Something called SOAS Muslim-Christian Dialogue has written an open letter to Student Rights. (SOAS is the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.)
As members of SOAS Christian-Muslim Dialogue Society, we oppose your vilification and targeting of university Islamic societies including SOAS Islamic Society on the issue of gender segregation in their events.
We support the right of each student to act according to his or her personal religious convictions. For some, segregated seating serves these convictions and allows participation in mixed events. We support the right of SOAS Islamic Society to accommodate both segregated and mixed seating in any event.
We oppose the notion that segregated seating is somehow indicative of extremism, and believe this to be motivated by Islamophobic sentiments.
As members of a Society including Christians, Muslims, and individuals of other faiths and none, we stand with SOAS Islamic Society in this matter.
That’s very wrong and obtuse. Each student has a right to sit wherever she can find a place. No one disputes that. The issue is not choosing a seat, the issue is imposing segregated seating. They fudge that the same way Universities UK did by talking of “both segregated and mixed seating in any event,” but including a section of non-segregated seating doesn’t make the two sections of segregated seating acceptable. As we keep pointing out, they wouldn’t be acceptable if the criteria were race or religion instead of gender. Whites here, blacks there, mixed in between – no, that’s not ok. Neither is the gender version.
Like yourselves we support the right of individual students to act according to their religious convictions, and have repeatedly stated that if these individual students wish to choose to sit separately from the opposite gender during events then that should be of no concern.
However, students do not have the right to impose their religious views on others, and in accommodating areas of segregated seating student societies are doing just this.
This view is supported by the EHRC, which has declared that “in an academic meeting or in a lecture open to the public it is not, in the commission’s view, permissible to segregate by gender“.
In supporting the right of SOAS Islamic Society to impose segregated areas in this way you are therefore in opposition to the EHRC and are potentially also supporting a breach of SOAS’s Equality and Diversity Policy, as well as failing to support the many Muslim women who have joined the campaign against this practice.
But the EHRC is so…you know…E.