Katie Mansfield, Express, December 3, 2015
Maryam Namazie was giving a lecture on blasphemy at the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH), of Goldsmiths in London.
Her talk was repeatedly disrupted by members of the university’s Islamic Society (ISOC) with hecklers shouting and turning off her Powerpoint presentation when she showed a cartoon of Jesus and the prophet Muhammad.
One member of the audience also claimed he received a death threat during Ms Namazie’s talk.
Ms Namazie fled Iran’s repressive regime and now campaigns against Islamic extremism.
The ISOC complained ahead of the talk saying Namazie’s views “create a climate of hatred and bigotry towards Muslim students”.
A number of ISOC members attended the talk, titled ‘Apostasy, blasphemy and free expression in the age of ISIS’, with university security forced to intervene and kick members out.
Ms Namazie, speaking after the event, said: “After my talk began, ISOC ‘brothers’ started coming into the room, repeatedly banging the door, falling on the floor, heckling me, playing on their phones, shouting out, and creating a climate of intimidation in order to try and prevent me from speaking.
“I continued speaking as loudly as I could. They repeatedly walked back and forth in front of me. In the midst of my talk, one of the ISOC Islamists switched off my PowerPoint and left. The University security had to intervene and remain in the room as I continued my talk.
“Eventually the thug who had switched off my PowerPoint returned and continued his harassments.
“At this point, I stood my ground, screamed loudly and continued insisting that he be removed even when the security said he should stay because he was a student.”
The student was eventually escorted out of the meeting and Namazie continued her talk to the audience which included a number of female members of the ISOC.
One member of the audience, lecturer and activist Reza Moradi, said a member of the ISOC made a gesture threatening to kill him during the talk.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Reza Moradi said: “They came in for trouble and made lots of noise. They were very intimidating and I was genuinely worried about Maryam Namazie.
“When the security guards first led out two ISOC members, one of them moved towards me and went ‘boom’.
“At that moment I just thought he was intimidating but it bothered me the way he did that.
“He and his friend came back in later and he was talking to his firend and I said shut up to him and then he looked directly into my eyes and moved his hands into a handgun shape and touched the middle of his forehead.
“At that moment I was worried, I took it seriously as a death threat. I was threatened and he was very intimidating.
“I’ve been an activist in the UK for 15 years and I’ve had many intimidating threats but this one, I’ve taken it seriously and it has worried me. I will go to the police.
“I shouldn’t be intimidated or threatened in a university in Britain.”
ISOC refuted the claims and said in a statement: “Muslim students who attended the event were shocked and horrified by statements made by Namazie, and peacefully expressed their dissent to the disrespectful cartoons shown of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). These students were subsequently made subject to unnecessary bullying, abuse and violence by the ASH society and security staff. Some students were even forcibly removed from the event.
“Following the event, members of the public who were present at the event have been tweeting unauthorised pictures of our University students with fabricated statements regarding false allegations of “death threats”.
“We would like to make it very clear that Muslim students did NOT make any alleged “death threats”.
“A university should be a safe environment/space for all students including Muslims in this sensitive time. Hateful statements that encourage Islamophobia by Namazie and the ASH can lead to very serious & violent consequences towards the Muslim students at the university. A university institution needs to prioritise the safety of its students and take action to ensure students are not harrassed/intimidated online or on campus.”
While a spokesman for the university said: ‘Goldsmiths, University of London supports freedom of speech. The university follows a set of regulations to help ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees of the university and for visiting speakers.”
The ASH is making a formal complaint about ISOC to the university as a result of the talk.