University leaders’ pusillanimity in the face of religious hatred on campus

I have been over-quiet on this blog about the steady, unwelcome encroachment of political Islam (and I do not mean Muslim values) into public life, and left it to others such as Shiraz Maher, Maryam Namazie, Nick Cohen and David T, whose wages are opprobrium and inadequate support. Nevertheless, they are solid, and gaining form.

Perhaps my acquiescence is down to being an alumna of City University, London, an institution where the Islamic Society invites homophobic hater Abu Usama to speak and Acting Vice Chancellor Julius Weinberg makes things cosy for them all.

As you can gather from this Independent piece, inviting Abu Usama is the equivalent of inviting white supremacist David Duke. Sad thing is, the ‘leader’ of the place where I currently work would probably have tried to say it was none of his business either, insisted on free expression, and left the apostates and rights activists to defend themselves. What is a university leader for, again?

Oh yeah, delivering New Labour policy to academics. Nick Cohen on New Labour policy.

And Julius Weinberg, in a position like his, he’s either with gay people and apostates or against them. And if he’s not willing to stand with them, he should resign. And while we’re about it, let’s revisit the University of East London which – mocking their Stonewall Diversity Champion accolade – hosted Usama last June.

Earlier this month a researcher interviewed me about what institutions should do about campus religious conflict. I basically said the following kind of thing. Institutions should reflect the wider context back to the groups at the centre of any contentious episode. If the institution is providing premises for an event, then the institution has ultimate responsibility for the rhetoric and values pushed at that event. If an institution insists on free expression even for ideologues who would kill gay people, then it must also insist on debate. It would run contra to academic values for ideologues, if they are to be hosted, to go unopposed and undebated in a university setting. Ideologues are essentially unacademic: they are neither disinterested nor attempting balance. As such they should not have a platform to themselves. And when students host political meetings they should be responded to as adult political agents. Institutions should restate their values, in opposition to preachers of hate. They often don’t.

I didn’t go to the One Law For All rally, because I was supposed to be doing some work, as I am now. But they are probably our best hope against these bloody clerics, the totalitarian values of the people who invite them, and our capitulating leadership. Without solid, human rights-based groups like those below we will certainly polarise between the fundamentalist or hateful Islamism of Al Qaradawi and Abu Usama, and the similarly intolerant Islamophobia of Geert Wilders and Stop the Islamisation of Europe.

First and foremost, hold the centre against the fundamentalists. Don’t let it happen that we only recognise what we have once we’ve lost it. And once we have marginalised the fundamentalists, we can go back to fighting among ourselves again, just like old times.

Bonus link: Gwen Griffith-Dickson speaking at Gresham (transcript available) on countering extremism and the politics of ‘engagement’.

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