-born feminist campaigner, had been invited to speak to the laboriously named, Warwick Atheists, Secularist and Humanists Society.  But the student union blocked her saying the decision had been taken, ‘because after researching both her (Namazie) and her organisation, a number of flags have been raised. There are a number of articles written both by the speaker and by others about the speaker that indicate that she is highly inflammatory, and could incite hatred on campus.’

Namazie is a feminist militant who escaped from Iran after the revolution and is a well known campaigner for ‘One Law for All,’ a group opposing the implementation of Sharia law.  In a rational world she should be a pin up girl of the radical left, idolised by female students but instead she is anathema to them.

She’s continually put liberal backs up, and lost any chance of ever appearing on BBC Woman’s Hour by asking: Why is it that supposed liberals always give ‘precedence to cultural and religious norms, however reactionary, over the human being and her rights’?

She also challenges the patronising opinion held by many liberals in the West, that ‘other cultures are packed into sealed boxes without conflicts of their own.’ Seeing all Muslims as the same, these westerners ‘take  the most reactionary segment of that community as representative of the belief and culture of the whole.’

In the teeth of this relativism and anti-democratic feeling among many imams in the UK, she insists that: ‘There are a lot of Muslims who freely mix and actually fight against segregation in countries like Iran. This is not so much a Muslim demand rather an Islamist demand; it’s far-right politics and it’s not so much about that specific demand, it’s about a whole set of demands which are stepping stones for it to get access and influence.’

The student union’s policy at Warwick says external speakers are ‘not permitted to encourage, glorify or promote any acts of terrorism’ or ‘spread hatred and intolerance in the community’ and ‘must seek to avoid insulting other faiths or groups.’

Yet Maryam has been campaigning against violence and discrimination for years. Journalist Nick Cohen says ‘Maryam Namazie personifies the gulf between liberal apologists and those who really want equality.’

As with UCL the University of Warwick has backed down and the meeting is now able to go ahead. This battle was not won however. After the debacle in 2013, Universities UK, (UUK) the representative organisation for the UK’s universities outside the Russell Group, published a long legalistic document to ‘assist universities in managing’ what they called, ‘controversial external speaker events on campus.’

Its Chief Executive Nicola Dandridge insisted that it was legally correct to accept sexual apartheid in university lectures. Its website published a mealy-mouthed justification for this containing  a case study allowing for ‘respect of the rights of a visiting orthodox religious speaker to segregate an audience by gender.’

‘Universities UK has always maintained that enforced gender segregation at university events is wrong,’ said Ms Dandridge, ‘however, where gender segregation is voluntary, the law is unclear. We are currently working with senior legal counsel and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to clarify the position.’

In this equivocation the UUK fitted in with other left wing groups from  the grassroots involved in  ‘Respect’ and the ‘Stop the War Coalition,’ to their highest elites. All were cosying up to Islam. More than that, they had fully climbed into bed with them.

Reflecting the zeitgeist, in 2009  Rowan Williams, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, called for an acceptance of some Sharia Law. On 15th August 2014, in a speech at the apparently annual ‘Living Islam Festival’ in Lincolnshire, he discussed what British values were and how Muslims could affect them.He said one of their greatest gifts to Britain had been bringing back, ‘open, honest and difficult public discussion.’

In the general election campaign last May, a meeting in the multicultural Hodge Hill district of Birmingham, attended by a host of senior Labour Party figures, was held with  men seated on the right and women seated apart on the left. The new Labour leader has been criticised for calling the death of Bin Laden, ‘a tragedy.’

UK Muslims are doing well in further education but many of them do so from a background immersed in a culture inimical to our own. Their influence is assisted by muddled thinking from people in universities who should be able to think more clearly and act more courageously. If they can’t manage to promote democracy, who can?

Maryam Namazie wrote on a recent blog: ‘The student union seems to lack an understanding of the difference between criticising religion, an idea or a far-right political movement on the one hand and attacking and inciting hate against people on the other. Inciting hatred is what the Islamists do; I and my organisation challenge them and defend the rights of ex-Muslims, Muslims and others to dissent.’

Stupidity and cowardice are terrible bedfellows and it is appalling to find them so frequently bunked up in British universities. As one of the students responding online to the UCL attempt at imposing Sharia Law in 2013 put it: ‘Why are British People so afraid of Islam?’


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Jane Kelly
Jane Kelly
Jane Kelly was a journalist with the Daily Mail for fifteen years. She now writes for the Spectator and the Salisbury Review.

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