- Racism and Islamism have a lot in common. Both are erected on fascist ideologies – the former on the superiority of race; the latter on the superiority of religion - Randhir Singh Bains
The University of Westminster, which was a number of years ago attended by Mohammed Emwazi, last week suspended all events considered sensitive in the wake of Emwazi being labelled ‘Jihadi John’ in the media. The ostensible centre of learning has opted to suspend ... learning.
An event, Who is Muhammad?, hosted by the university’s Islamic Society was due to take place in the university but met much opposition because of the billed presence on the panel of some cleric called Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad. At one point over 3,000 people signed a petition to stop him speaking at the event.
Essentially, 3000 metaphorical book burners were determined that nobody would be able to hear what the man had to say for himself no matter how cretinous, even creationist. He seems a vile bigot for sure but banning him is the flip side of Lets Hide Mohammed. Citizens are to be denied their autonomy by being denied the ability to examine the issue at the centre of the controversy and to decide for themselves whether they want to look or not, hear or not. Some nanny authority external to them will decide for them.
The demand to ban al-Haddad came because he offends gays while publication of some cartoons is discouraged because they offend Muslims. It is a race to the censorship bottom in which society will only benefit if both sides lose.
al-Haddad who insisted he had no intention of speaking about sexuality claimed that:
In the religion of Islam, it is clear-cut that homosexual acts are a sin and are unlawful in sharia. Trying to censor lawful speech does not change this fact.
He is right. That seems a pretty apt summation of Islam's attitude to gay culture. Censorship will not make it any different. So let's hear it in unfiltered fashion, expressed with all the venom and hatred this man of god can muster.
But no. We even have Peter Tatchell, the prominent gay rights activist, lending his shoulder to the wheel of the juggernaut that is trying to run al-Haddad off the road in spite of being fully cognisant of the value of free expression in an environment free from fear of prosecution and persecution.
Tatchell, who has been active in campaigning against hate clerics speaking at centres of learning said of the university that:
The atmosphere is intimidatory towards gay and women’s rights campaigners and towards fellow Muslims who don’t share their hardline interpretation of Islam ... Gay and women students have also told me that they are too frightened to challenge Islamists on campus because they fear retribution.
No doubt this is a an accurate account but is banning al-Haddad the foil to that? Would it not be better to have him speak then clinically and forensically deconstruct his presentation? The National Secular Society seems to understand the matter more astutely.
There's no doubt that the influence of political Islam in British universities is growing and with Islamic societies frequently hosting extremist preachers, universities need to be mindful of the effect that such speakers are having on young British Muslims. But the best response to their poisonous narrative is open discussion and debate, where it can be systematically exposed, ridiculed and defeated.
The culture of fear outlined by Tatchell is not something confined to the universities.
Flemming Rose's Tyranny of Silence is a societal rather than a university malaise. It is echoed throiughout a media that will call a spade a shovel by pushing the line that deference is respect.
According to Randhir Singh Bains 'Britain fought racism by challenging it everywhere – universities, the National Health Service, media and other institutions.' The religious supremacists who would behave like the white supremacists that blocked a black man boarding a train in Paris, should be drawn into the open not pushed into the shadows where totalitarianism loves to do its work under cover of darkness.