Well, British universities are up to their usual anti-free-thought shenanigans again. This time it took the form of Warwick University’s Student Union refusing to allow Maryam Namazie to speak. Namazie, an Iranian-born ex-Muslim who runs or is active in several organizations that promote human rights and offer resources for ex-Muslims, was invited to talk by the University’s Atheist Society. The Union overruled them.
Namazie writes about it at One Law for All, quoting the following response she got from the Union:
This is because after researching both her and her organisation, a number of flags have been raised. We have a duty of care to conduct a risk assessment for each speaker who wishes to come to campus.
There 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. This is in contravention of our external speaker policy:
The President (or equivalent) of the group organising any event is responsible for the activities that take place within their events. All speakers will be made aware of their responsibility to abide by the law, the University and the Union’s various policies, including that they:
- must not incite hatred, violence or call for the breaking of the law
- are not permitted to encourage, glorify or promote any acts of terrorism including individuals, groups or organisations that support such acts
- must not spread hatred and intolerance in the community and thus aid in disrupting social and community harmony
- must seek to avoid insulting other faiths or groups, within a framework of positive debate and challenge
- are not permitted to raise or gather funds for any external organisation or cause without express permission of the trustees.
In addition to this, there are concerns that if we place conditions on her attendance (such as making it a member only event and having security in attendance, asking for a transcript of what she intends to say, recording the speech) she will refuse to abide by these terms as she did for Trinity College Dublin.
This rationale is bogus. Namazie neither calls for lawbreaking nor deliberately incites hatred or violence: she criticizes Islam, largely because of its invidious attitude towards women. And the decision is hypocritical, for, as Namazie notes, a group protesting Christian attitudes against gays would surely not be refused a platform at the school for proffering “insults” and “hate speech.”
What this means is that the real issue here is not what is said, but how those who are criticized may react. Some Muslims have refined such reactions to a fine art—to the degree that one dare not speak out against their faith for fear of banning, or worse. And the “I’m offended” tactic, translated into “you’re offering hate speech”, works very well at British schools.
Here’s a small part of Namazie’s response:
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.
The Student Union position is of course nothing new. It is the predominant post-modernist “Left” point of view that conflates Islam, Muslims and Islamists, homogenises the “Muslim community”, thinks believers are one and the same as the religious-Right and sides with the Islamist narrative against its many dissenters.
For my part, I’ll add that in a democracy like the U.K., we simply cannot allow legitimate criticism of religious tenets to be stifled because of the possibility it will offend people. And we cannot coddle one religious group, Muslims, while allowing criticism of others. The student union of Warwick, apparently, places a particular brand of identity politics above democracy itself.
h/t: Steve K.