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. [Read more…]

And still no response from UUK

The Universities UK blog continues to get strongly critical comments on Nicola Dandridge’s post defending its position on gender segregation. It also continues not to reply to any of them.

The latest is by Chris Moos, summing up the state of play.

43 comments, each and every one of them negative. And still no response from UUK.. Who is charge of PR again? or is everyone too busy writing reports that figure out how to [defend?] other kinds of segregation practices? [Read more…]

Universities once barred women altogether

Polly Toynbee also objects to UUK’s separate-but-equal policy.

Separate but equal; where have we heard that before? Apartheid South Africa is no metaphor for anything else, but women of my generation and all those before were told over and over again that the sexes are different “but equal”, as an excuse for excluding them from places they didn’t belong: they should be doing “separate but equal” in the kitchen, bedroom and nursery. Whatever is segregated by diktat is rarely equal.

And not just our generation and older, but younger generations too; women are still told that. [Read more…]

Rory Fenton condemns

At the New Humanist, Rory Fenton says no thank you.

It is astounding how quickly we forget or wilfully ignore that human rights are there to protect people – not beliefs. At the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies, of which I’m president, we increasingly see this confused notion of rights being applied on UK campuses. Whether it’s our student groups intimidated for “blasphemy”, as at LSE and Reading, or religious societies refusing unmarried women permission to speak, as at Bristol, this trumping of individual rights by the supposed rights of “beliefs” is increasingly common. [Read more…]

BHA condemns

The BHA condemns Universities UK’s guidelines on gender segregation.

BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented that ‘Universities are secular institutions, not places of worship, and sex segregation should have no place in secular spaces in which we expect to find equality between men and women.  It would be completely unacceptable if a visiting speaker tried to segregate an audience along racial lines, so sex segregation should be equally unacceptable.  Universities UK have characterised this as a freedom of speech issue, but this is misleading.  A visiting speaker’s right to freedom of speech entitles them to express their political and religious views, but not to impose these views on the audience.’

Damn right. If it’s obviously unacceptable on racial grounds, which it is, why is it acceptable on gender grounds?

It isn’t.


How to ensure that no one is unlawfully excluded

Nicola Dandridge of Universities UK has written a blog post explaining that UUK is not promoting gender segregation. That’s nice, but I don’t know of anyone who said it was. The objection is that UUK is treating gender segregation as permissible, and that it said it’s not unequal.

Since its publication, there has been some public debate on a small component of the guidance: a hypothetical case study (p.27) in which an external speaker on faith in the modern world requests that the audience is segregated according to gender. The case study reflects the challenges of accommodating everyone’s views, from those whose religious beliefs require them to sit separately with their own gender, to those who wish to sit with the opposite gender – hence the mixed seating alternative which is part of the solution in this case study. The issue is how to ensure that no one is unlawfully excluded from the event.

Ah that’s sneaky. The case study reflects the challenges of accommodating everyone’s views, from those whose religious beliefs require them to sit separately with their own gender – no no no, it’s not that easy. The religious beliefs “require” that everyone sit with her or his own gender. [Read more…]

He “knew it was not appropriate to sit next to women”

What a claustrophobic mind we see in this post claiming that Maryam’s petition against Universities UK’s guidelines that allow sexual segregation at the behest of guest speakers is “Islamophobic.”

Petition site Avaaz are running asking people to condemn Universities UK’s statement on sex segregation in events held on campus. Please DON’T sign it. It might use intellectual language, but its both factually dubious and distinctly Islamphobic. [Read more…]

The part where 2+3=17

I think I found the place where Universities UK got their arithmetic wrong.

The guidance document itself is available on their website. I’m reading the pdf version. It lays out general policies and then offers some (hypothetical) case studies. Study 2 is the one about the controversial speaker who demands gender segregation. It starts on page 29.

A representative of an ultra-orthodox religious group

has been invited to speak at an event to discuss faith

in the modern world. The event is part of four different

speeches taking place over the course of a month

exploring different approaches to religion. The initial

speaker request has been approved but the speaker

has since made clear that he wishes for the event to be

segregated according to gender. The event organiser

has followed agreed processes and raised the issue

with university management. The event has been widely

advertised and interest levels are high.

There it is: that’s where the arithmetic is wrong. They forgot to say “No.” [Read more…]