A case study of Islamism within British Universities


islamism at British universitiesThe UK’s Council of Ex-Muslims has published a case study on the prevalence of Islamism within British Universities that has been written by Ibn Al Qalleb, and edited by the Iranian Human Rights activist Maryam Namazie. Much of what it contains documents recent events …

On 23 March 2015, Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB), was invited to speak at the University of Dublin, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) on “Apostasy and the Rise of Islamism” by the Society for International Affairs (SoFIA).

The talk was cancelled after Namazie refused to accept last-minute conditions on her talk when concerns were raised by campus security about her presence “antagonising Muslim students.” A similar ban was placed by Warwick University’s Students’ Union, which stated that her talk to the Warwick Atheists’ Society “could incite hatred.”

Namazie was finally able to speak at TCD on 20 October 2015 at the invitation of the Philosophical Society and at Warwick University on 28 October when the Students’ Union, after a public outcry, apologised and allowed the talk to go ahead as planned.

Similarly, Namazie’s talk to the Atheists’ Society at Goldsmiths University on 30 November 2015 was met with opposition when the Islamic Society (ISOC) claimed her presence would violate their “safe space” and tried to cancel the talk.

When the talk went ahead, “brothers” from the ISOC, including its President Muhammad Patel, tried and failed to silence and intimidate Namazie and audience members. The ISOC President was forced to resign after the scandal when a number of homophobic tweets were discovered.

Ironically, the Goldsmiths Feminist Society and LGBTQ+ Society sided with the ISOC stating that “hosting known Islamophobes at our university creates a climate of hatred.” In fact, Namazie was there to counter the hate speech of Islamist speakers and defend both the right to religion and the right to criticise, and be free from, religion.

According to Namazie, “Whilst the position of such Student Unions and Societies is often touted as ‘progressive’ and anti- racist, it is anything but. This has nothing to do with opposing bigotry; rather it exacerbates prejudice by homogenising Muslims and equating them with the Muslim far-Right or Islamists. This point of view sees dissent through Islamist eyes and buys into the narrative that Islamists are the ‘authentic’ Muslims. Therefore any criticism is deemed hateful when it is in fact Islamists who are promoting hate against any and all dissenters.”

As this case study shows, the Islamic Societies at the three universities in question are clearly promoting Islamism through hate preachers who condone Sharia Law, Islamic states, and the death penalty for apostasy.

Whilst free speech and expression must be free for all (unless there is an incitement to violence), it’s crucial that apostates and dissenters are given equal access to universities without restrictions in order to challenge Islamist norms and values and provide a progressive counter-narrative.

The recent attempts at censorship on university campuses is nothing new. 2015 saw a rise in censorship with 55% of campuses being an outright hostile environment for free speech.

CEMB calls on universities and Student Unions to unequivocally defend free expression, including removing policies which restrict and censor expression, such as safe space policies.

The case studies in the briefing are only examples of a widespread problem – which is Islamism on university campuses, legitimising, normalising and recruiting for the far-Right Islamist movement. Challenging this movement on campuses is key as is challenging its manifestations such as gender segregation.

If you are interested in what is actually happening out there, then I can highly recommend reading this.

One Very Important Point

The case study is not a “hey let’s not tolerate Muslims because they do not believe what we believe“, nor is it a “all Muslims are stupid / Vile / Evil” rant. Most humans are decent honourable people who strive to lead good lives, and do what is right, and so it is vitally important to recognise that having a Muslim cultural heritage does not change that reality. Instead the case study is specifically focused upon the obnoxious intolerant behaviour of Islamism.

The term “Islamism” is often now commonly deployed to identify individuals who embrace the right-wing idea that Islamic beliefs should be imposed upon others and that any dissent or criticism of this must not be tolerated.

There are of course specific ideas that should prevail, namely …

  • Freedom of Thought : the idea that everybody should be free to believe whatever they wish, and to change those beliefs at any time.
  • Freedom of Expression : the idea that you can express your ideas and beliefs without fear of censorship, and openly criticise other ideas

These are both enshrined within the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is legally binding for all the nation states that have signed up to it, which is basically almost every single nation on the planet apart from Saudi Arabia.

The polar opposite to this is not just the idea that only one specific idea or belief is right and that all others are wrong, but that one idea needs to be imposed upon others. In other words, most will have a belief (or non-belief) that they are quite sure is the right one, but generally descent is accepted, as is criticism. A Muslim becomes part of Islamism when intolerance becomes the prevailing characteristic and so it often manifests as Homophobia, Misogyney, and an attempt at oppression of any other variation of belief or even simply oppression of criticism.

The Case Study

The Case study lays out specific instances where Islamists are promoting hate preachers on university campuses that endorse both homophobia and advocate death for apostasy as ideals to strive for. The primary concern being raised is not that they should have their right to express such views or to believe such things oppressed, but rather that they are also being permitted to gag and silence those opposed to such ideas by playing the “Islamophobia” or the “I’m offended” card.

The report puts it this way …

Whilst free speech and expression must be free for all (unless there is an incitement to violence), it’s crucial that apostates and dissenters are given equal access to universities without restrictions in order to challenge Islamist norms and values and provide a progressive counter-narrative.

The recent attempts at censorship on university campuses is nothing new. 2015 saw a rise in censorship with 55% of campuses being an outright hostile environment for free speech.

CEMB calls on universities and Student Unions to unequivocally defend free expression, including removing policies which restrict and censor expression, such as safe space policies.

The case studies in the briefing are only examples of a widespread problem – which is Islamism on university campuses, legitimising, normalising and recruiting for the far-Right Islamist movement. Challenging this movement on campuses is key as is challenging its manifestations such as gender segregation.

If we permit our universities to become “safe spaces” for specific ideas, and ban any and all criticism of them, then they cease to be places of education and instead become places of indoctrination. Is that really what we want to see?

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