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Mar 10 2013

Press release on gender segregation at UCL event

The following is a statement by concerned students.

Sexual segregation at a UCL event is a scandal

A policy of sexual segregation was enforced at an event at University College London on Saturday, with the organisers’ security trying to physically remove members of the audience who would not comply.

Seating at the event was segregated between men and women, with a small ‘mixed’ space allocated for couples.

Separate entrances were in place for women and men, although ‘couples’ were allowed to enter via the men’s door. Male attendees were refused entry via the women’s door.

The event “Islam vs Atheism” on Saturday 9th was organised by the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA), and pitted writer Hamza Tzortzis against Professor Laurence Krauss in a debate.

A policy of segregation was suggested by IERA in a statement before the event, which said: “As for seating, it is according to when the ticket was booked and gender.” This was raised by students with UCL, who gave assurances that no segregation would be allowed.

Fiona McClement, UCL equalities and diversities adviser, said on 8th March: “We have been in contact with the event organisers and made it clear that UCL will not permit enforced gender segregated seating. All attendees are free to sit wherever they feel comfortable.”

Sarah Guise, head of equalities and diversity, deans of students Mike Ewing (academic) and Ruth Siddall (welfare), as well as UCL gender champions Professor Mary Collins and Baroness Diana Warwick of Undercliffe, were also informed of the plans of the organisers to breach UCL’s Equality and Diversity policy.

Ms McClement and Rob de Bruin, co-chair of the 50:50 Gender Equality Group, said: “The UCL security team will be in attendance to ensure compliance with this. If the event organisers do not comply, the event will not be permitted to go ahead.”

Despite these assurances, segregation was enforced on the night.

At the entrance to the UCL building audience members were separated into male and female only queues by the organisers’ security staff.

The policy of segregation was strictly enforced inside the building. Male attendees were refused entry via the women’s door to the lecture theatre. When asked if the event was segregated, one of the security staff said: “It’s slightly segregated.” Dr Aisha Rahman said she was an organiser and that the room had been booked on behalf of UCL Chemistry. She said the segregation had been agreed with the University and suggested more than once that the men should be refused entry.

Several attendees approached UCL’s security personnel to alert them to the situation, but found that the staff were unwilling to intervene, and were instructed to comply with the organisers’ policy of segregation.

After more discussion, three male attendees were told they would be permitted to sit in the women’s section, but were directed to an isolated space on the side of the lecture theatre, away from everyone else.

One of the students, Christopher Roche, said: “It was clear that the segregation was still in effect as when I sat in the same aisle as female attendees I was immediately instructed by security to exit the theatre. I was taken to a small room with IERA security staff and an organiser named Mohammad who told me that the policy was actually given to IERA by UCL.

“Shocked, I said that I would like to return to my seat but was told that security would now remove me from the premises for refusing to comply with the gender segregation.”

The organisers’ security staff then tried to physically remove Mr Roche and Adam Barnett, a journalism student and friend of Mr Roche, from the theatre.

Professor Krauss intervened and threatened to leave to stop the removal of the two audience members. The organisers then prepared a row near the women’s section at the back of the room where the two men sat quietly for the event. Professor Kraus said he had been told in advance that there would be no segregation, and that people could sit wherever they wanted.

Adam Barnett said: “What happened on Saturday is a scandal. UCL and the organisers owe an apology to me, my friend, the audience and the general public. For a London University to allow forced segregation by sex in 2013 is disgraceful.

“The organisers should also apologise for their appalling behaviour if they want to hold any more events on campuses in the future.”

He added: “It’s insulting to be told that because I’m a man I can’t sit near women in the audience. I’m not in the habit of forcing my presence where it’s unwanted, but the event’s organisers have no business policing social matters of this kind. Furthermore, the women in question were never asked whether they cared where we sat.”

“In this case the segregation was non-voluntary. But voluntary or not, segregation is wrong, as well as a violation of UCL policy.”

Chris Moos, a PhD student who sought assurances from UCL before the debate, said: “Having personally attended this event, I cannot tell you how disappointed I and many other attendees are that UCL did not live up to its promise to make sure that its Equality and Diversity policy was enforced.

“Overall, the atmosphere of the event was intimidating for both male and female students, who were shocked to see that although concerns about the plans to enforce gender segregation had been raised before with UCL, the organisers were able to

violate its policy and create a threatening and divisive atmosphere that was not inclusive to all attendees.”

48 comments

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  1. 1
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    It will be interesting to see if this makes international mainstream news…

  2. 2
    Gregory in Seattle

    @NateHevens #1 – I almost hope it does not make the national news: this is EXACTLY the sort of thing that the British National Party and other hate groups would love to sink their teeth into. It will not be pretty.

  3. 3
    eucliwood

    I wasn’t expecting this reaction, but it’s a great one! I give credit where it’s due.

    Anyway, I was mad at reading about the segregation too and I still don’t understand why they did it???

  4. 4
    Rebekah, the Wily Jew

    Gregory, the BNP had nothing whatsoever to do with this incident and waving around that bête noir plays straight into the hands of “hate groups”, i.e. Islamic ones. Pervasive fear of being perceived as ‘racist’ or ‘Islamophobic’ has routinely made other core liberal values negotiable in the UK, most importantly free expression and gender equality.

    You admit yourself that concern has you vaguely hoping that an incident of gender discrimination at a major university should not be widely reported. Burying the truth out of political concerns is actually a very disturbing thought to entertain. Liberal democracy functions based on full access to information, not what our ‘right thinking’ betters deem we can handle without turning into the mob.

  5. 5
    mithrandir

    I live in the United States, so perhaps I don’t have the same perspective as to what danger the BNP presents to the British body politic. But it seems to me that this event exists, and the BNP is going to make hay of it regardless. If it doesn’t make the mainstream press, the BNP will just flog it to their fans as a case of “political correctness” in the mainstream press covering up the perfidy of the Muslims. I’d think that it’s better if it does go to the mainstream, so that the Muslim community is forced to confront it, even (perhaps espcially) if they have to confront it in the context of BNP rabble-rousing over it.

  6. 6
    Rebekah, the Wily Jew

    @mithrandir

    The threat of the BNP, and white supremacists in the UK in general, is constantly overstated for a variety of political ends. I say that as a Sephardic Jew, the exact sort of person they loathe. The BNP pulls low single-digit vote totals on a national level and it has had something like two MEPs (not to be confused with MPs) for all the media storm. That means Respect (left-Islamic alliance party) actually out performs them on a UK level, sending George Galloway to Parliament. Mentioning the BNP as a reason to not accurately report the news is simply absurd, but typical sadly of how many decision makers in the UK start straying from genuine liberal sensibilities.

    By the way if you want to understand race relations in Britain, Kenan Malik’s “To Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and its Aftermath” contains a stunning summary and analysis of post-WWII racial politics in general. He is a classical liberal who is relatively critical of New Left trends. He used to contribute occasionally on Opehlia’s non-FTB B&W website.

  7. 7
    Maureen Brian

    Gregory in Seattle,

    * what is whispered about in corners but cannot be checked in a newspaper of record will be put to far more dastardly use that anything in the public domain: ask Rebekah, the Wily Jew, who seems to have far more idea than you.

    * this needs the fullest publicity it can get. Why? Because British universities must be shown that their tippy-toeing around has got them into a bloody great hole where any arrogant bully – which is all Tzortzis is, not the prophet he clearly thinks he is – can walk all over them. UCL and others need to get a grip and soon. At the moment UCL’s reputation is going down the pan for the same reason that “colourblind” is a form of racism.

    * right now the BNP is falling apart, as all its predecessors have done and for the same reasons – a couple of egos on the rampage plus the difficulty of finding racist thugs literate to enough to run a bring-and-buy sale. Shift your gaze to UKIP – may of the same attractions for the average passing xenophobe but far more clever about the whole thing.

  8. 8
    'dirigible

    “For a London University to allow forced segregation by sex in 2013 is disgraceful.”

    Cries of ‘islamophobia’ in 3….2….

  9. 9
    Nick Gotts

    Cries of ‘islamophobia’ in 3….2…. – dirigible

    I put the search term:

    UCL Krauss segregation Islamophobia

    into google, and checked the first two pages of results. Oddly enough, the number of links to “cries of Islamophobia” was precisely zero. Every link led instead to complaints about how people were, or might be, failing to complain about this misoygynist segregation, or other unpleasant things said or done by Muslims, because of fear of being accused of Islamophobia. Just like yours.

    Funny, that.

  10. 10
    Gregory in Seattle

    @Rebekah #4 – My point is that IERA played right into the hands of the BNP and other hate groups. This is exactly the sort of incident that they need to fan the flames of nationalism, anti-immigration and anti-Islamic sentiment. If the BNP were to engineer an incident to help with their recruitment, they would be hard-pressed to have done better themselves.

  11. 11
    Maureen Brian

    So what was all that segregation by gender supposed to achieve, again?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-21740704

  12. 12
    Tim Harris

    Gregory in Seattle: stop being so bloody craven.

  13. 13
    eric

    eucliwood @3:

    I still don’t understand why they did it???

    The explanation that springs to my mind was that the Uni staff were blatantly lied to by the organizers when they arrived on site, and most of them were too low-level to question or understand that it was a lie. If some paid security guard is told three days earlier that there will be no segregation, but then told when he or she shows up for work that the Uni changed their mind and that the segregated seating was approved, I expect they’ll go along with it. I don’t really expect that he or she is going to pull out their cell phone and call the school’s administration. Same with the Uni staff doing A/V support and so on.

    So tentatively, until there is more information, my first thought is that pretty much all the blame falls on the organizers. The Uni is at fault for trusting the organizers to stick to the agreement, and possibly not sending someone sufficiently high up on the food chain to the event to make sure they stuck to that agreement. But that is not an error of endorsing sexism, its the much less (IMO) bad error of “fool me once, shame on you,” which they hopefully won’t make again.

    All of this is based on just the limited info I’ve seen on the web. I’m perfectly happy to lay more of the blame on the Uni if it comes out that the administration either knew and tacitly approved of the segregation, or that some Uni staffer was on site who was senior enough to insist the rules be enforced, but chose not to.

  14. 14
    Sakinah

    I think the hype that has been created about the segregation at the Islam or Atheism debate is just a tactic to take the spotlight off the fact that Professor Krauss came extremely unprepared and didn’t actually know much about Islam apart from a few outdated insults that we can easily copy from any edl website. As an academic, we expected more from him. If he knew that he was going to debate about Islam, you would think that he would have at least read some books about it. The women asked for a couple of rows at the back so they could sit separately from men and feel more comfortable, which the organisers kindly agreed to, with the permission from the University. The attendees then had the other 10+ rows to choose from. For the man to cause such commotion and challenge this in the way that he did in the name of ‘equal opportunities’ is just ridiculous.

  15. 15
    skmc

    The women asked for a couple of rows at the back so they could sit separately from men and feel more comfortable, which the organisers kindly agreed to, with the permission from the University. The attendees then had the other 10+ rows to choose from.

    Evidence, please? This account is at odds with other reports, which hold that seats were assigned on the basis of gender at the time of ticketing and that there were separate entrances for men and women.

  16. 16
    sawells

    Funny how you never seem to get women asking for a couple of rows at the _front_ to sit separately from men and feel more comfortable. I believe Sakinah’s account to exactly the same extent I’d believe someone in 1950s Alabama claiming that the negroes had asked for some seats at the back to sit separately from the whites and feel more comfortable.

  17. 17
    Nick Gotts

    Sakinah,

    The women asked for a couple of rows at the back so they could sit separately from men and feel more comfortable

    Which women? Also, comparing what you say with what the “concerned students” are quoted as saying above, it appears that either they or you must be lying. Are you accusing them of lying?

    which the organisers kindly agreed to, with the permission from the University

    Comparing this with the statement from Fiona McClement, UCL equalities and diversities adviserquoted above:

    We have been in contact with the event organisers and made it clear that UCL will not permit enforced gender segregated seating. All attendees are free to sit wherever they feel comfortable.

    it appears that either Ms. McClement or you must be lying. Are you accusing Ms. McClement of lying?

  18. 18
    Ophelia Benson

    “Sakinah” – what bullshit. Since when do women mince around asking for rows of separate seating at public events? You say that as if it were just routine, but it’s not.

    And are you really “Sakinah”? It’s a funny thing that the name on your email address looks so…so “Western.” If that name is your real name you’re bullshitting us in more than one way.

  19. 19
    moleatthecounter

    From UCL now –

    http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0313/11032013-meeting

    IERA event at UCL on 9 March
    11 March 2013

    An organisation known as the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA) booked a room at UCL for a debate on Saturday evening (9 March). UCL was notified during Friday by some individuals planning to attend the event that the organisers intended to segregate the audience by gender.

    This was directly contrary to UCL policy. We do not allow enforced segregation on any grounds at meetings held on campus. We immediately made clear to the organisers that the event would be cancelled if there were any attempt to enforce such segregation. We also required the organisers to make it explicit to attendees that seating arrangements were optional, and guests were welcome to sit wherever they felt comfortable. We also arranged for additional security staff to be present to ensure that people were not seated against their wishes.

    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.

  20. 20
    ronjaaddams-moring

    @2 + @10 Gregory in Seattle:

    It seems the horse is well out of the barn. I just did a Google search on UCL islam atheism gender segregated and the first 100 hits are all about this debacle. Seeing as both the Guardian and the UK Huffington Post have articles about this (and both have comments in the hundreds already, ditto for “likes”), and the UK National Secular Society has published the concerned students’ press release in full, there is no way this is going away quietly.

    Also, I agree with mithdandir:

    …it seems to me that this event exists, and the BNP is going to make hay of it regardless. If it doesn’t make the mainstream press, the BNP will just flog it to their fans as a case of “political correctness” in the mainstream press covering up the perfidy of the Muslims. I’d think that it’s better if it does go to the mainstream…

  21. 21
    Ophelia Benson

    @ 13 – about UCL’s level of responsibility – the thing is, they were aware that it was an issue, because Chris Moos did a very good job of telling them so, and they responded to him. So if they did a crap job of prepping the security guards, that’s on them to a considerable extent. I mean…hello? Islamists? UK universities? London universities? Gender segregation at London universities? None of this is novel or unfamiliar. If they were unprepared, then that’s incompetent.

  22. 22
    BecomingJulie

    I wish people would stop using the misnomer “Islamophobia”. It’s only a phobia if you don’t have a good reason not to like something.

  23. 23
    eric

    @21 – yes, fair enough. Mole’s @19 press release also indicates that UCL says they instructed their ‘additional security staff’ on site to resist the organizer’s attempts to segregate people. I can think of three possibilities: the Uni really didn’t do any such thing, and they’re covering up, or they did a very poor job of instructing those staff on what to do, or the staff disobeyed their instructions. If the first two, Uni administration is clearly at fault. If the last, those staff should be fired.

  24. 24
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    moleatthecounter @ #19…

    Fascinating. This gets more and more interesting with each passing day.

    Meta:
    Is there a timeline of events, with all relevant links, posted somewhere? If so, could I get a link? If not, could I get some help in creating one, please?

  25. 25
    Ophelia Benson

    eric – Indeed. I was honestly surprised to read about what the UCL security people did, given what the Equalities Advisor explicitly told Chris Moos on Friday. She promised one thing and they delivered quite another. Really strange – especially since now they’re in very hot water.

  26. 26
    Ophelia Benson

    Nate – I think I’ve posted just about everything either here or in News at ur-B&W – that should be some help in making a timeline with links. I don’t know of one already in existence.

  27. 27
    BenSix

    I note that “Sakinah” has posted exactly the same comment here. Interestingly, “Salahuddin”, another apologist for the event, posted the same comment in that thread that he/she posted here.

  28. 28
    Ophelia Benson

    Ah is that a fact.

    Quite the fake, aren’t you, “Sakinah”!

  29. 29
    Ophelia Benson

    Hah! Not only that – “Salahuddin” also posted that dopy comment here.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2013/03/more-on-yesterday-at-ucl/#comment-495147

    Islamist sock puppets. What a joke.

  30. 30
    eric

    @25

    Indeed. I was honestly surprised to read about what the UCL security people did, given what the Equalities Advisor explicitly told Chris Moos on Friday.

    Well, but does the EA staff deal directly with the folks who work event security, or do they deal with that group’s administrative head who then communicates orders downward? Is there yet another link in the chain (example: EA tells administrator X, X tells head of security, head of security tells staff…)? I don’t know, but I do know that each such link is another chance for the “don’t let this happen” message to get diluted in strength or altered. Now, this would still make it UCL’s responsibility (unless the on-site security just disobeyed their orders). But I guess what I’m saying is I don’t necessarily think it was UCL malice; could still be UCL incompetence.

  31. 31
    Ophelia Benson

    I don’t know, but I do know what she said, and it was unambiguous. She didn’t say she would try, she said it would be done.

  32. 32
    davehooke

    So iERA have been banned from future events at UCL.

    They are presenting a further event at Kingston University. I had a look online as to what the event was about, and I ended up sending this email to KU:

    “iERA are hosting an event at your University on 13th March. You are surely aware of iERA’s support of gender segregation at the recent UCL event. iERA are associated with Hamza Andreas Tzortis (who debated at the UCL event), a man who thinks that homosexuality is a crime.

    http://hamzatzortzis.wordpress.com/2008/11/20/homosexuality-is-not-unnatural-but-is-it-a-crime/

    iERA links to Mission Dawah, dawah being the purpose of the event at your university. http://www.missiondawah.com

    At the Mission Dawah site the reading material recommended is “The Man in The Red Underpants”. This short online book promotes hand chopping for thieves, death for apostates and adulterers, and death for homosexuals. http://www.allahsword.com/pdf/man-in-the-red-underpants.pdf (pages 26-32)

    It is clear that the mission of iERA is to promote not just Islam but barbaric law. In the UK.

    Do you think that it is appropriate that such an organization should be presenting an event at your university?”

  33. 33
    Ophelia Benson

    Good job, Dave.

  34. 34
    Ophelia Benson

    Interesting in light of the above that the sock puppet “Salahuddin” also calls himself “dawah warrior”.

  35. 35
    evilDoug

    When I worked for a university, which shall remain nameless, dealing with campus security was one of the things that made me contemplate making a little shoulder-mounted miniature brick wall – so I’d have something to bang my head against without getting up from my desk.
    I have no idea what UCL security staff are like, but generally the job status is not much higher than that of a fence post. Their jobs may usually be concerned with parking enforcement, security of doors and reporting oddly glowing objects left outside the doors of physics labs. They may actually be officially limited in how they are allowed to interact with people (“observe and report” sort of thing). (Unlike some US uni’s where security seems to be a little paramilitary operation, as we saw awhile back).
    Those at the event may in fact have been briefed, but then deferred to the woman from the chem department who claimed to have booked the room and behaved as if she had authority and had had their previous instructions rescinded.

  36. 36
    Ophelia Benson

    That first line is so funny I just quoted it at Facebook.

    That’s a good point. I’d forgotten about her.

  37. 37
    leni

    They like to talk a good game about being kind to the ladies, but then why not divide the room in such a way that women can still get decent seats? Nope. Still in the back of the room. They aren’t even trying to add a thin shitty veneer of fairness and they expect people to believe it was about honoring attendees requests?

    Exactly who do they think they are fooling? Besides themselves?

  38. 38
    Ernst Hot

    So iERA have been banned from future events at UCL.

    I’m sure they’ll respect that and not try to circumvent it in any way. They have proven to be such honest people after all.

  39. 39
    Veritas Aquitas

    Whats all this bruhaha about anyways. Anyone who was at the debate would have noticed that the first 5 seats were mixed, and there was a small group of women who CHOOSE to sit alone in the back. Everyone was fine with it but 3 impetuouse lads who wanted to impose on the rights of those women who wanted to sit alone. what is the UCL going to do next ban themselves for forced segregation of washrooms? I mean how ridiculous is this. This is clearly an attempt to side track the fact the prof. krause was inept in responding to the arguments put forth. He couldn’t even discern between an inductive and a deducive argument. How sad. These militant atheists, prof krause and his like i.e dawkins and harris etc; they are great scientists but they are intellecually challanged. They don’t even have basic knowledge of philosophy. The debate should be uploaded soon and it will be evident as to how prof. krause was a complete train wreck.

  40. 40
    Ophelia Benson

    Bollocks. No they didn’t CHOOSE – there were separate entrances and they were made to sit there.

    Notice the seats were the worst seats, in the back. Nothing but the worst for Our Women, eh?

  41. 41
    Brum

    Just thought I’d add that at the Hamza talk with Copson last year there was a weird scuffle outside the lecture theatre. Could have been anything, but set a minor feel of anything might happen. I can’t remember if the seating was gender split. Hamza turned up late and before he turned up the topic of his talk was announced to ve changed. From his vehaviour, affect and eye movement he strikes me as a clownish Psychopath.

    In a recent open classroom discussion about Islamaphobia, the genders were seperate sitting seperately down to habit. There was a guy in the front row, would casually put his hand over the other Muslim students’ hands as a suggestion to not make another point, or even not say anything. One of them capitulated the other just had his say anyway.

  42. 42
    expat in France

    # 32

    I’ve read most of the MSM or blogs over this event. I did a search to see if it had been picked up on any French media. Only on a couple of blogs it seems.

    I would think that your post about this group is the big fish. Why this group is even allowed to exist even less be invited to universities baffles me.

    As is noted, people from this group have flooded comments all over, with the same ‘wriggle wriggle’ arguments over the issue of segregation. But that’s not the real fundamental issue. It’s that Britain is not secular, can barely do anything about these people, and without proper secular laws as in France, separating religion and state, you’ll never be able to do anything to stop this encroachment on democracy, human rights and equality.

    And even France has a job today, keeping it’s own laws. Just sayin.’

  43. 43
    Nick Gotts

    Why this group is even allowed to exist – expat in France

    Well, could be because there’s no UK law against having disgusting views, or even forming an organization to propagate them. I think this is a good thing. Some extremist Islamist groups have been banned in the UK, e.g. Hizb ut Tahrir – this was a borderline case, as they were ostensibly non-violent, but went in for a great deal of blatant hate-speech, particularly aimed at LGBT people, Jews and Hindus.

  44. 44
    expat in France

    Well thanks for reply, Nick Gotts. If you think that, “this was a borderline case, as they were ostensibly non-violent, but went in for a great deal of blatant hate-speech, particularly aimed at LGBT people, Jews and Hindus.” is a good thing, good luck for the less borderline.

  45. 45
    DFZoomZoom

    Hamza will be doing a talk at my uni (Kingston University) on the 19th March. Apparently the talk is about Islam being misunderstood? We’ll see if there will be gender-enforced segregation there :P

  46. 46
    Ophelia Benson

    On the 19th? davehooke @ 32 above said the 13th. Are you sure about the 19th? Do you have a link?

  47. 47
    Ophelia Benson

    I ask because it’s tomorrow, so there’s time for people to ask Kingston University the kinds of questions Chris Moos asked UCL.

    I thought I remembered that someone reported that Kingston had responded to people’s questions by canceling the event…but maybe it wasn’t Kingston.

  48. 48
    DFZoomZoom

    Yes, it’s on the 19th of March, 6:15PM (might want to arrive much earlier)
    Room: Townhouse 9 (has enough seats for around 50 people?).

    I even took a photo of the poster :D
    http://img191.imageshack.us/img191/2905/hamki.jpg

  1. 49
  2. 50
    Islamic sexual segregation imposed by force at a UCL event in London

    […] upon arrival that two doors had been setup, one strictly for females and the other for males. As reported in a Press Release […]

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