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Nov 28 2013

A revival in adherence to normative Islamic practices

The iERA, the Islamic Education and Research Academy, has issued a press release agreeing (surprise surprise!) with UUK’s guidelines on girl cooties gender segregation. Tl; dr: it’s religious freedom, it’s great.

The debate about separation came to the fore earlier this year at an iERA event entitled: “Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense?” between Hamza Tzortzis and Professor Lawrence Krauss at the University College of London (UCL) on 9th March 2013. UCL subsequently refused to take any further bookings from iERA, accusing them of “forced segregation”.

iERA later released its own findings of an externally supervised investigation into the accusation of forced gender segregation at the debate. The investigation concluded that there was no such policy or evidence that it occurred on the night. Rather, in line with its duties under the Equality Act 2010, iERA had attempted to provide for the needs of all attendees by providing separate areas of seating for men and women (for those that wished to adhere to their deeply-held religious beliefs) as well as a mixed seating area.

Leaving aside the fact that it wasn’t just “providing,” it was enforcing, that is still a worthless attempt at justification. As many of us have pointed out ad nauseam in the last few days, you could just as easily talk of providing separate areas of seating for whites and blacks (for those that wished to adhere to their deeply-held religious beliefs), or for Jews and Gentiles (for those that wished to adhere to their deeply-held religious beliefs), or for straights and gays, or for those with university degrees and those without. You could, and it would be wrong in all cases. Citing “deeply-held religious beliefs” as an excuse is beside the point, and an unsubtle form of theocratic bullying.

Abdurraheem Green, Chairman of iERA, stated: “With a growing number of Muslims countries seeing a revival in adherence to normative Islamic practices, the idea of being forced to sit with people of the opposite sex and observing the adoption of anti-Islamic policies by British Universities might well lead many to avoid choosing this country to further their education. Such behaviour is not in the economic interests of universities or indeed the country as a whole. iERA as an organisation is known and respected throughout the Muslim world for its work in inviting people to Islam. Hearing of iERA being banned from UCL and other universities certainly does not send a positive message about how welcome they will be to study in this country.”

Ah yes, there you have it – a growing number of Muslim countries seeing a revival in adherence to normative Islamic practices, and a growing number of fans of that revival doing everything they can to foster and impose it everywhere else in the world.

No thank you. No normative theistic practices of any kind, thank you, not in the public sphere. Revive in your living rooms and your mosques or churches all you want, but not in the shared public space.

13 comments

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  1. 1
    Eamon Knight

    “We’re great at inviting people to our religion and reviving backwards and noxious practices” does not strike me as an inspiring preamble to “…so bend over backwards to make us feel welcome”. I mean, if it were me, I’d likely respond by saying: “Well then you’ve come to the wrong place, mate, and don’t let the door hit your behind on the way out”.

    But I’m not a UUK administrator, so what do I know?

  2. 2
    machintelligence

    Hearing of iERA being banned from UCL and other universities certainly does not send a positive message about how welcome they will be to study in this country.”

    Goodbye, and good riddance!

  3. 3
    RJW

    “..the adoption of anti-Islamic policies by British Universities..”

    Pure sophistry, this is another attempt at the Islamisation of secular society by using the camouflage of “religious freedom”, even the most liberal of liberal democracies should not allow religious freedom when religious practices violate the secular values of liberty and equality.

    Of course what the term ‘anti-Islamic’ policies really means is ‘resistance to attempts by Moslems to establish themselves as the ruling class’, as they have in all majority Moslem countries and they are relentless in the pursuit of that agenda. The constant accommodation to Islamic arrogance must end. It took a thousand years to be rid of Christian theocracy, now we’re threatened by Islamic theocrats aided and abetted by gullible “useful idiots” who imagine that they’re promoting multiculturalism and fighting racism.

  4. 4
    Dave Ricks

    To make a parallel: I wouldn’t be surprised if the iERA has a Wedge Document that includes apartheid in UK academia, but I am surprised and upset by the UUK teaching the controversy.

  5. 5
    Ophelia Benson

    Good parallel, Dave. Excellent parallel.

  6. 6
    B. Perch

    If you were a university administrator, which would you prefer to do:

    (A) Respond to some random upset nobodies and change your policy — and live with the fear of possibly months of protest marches by Islamists, leftist organisations, and the leadership of the student groups who are authorising the events in the first place? Or,

    (B) Just ignore and weather a brief flurry of outraged comments and tweets from those nobodies — and have peace.

    (Not absolute peace. There are always grumbling nobodies. If their grumbling succeeded this time they’d be grumbling about something else.)

    The outcome of this controversy has already been decided. The UUK and iERA have agreed to a compromise. Put it in scare quotes if you must. But if a court had to review the situation today, allowing sex separation would become settled law.

    (Don’t call it “segregation” please! We’re British!)

  7. 7
    Ophelia Benson

    Not everyone pushing back is random upset nobody. Far from it.

  8. 8
    Ophelia Benson

    And of course we’re going to call it segregation, because that’s what it is. We’re not the ones motivated to use euphemisms!

  9. 9
    Al Dente

    I liked one of the comments at the UUK blog.

    Adrian Rox (LAAG) says:
    28 November 2013 at 5:34 pm

    I can’t help noticing that every time someone’s religious freedom is invoked, it’s almost always at the expense of everyone else’s freedom!

  10. 10
    Sarah Lambert

    To B. Perch:

    This has to be challenged.
    If sexual segregation is allowed, it won’t be long before racist bigots can insist on racial segregation based on their “sincerely held religious beliefs”. The principle is exactly the same. Are you really happy to live in a new sexist, racist and homophobic society?

  11. 11
    Dave Ricks

    @ 6 B. Perch, you maneuvered to enjoy an emotion of intellectual superiority over everybody (xkcd 774 related), but your model of the dynamics was incorrect, and in your terms, the “random upset nobodies” against the UUK guidance included the education secretary Michael Gove and PM David Cameron.

    I’ll remember your fatalism toward a morally reprehensible position, not to put your name on the spot, but I’ll remember how your fatalism was an incorrect model that failed.

  12. 12
    Maureen Brian

    And another thing, B Perch – my freedom of thought, of belief and of action is not yours to give away in pursuit of what you foolishly imagine will be a quiet life.

    Only days ago you were gloating that UUK and iERA had it all nicely stitched up. How did that work out then?

  13. 13
    J.T. Aslim

    What is called ‘Normative Islam’ here in fact isn’t normative at all. Many aspects of over-conservative Islamic practices are quite modern ‘innovations’ from one particular strand of Islam pushing back what used to be normative and flexible. Dr. D. Latifa explains this all too well in her conversation with the Halal Monk about ‘Normative Islam’.

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