Richard Dawkins has a fuller account of what happened yesterday at the “Islam or Atheism?” debate at UCL, via Krauss himself.
A few days ago, I had received a tip-off from somebody who had made an inquiry about tickets: ‘We contacted the organizers today and learnt that “as for seating, it is according to when the ticket was booked and gender”.’
I’m guessing that somebody was Chris Moos, since he’s been all over this and I don’t know of anyone else who has. Chris does great work.
I passed this on to Lawrence, with the suggestion that he might consider withdrawing from the whole affair. He immediately asked the organizers, who assured him that the audience would not be segregated by sex, and Lawrence agreed to go ahead.
Yes indeed. I reported that here, on Friday. I updated my post on the subject twice to report that the organizers had agreed on no gender segregation. Well guess what: they had their fingers crossed behind their backs. In short, they lied to Krauss to get him to show up.
When he got to the meeting he discovered that actually the seating in the auditorium was indeed segregated by sex. There was a men’s section, a women’s section, and a “couples” section. Did the “couples” have to produce a marriage certificate, one can’t help wondering? And, while wondering such things, what would have been the reaction of the audience if they had been segregated, as in apartheid South Africa, into a black section, a white section and a “coloureds” section?
When Lawrence realised that he had been duped, he immediately secured permission from the organizers to announce that – contrary to previous instructions – people could sit wherever they wanted. Three young men, described by Lawrence as nice gentle guys, then got up and moved to the women’s section in the back. “In the back”, by the way, may resonate with those who remember Rosa Parks in Alabama in 1955. Security guards then tried to eject the three young men. Lawrence went to find out why, and the guards told him the three were a “threat”. Threat to whom, one wonders?
Ah-ha – remember that tweet from Mo Ansar yesterday? About the big atheist meanies insisting on sitting with the “Muslim women” who didn’t want them to? How tf did he know? Since the seating was segregated, it’s not clear that the women in the back had a choice. [Which raises a new question. What about the “non-Muslim” women there? Were there any, and if so, did they object to being put in a “women’s section”? Perhaps they didn’t realize it was one at first. The segregation was stealthily done via assigned seating on the tickets.]
Lawrence then packed his bag and walked out, explaining why he was doing so, and this part of the evening’s events was filmed by Dana Sondergaard on a smartphone. She sent the film to Lawrence and has said that I can re-post it here. Her own eye-witness account of the event is on her Facebook page.
And on Krauss’s Facebook page, eleventy hundred times. I saw her tweets yesterday – I wondered if she was the only secular woman there. She may well have been.
It is unclear whether the UCL authorities were aware that sexual apartheid was being practised in one of their lecture rooms, but we may hope that a full inquiry will be launched.
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.
Ah, the authorites were aware. Chris Moos told them, and they responded to him, as we saw on Friday.
The plot thickens.