Women over there please. No exceptions.

Update 2: Good news for once. Chris heard back from the equalities adviser, and UCL will not allow gender segregated seating, although people will be allowed to sort themselves if they want to – “however it is expected that there will be a large mixed area where anyone can sit.”

Chris Moos of the LSE* Atheist Secularist and Humanist group alerted me to an event at UCL** tomorrow: The BIG Debates: Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense? The two proponents are Lawrence Krauss and Hamza Tzortzis. Chris reports:

Although the event was supposedly organised through “The Big Debates”, which describes itself as an independent organisation, the account used to set up the event with eventbrite.com is actually that of iERA, Hamza’s outfit.

And guess what else – seating is gender segregated.

Gender segregated. At a grown up, secular, urban, 21st century university in London – seating is gender segregated.

Imagine if it were racially segregated. Imagine the uproar. Yet UCL is apparently turning a blind eye to gender segregation.

Student Rights has some background on Hamza Tzortzis.

On 10th January Student Rights published an info-graphic which provided figures detailing the number of events featuring extremist or intolerant speakers that were promoted to students throughout 2012.

Leading the way with 48 events was the former Hizb ut-Tahrir member Hamza Tzortzis, most famous for declaring that “we as Muslims reject the idea of freedom of speech, and even the idea of freedom”.

Since then, Tzortzis has announced a new speaking tour of universities that began last night and continues until the 18th March, with 24 dates on 21 different campuses.

What will all those lucky universities be getting?

He has argued in the past that “Some people object to Islam making the public expression of homosexuality a criminal act. This is subjective and only strikes a chord amongst those who cannot escape the social constructs in their own societies” and that “those who claim that making homosexuality a criminal act is wrong are totally inconsistent”.

In a university debate on Sharia Law in 2009 he also expressed his support for barbaric punishments including amputation, refusing to condemn the cutting off of people’s hands.

This support for religious jurisprudence was also evident when he wrote that that society must turn to “cohesive values that will bring us out of this social decay. It can be argued these cohesive values must be the Islamic values and the workable solution is the Islamic Social Model”.

Chris provided some contact addresses at UCL:

Head of Equalities and Diversity Sarah Guise
For staff and student queries related to age, disability, gender, race, religion & belief and sexual orientation.
Email s.guise@ucl.ac.uk
Ext. 53989

Equalities and Diversity Adviser
Fiona McClement
For staff and student queries related to age, disability, gender, race, religion & belief and sexual orientation.

Email: f.mcClement@ucl.ac.uk

Ext 53988

Policy Advisor – Athena SWAN and women in SET
Harriet Jones

For queries related to the Athena SWAN Charter.

Email: harriet.jones@ucl.ac.uk

Equalities and Policy Administrator Sonal Bharadva
For general enquiries.
Email: s.bharadva@ucl.ac.uk

Ext. 53991

50:50 Gender Equality Group
Annette Dolphin, Co-Chair,

Rob de Bruin, Co-Chair



The event takes place 25 hours from now.

*London School of Economics

**University College London

Update: I heard from Chris after I posted: Lawrence Krauss told him he’d told the organizers no gender segregation, and he’s not going to accept it when the time comes.


  1. says

    Indeed. Also, Chris wrote to Krauss about the issue, and Krauss responded that he’s raised it with the organizers and will insist on no gender segregation. That could be interesting. In fact it’s pretty much guaranteed to be interesting. The most likely outcome is that they refuse and Krauss refuses to participate.

  2. says

    The hashtag for the event could be useful for following what happens –


    Doors Open: 18:15
    Registration Closes: 19:00
    Opening Remarks: 19:30
    Closing Remarks: 21:30

    So opening remarks are at 11:30 tomorrow morning by this clock (the clock on B&W).

  3. says

    When has Krauss been a debater? His speaking style (from what I’ve seen of it) is more likely to lose him points with the audience, and he’s too familiar with the science to be able to make the kind of dumbed-down rebuttals Tzortsis’ arguments are going to require. Tzortsis doesn’t need to be debating Krauss – he needs to be debating a high school science teacher.

  4. says

    One amusing way to respond to the gender segregation would be for no men to attend. Or, perhaps, for plenty of men to attend but all show up in drag and assert that they are female.

  5. Scr... Archivist says

    I don’t see anything about the seating arrangements on the Big Debates page for the event. So if people refuse to comply with this stupid idea, they can say that it wasn’t sufficiently promoted.

    And is it segregation by gender or by sex? Where do the tomboys sit? And either way, where should trans* people sit? It would be hilarious if non-compliance by the audience scuttled this event.

  6. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    I hope many women attend, and refuse to sit in their “designated” area.

    With their legs spread as wide as they possibly can to take up as much space as possible.

  7. says

    I’m disappointed that a) Lawrence Krauss agreed to this debate and b) that he’s not speaking out against the segregation. But then, sadly, I’m also not surprised.

    Nothing would make me happier than to read that the women who attended the event deliberately mixed with the men, and that the men supported it. I hope to read that there was a sizable group of transgendered, cross-dressers, homosexuals, etc also in attendance. I want to read all about the sputtering that idiot Hamza will no doubt resort to, before cancelling the event while on the stage… preferably to boos and assault from projectile vegetables (tomatoes and the like).

    And I hope Krauss is roundly shamed for not speaking out against this utter bullshit.

  8. smrnda says

    Who or what is in charge of enforcing the gender segregated seating? I’d say everybody defy the request, I’m thinking the worst can happen is this Hamza would refuse to debate until the women and men were separated, which would make him look pretty ridiculous, and clearly make it seem like he’s not even willing to debate in a setting unless his religious rules are forced on everybody, which isn’t likely to make his case very compelling.

  9. says

    Nate, see my comment 2. I heard from Chris after I did the post – I’ll update it. Krauss is rejecting the segregation.

    As for the suggestions – the organizers have been crafty. Seats are assigned and there’s a note that says the assignments cannot be changed.

  10. NitricAcid says

    By insisting on gender segregation, Tzortzis makes his opponent’s points for him. I hope they get pressed home.

  11. says

    Quite so. Krauss said on Twitter that he plans to do just that. Graciously, because the hosts were gracious to him, but he’s still going to do it.

  12. says

    A happy ending, for once?

    “And I heard him explain as he fought the good fight
    ‘Merry Chris Moos to all, and to all civil rights’!”

    (er. sorry, Chris.)

  13. says

    Tzortzis is a plagiarist and a promoter of misinformation. He is a gifted rhetorician, though, and given Krauss’ unwillingness to engage with philosophical arguments I fear that he will come out looking better than he deserves to.

    This would be less of a problem if iERA had not been created by a man who is brazen about his status as a propagandist that he claims that he was told to practice Da’wah by the mujahideen after proving himself to be useless in violent combat.

  14. says

    Ah, I’ve … encountered … Tzortzis a few times. He’s rather desperately invited me to fly to London — at his expense — to participate in a debate with him twice now. I’ve turned him down both times because he’s looney tunes.

  15. rnilsson says

    @Marcus 5, 6:
    Good thing I tried to read all comments before saying more or less the same things! Thus this is superfluous!
    Also, @8 Illuminata genie: Respect!

  16. davidmc says

    Thanks Maureen Brian, I thought I recognised the name. I hope we get to see the current debate.

  17. says

    It starts in half an hour. I wonder how the seating is going. There’s nothing of interest on the hashtag –

    #islamoratheism @TheBIGDebates

    – just people saying they’re looking forward to it. Lots of inshallah, almost no visible atheism. Could be a very lopsided (and dull) event.

  18. says

    Oh yes? A tweet from Mo Ansar.

    Mohammed Ansar‏@MoAnsar

    Its sad we have ill mannered anti-theists wishing to ‘make a point’ by seating next to Muslim women who wish them not to. #IslamOrAtheism

    Is it? Is it sad? It’s a public space. How do these Muslim women even know the people sitting next to them are
    “anti-theist”? How does anybody know the women are Muslim? Are all the Muslims there wearing explicitly “Muslim” clothing? Is it only the women who are doing that? Are all the Muslim women wearing explicitly “Muslim” clothing? Are any of the non-Muslims wearing explicitly “anti-theist” clothing?

    It all sounds very muddled. In any case, people can sit where they like in a public place.

  19. davidmc says


    Hamxa:”Islam makes more sense because islam makes sense for the origins of universe”

    “Therefore, no bacon. Or gay sex. And cover your damned hair!”*

    * Author

  20. says

    Hm, Richard Dawkins just tweeted that Krauss “threatened to leave”, but seems like the segregated seating is going ahead.

    Yes, we know Hamza well, money-heavy master wielder of the Gish Gallop, specialises in “embryology”. Krauss will almost certainly look bad against the guy. Bad mistake IMO. And shame on UCL.

  21. LI says

    An other issue is that why does someone who is against free speech participate in a debate, when free speech is the prerequisiste sine qua non of a debate.
    Anyone against free speech should set an example himself by shutting up and staying at home, shouldn’t they?


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