University College London Bans Hard-Line Islamic Group Which Tried to Segregate Men and Women at a Debate Held on University Premises
Daily Mail (London), March 14, 2013
A Muslim group has been banned from a university after segregating men and women during a debate.
Visitors to the event at University College London were told to use men’s or women’s entrances.
Organisers Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) told women to sit at the back, while men and couples were sent to the front. Three people who objected were ordered to leave.
The segregation was halted only when one speaker, US scientist Lawrence Krauss, stormed out.
Ignoring audience jeering, he told an organiser: ‘Either you quit the segregation or I’m not interested.’
He returned when staff allowed men and women to mix.
The public debate on Saturday was on the subject ‘Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense?’
Atheist Mr Krauss was joined by another guest, Greek Islamic convert Hamza Andreas Tzortzis.
Audience member Dana Sondergaard wrote on her Facebook page: ‘After watching three people be kicked out of the auditorium . . . Dr Krauss bravely defended his beliefs of gender equality.’
iERA spokesman Saleem Chagtai insisted men and women ‘naturally’ separate in ‘normal Islamic events’. He said: ‘There were a number of ladies who used their free will and didn’t want to sit with the opposite sex.’
UCL issued a statement saying iERA would never be allowed to hold events on its grounds again.
Yesterday, Mr Chagtai told MailOnline: ‘In all normal Islamic events people will naturally often separate themselves: men with men and women with women.
‘It is de rigueur, in a way that is not too dissimilar to practices in Orthodox Jewish communities.
‘The issue that UCL had is that it it can’t be enforced. But because of the limited space of the auditorium, there were a number of ladies who used their free will and didn’t want to sit with the opposite sex, so we needed to cater for that.’
He said iERA had been told by UCL that segregation was against their ethos, and had intended ‘to stick to what they said in letter and spirit’.
Mr Chagtai said his organisation was now conducting an internal investigation into what happened on the day.
He added: ‘We need to take their criticism like this very seriously. We feel it’s the honourable thing to do to see if there was anybody that influenced segregation on the day from our staff.’
Atheist writer Richard Dawkins called the segregation ‘sexual apartheid’ and called it a ‘disgraceful epsiode’.
Writing on his blog, he said: ‘University College London is celebrated as an early haven of enlightened free thinking, the first university college in England to have a secular foundation, and the first to admit men and women on equal terms. Heads should roll.
‘Isn’t it really about time we decent, nice, liberal people stopped being so pusillanimously terrified of being thought “Islamophobic” and stood up for decent, nice, liberal values?’
UCL’s press office issued a statement saying iERA would never again be allowed to hold events on the university’s campuses.
It said: ‘We do not allow enforced segregation on any grounds [but]… it now appears that, despite our clear instructions, attempts were made to enforce segregation at the meeting.
‘We are still investigating what actually happened at the meeting but, given IERA’s original intentions for a segregated audience we have concluded that their interests are contrary to UCL’s ethos and that we should not allow any further events involving them to take place on UCL premises.’