Reading University issued a statement on the cancellation of the talk by Thahabi, that is, a joint statement from Reading University Muslim Society, Reading University Students Union (RUSU) and the University of Reading.
Reading University Muslim Society, Reading University Students Union (RUSU) and the University of Reading are in agreement that the laudable aims of the Muslim Society’s Discover Islam Week are undermined by the increasing threat of violent protest from extremist groups outside the University community.
A careful assessment of the threat to the events on Wednesday and Thursday evening have led all three organisations to reluctantly agree to the cancelation of these talks. Our priority is to the safety of all those who had planned to attend or to peacefully protest outside the talk and we are very disappointed that we have had to take this course of action. However, the safety of our students, members, staff and visitors is of paramount importance.
Notice the complete absence of any mention of what was problematic about the talks. Note the complete absence of any substance, any particulars, anything one can grasp in order to understand wtf the issue may be. Note the hollow at the center. On the one hand threat of violence from outside extremist groups (extremist in exactly what sense? Extreme left-wing? Extreme feminist? Extreme what?), on the other hand concern for safety of our people. No particulars about who the outside groups are and what it is they would be protesting, no particulars about what the talks were supposed to be about and what in them was worth protesting.
Both the University and RUSU are committed to supporting the Muslim Society in its aims of raising awareness of Islam and building mutual understanding. We are delighted that other events in the week’s programme will be going ahead as planned.
As part of the review of these events, the University has agreed to work with RUSU to ensure its policies reflect the need to protect the principles of freedom of speech in balance with the rights of all constituent parts of the student community. The University is committed to upholding both the right to free speech and the right to lawful protest within an environment that guarantees the safety of all users of our campuses.
Once again, as so often with these things, the University wants to do the impossible. It wants to combine the principles of freedom of speech with the rights of all constituent parts of the student community, when the problem is that Thahabi, at least, is on record as being inimical to the rights of some constituent parts of the student community. He has said they should be thrown off a mountain.
You can’t have everything. Sad but true.