Warwick Student Union (SU) has officially responded to the uproar surrounding their decision to refuse the Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists’ Society (WASH) request to have me as a speaker in October. They deceptively imply that the uproar over their denial is premature as a “final” decision has not been made.
And so the white wash begins.
The Warwick Atheists Society has published an excellent rebuttal, including correspondence from the SU, which confirms what was said from the outset: “..we are going to have to decline authorisation for her attendance on campus” citing “flags” and unnamed articles “written both by the speaker and by others about the speaker that indicate that she is highly inflammatory, and could incite hatred on campus.”
You can see the screenshots below:
Also as stated from the outset, WASH has appealed the decision and has been waiting for a response ever since.
I have already briefly addressed the SU’s initial decision: the Islamists incite hatred, not us. But there is a serious question that remains unanswered: which articles, written by myself and “others”, have so concerned the SU? These need to be published in full – for the sake of transparency – and so we can all judge for ourselves.
The SU cannot accuse me of potentially inciting hatred – a prosecutable offence – and then deny me the evidence to defend myself. Needless to say, I am also very interested to learn of the “others” they have relied on.
I insist that these be made available without delay.
The issues for me are very clear.
“Incitement to hatred” is against people not ideas or the extreme religious-Right. You can dislike or even hate an idea like religion and a far-Right political movement like the KKK, Britain First or Islamism and not incite hate against people who are believers or members of political groups.
I think religion should come with a health warning – like cigarettes – it kills. I also think Islamism is a far-Right movement – the fascism of our era – but that is not same as inciting hatred against people. Don’t forget, even though I am an ex-Muslim, my loved ones, like my parents, are Muslims. My grandmother wore the hejab; my grandfather was an Islamic scholar.
This is not hard to understand. There might be members on the SU who are atheist, who think Christianity is superstition and who dislike and even hate the pope, the Christian Right, the EDL, and the BNP but don’t hate “Christians”. Also, they should be able to see that not all “Christians” are the same. Many are Christian in name only. And even though Britain has an established church and bishops in the House of Lords, they understand that the society is not Christian nor are many who are labelled as such. This is common sense. They just can’t seem to see it when it comes to the “other”. Then any criticism is seen to be “discrimination” against and “intimidation” of “Muslim students”. Isaac Leigh, president of Warwick Student Union, says as much in the Independent: “The initial decision was made for the right of Muslim students not to feel intimidated or discriminated against on their university campus… rather than in the interest of suppressing free speech.”
Why does Leigh think that my criticism of Islam and Islamism is an attack on “Muslim students”? Which Muslim students? All of them? Why did he not think that “Christian students” would be discriminated against and intimidated by the wonderful Philosopher AC Grayling and his talk on Atheism and Humanism?
It’s a racism of lower expectations – “Muslim students” must be protected from hearing any criticism of Islam or Islamism as if there are no dissenters and even closet ex-Muslims amongst them.
Clearly, the SU has bought into the Islamist worldview (and also that of identity politics/multiculturalism pursued by successive British governments) that “Muslims” are a homogeneous community that need to be managed by parasitical and reactionary imams, sharia courts and Islamist organisations rather than viewed as equal citizens and as students (with more than one characteristic that defines them). They cannot see that even “Muslim students” have the right to dissent and to hear dissenting voices.
If dissenters cannot speak, what does the SU suggest we do? I don’t want to be a Muslim. I was “born” Muslim out of no choice of my own – a lottery of birth. I want to be able to shout my atheism from every rooftop without looking over my shoulder. I abhor the veil and gender apartheid. I want to be equal to men. I don’t want my rights to be culturally relative. I want to, I need to, speak out against the Islamic regime of Iran and ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic Human Rights Commission.
Members of the SU speak as they choose but we cannot?
Those in power restrict and limit free expression and determine what is acceptable to the status quo and what is not.
In Iran and Saudi Arabia and the Caliphate, they label it blasphemy, apostasy and heresy and call you kafir and murtad and immoral and kill and imprison and flog you and throw acid in your face. Here, they and their apologists call it Islamophobia to silence critics who are somewhat out of their reach.
The SU’s infringement of the right to criticise religion and that which is deemed sacred and taboo limits the free expression of those who need it most. Saying Islam and Islamism are off limits means first and foremost that the victims and survivors of Islamism are not allowed to do one of the only things at their disposal in order to resist. It is telling people they cannot oppose theocracies and religious laws and call for secularism in the Middle East and North Africa. It is telling people they cannot oppose sharia and call for universal rights for all. It’s telling women they do not have the right to be equal. It’s telling ex-Muslims they don’t have a right to live if they want to reveal that they are atheists. It’s telling people who need free expression most that they must remain silent and accept their lot in life.
But this is more than a question of placing limitations on the free expression and attempts at silencing dissenters. It’s buying into the Islamist narrative that blames the victims. The Bangladeshi government blames the bloggers, the Saudi government blames Raif for his lashes and equates atheists with terrorists, the Islamic regime in Iran blames Atena Farghadani’s cartoon for her 12 years in prison…
The blame, however, lies squarely on the shoulders of those who threaten, kill and actually incite hatred, not those of us who refuse and resist.
Warwick SU, publish the articles you refer to; give evidence for your serious accusation against me and if not, withdraw the accusation. Mostly, show some courage and decency and rectify your mistake so that I can come as planned and speak at your university without delay.
For me, it is not a question of if I will speak but when.