Skip to main content

Limiting free expression in Britain to that which is acceptable for Islamists restricts right to speak

By Maryam Namazie*
According to a recent report, more than nine in 10 UK universities are restrictive of free speech. This doesn’t surprise me at all. I continue to face restrictions of varying degrees, though this is changing due to the widespread push-back in defence of free expression.
Nowadays, I find that universities don’t bar me outright as Warwick University initially did nor do Islamic Societies (ISocs) organise to cancel and threaten my talk as at Goldsmiths. Their efforts are often more covert though no less sinister.
Take Westminster University where I will be debating Tariq Modood on Secularism and Diversity on 24 February. The Islamic Society didn’t call for an outright ban but issued a statement asking: “How do you feel about Maryam Namazie speaking?” (with the word feel underlined) and telling students to contact the university secular adviser to “voice [their] concerns”. The Islamic Society getting in touch with its “feelings” is the same one that has members who refuse to speak to female staff and whose most infamous member was Jihadi John. Given that the event is to go ahead as planned, it will be “interesting” to see what ISoc members do on the day.
And this is an ongoing problem. When I spoke at an event organised by the LSE Human Rights Society on 27 January, the restrictions imposed were absurd. Initially I was meant to debate “whether human rights is possible under Sharia/Islamic Law” but those approached refused to debate me or pulled out at the last minute.
One of those approached, Omer El Hamdoon, the president of the Muslim Association of Britain, asked to do a solo talk instead, which he did in November 2016. The stark difference in the way he and I were treated at LSE speaks volumes. Despite speaking on the very same topic (making the usual response of “what can you expect when you discuss Sharia” irrelevant), Hamdoon came and went without any concerns being raised nor any restrictions placed on his talk.
Mariam Namazie
In contrast, my talk, which was initially meant to be a public event, was restricted to LSE students and staff due to “security concerns”, LSE followed “special procedures”, referred it to the “Communications Division” and imposed a chair whilst none of these were demanded of Hamdoon.
When I arrived at the LSE on the night in question with a number of colleagues, the security told me I had to enter alone – instructions from the “very top” (the university eventually allowed me to enter with two of my colleagues).
It does make one wonder how I am the “security concern” (with instructions issued from the “very top”) whilst Hamdoon who has defended the shunning of ex-Muslims and death by stoning in an ideal Islamic state (audio available here) faces no restrictions whatsoever?
On 8 March 2017, I intend to return to Goldsmiths University with my co-Spokespersons Sadia Hameed and Imad Iddine Habib at the invitation of the Atheist Society to show Deeyah Khan’s recent film, Islam’s Non Believers. Again, here, the university’s Student Union has called for a “security meeting” with the organisers, decided to deny the public access to the event and will be showing a “safe space video” at the start.
The SU has also insisted on filming the event themselves, and has told the Atheist Society not to do so. Given that the Student Union tried hard to have the video showing the Goldsmiths ISoc’s harassment and threats removed from Youtube, their motive is questionable to say the least.
What these examples show very clearly are that many universities continue to buy into the Islamist narrative. The ISoc is seen to be the “legitimate” representative of “Muslim students” and dissent is seen through their eyes. Freethinkers and “apostates” are the threat and “security concern” not those who are actually inciting violence.
The restrictions blame the victim and help normalise de facto blasphemy and apostasy rules at universities which should be bastions for freedom of thought and expression, including the criticism of ideas deemed sacred and taboo by religion and the religious-Right.
As I have said many times before, limiting free expression to that which is acceptable for the Islamists restricts the right to speak for those of us who need it most. For many of us, it is the only way we can fight to breath, to challenge those in power who stifle us, and to demand change.
It’s not a luxury and it is certainly not up for sale
A few words of warning:
For the ISocs and their buddies in the Student Unions who try and impose the Islamist narrative and de facto blasphemy and apostasy laws:
I belong to the same movement that is bringing Islamism to its knees in Iran, Rojava, and elsewhere. No amount of restrictions will prevent me from speaking and standing with secularists – including many Muslims – who daily challenge the religious-Right at great risk to their lives.
--- 
*Iranian-born secularist and human rights activist, commentator and broadcaster 

Comments

TRENDING

Top upper caste judges 'biased' towards Dalit colleagues: US Bar Association report

By Rajiv Shah  A high profile report prepared by the influential  American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Human Rights , taking note of the fact that “in the 70-year history of the Indian Republic, only six Dalit judges have been appointed to the Supreme Court”, has taken strong exception to what it calls “lack of representation of Dalits” in the legal profession and the judiciary.

Unlike other revolutionaries, Hindutva icon wrote 5 mercy petitions to British masters

By Shamsul Islam*  The Hindutva icon VD Savarkar of the RSS-BJP rulers of India submitted not one, two,or three but five mercy petitions to the British masters! Savarkarites argue: “There are no evidences to prove that Savarkar collaborated with the British for his release from jail. In fact, his appeal for release was a ruse. He was well aware of the political developments outside and wanted to be part of it. So he kept requesting for his release. But the British authorities did not trust him a bit” (YD Phadke, ‘A complex Hero’, "The Indian Expres"s, August 31, 2004)

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Whither SDG goal? India's maternal mortality rate fall target 5.5% per yr, actual 4.5%

By Srinivas Goli, Parul Puri* The maternal mortality ratio (number of maternal deaths per one lakh live births) is a key and sensitive parameter used by health policymakers to monitor maternal health conditions in particular and women's status in general in a country.

Fresh efforts to subsume Buddhism within Hindu fold 'undermining' Ambedkar

By Aviral Anand*  From Yeola in 1935, when Dr Ambedkar announced that he would not die a Hindu, to Nagpur in 1956 when he converted to Buddhism, is a considerable distance in time. But, there was in him a need to make a public announcement in 1935 about moving away from Hinduism. 

Employment loss vis-a-vis pre-Covid situation 'neutralized', claim Govt of India data

By Arup Mitra, DPS Negi, Puneet Kumar Shrivastav* The Labour Bureau, an attached office of the Ministry of Labour & Employment, has been entrusted with the task of conducting the All-India Quarterly Establishment based Employment Survey (AQEES) which has two components namely Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) in respect of establishments employing 10 or more workers (mostly constituting ‘organised’ segment) and Area Frame Establishment Survey (AFES) to build up a frame in respect of establishments employing nine or less workers.

How green revolution led to 'deterioration' of Punjab economy, land, air and water

By Dr Gian Singh*  A recent research paper, based on a survey of 320 farming families in four districts of Punjab, has tried to show that high crop densities and the use of inputs have led to degradation of land, air, water and humans through a rich agricultural structure. Although mechanization has increased agricultural productivity, it has also caused environmental degradation.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam* In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

Reverse progress in fight against hunger? 15.3% of India undernourished: GHI

By Harchand Ram*  Every year October 16 is observed as World Food Day to celebrate the date of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. In the year 2021, the theme for World Food Day is “Our actions are our Future-Better Production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life”.