It takes a nation to protect the nation
There seems plenty of room for debate as to exactly what limits should be placed on free speech, and how far the context of that speech (personal blog, workplace, newspaper, YouTube) might determine where we set the bar. I sympathise with the way Student Rights articulates this difficulty:
Here at Student Rights we are reluctant to call for speakers to be barred from campuses, as the right to freedom of expression should be extended even to those whose views we find offensive.
I expect most people will agree that the University of Derby was setting the bar way too low when they no platformed a UKIP representative recently. UKIP is a populist, right wing party, with some decidedly unpleasant elements:
At various points, Ukip elites have voiced concern over Muslim “breeding”, party organisers have referred to “Muslim nutters”; UKIP candidates have described Islam as “degenerate”, suggested Britain forcibly repatriate Muslims and endorsed Wilders’ description of Islam as a “retarded ideology”.
But these unpleasant views are not official policy, and it seems unreasonable that UKIP’s David Gale, who seems to have no form on these issues, should be banned from speaking. As a disgruntled UKIP supporter put it: “If you are going to behave in this way, why don’t you just decide which candidate you’d like to be elected and just invite them?”
By contrast, it looks as though a planned talk at Brunel University, given by Abu Usamah At-Thahabi is to go ahead. Thahabi has expressed his disdain for the ‘Kuffar’, asserted that homosexuals (whom he refers as to ‘perverted, dirty, filthy dogs’) should be thrown off a mountain, and called for the death penalty for apostates in an Islamic state.
Student Rights, while asserting the importance of freedom of speech, concludes:
[U]niversities have a duty of care to their students, and providing a platform for an individual whose beliefs will threaten and intimidate a significant part of the student population should not be tolerated.
We will be calling on Brunel University to review its decision to allow Thahabi to speak, and we would hope that should this event go ahead, it will be monitored by a member of staff to ensure that there is no opportunity for hate speech to be spread.
That seems a very reasonable request. Whether one is more or less libertarian on these matters, controversial speakers should at least be treated consistently. I hope, if this talk goes ahead, that students will protest his presence in the same way they would a BNP speaker. It’s worth noting that Warwick University’s Islamic Society cancelled a recent talk by Thahabi, and informed Student Rights that they ‘would not have invited him to talk at the University of Warwick at all’ if they had known his views beforehand.
This is what the NUS has to say about it:
“From an NUS LGBT perspective we would not recommend holding a protest against this speaker as it feels like it’s putting a divide between the LGBT community and the members of the ISoc, and doesnt give space for the group to have a dialogue and resolve this and work together."
The same NUS that has a "no platform" policy towards UKIP, doesn't even want gay students to protest against this islamo-nazi.
The neo-fascists are everywhere. But every dog has its day (and apes too!).
So this islamic fascist's imprecations to murder for apostates and homosexuals at Reading University was cancelled. It was only stopped because of an apparent threat by EDL to protest against him.
No moderate muslims were going to protest. No student groups were going to protest. No (self-styled) anti-fascist group was going to protest. No gay group was going to protest.
Cleric’s advocacy of murder ignored in cancellation decision
Muslim Society not rebuked for hosting a murder-approving speaker
Reading University has cancelled today’s scheduled speech by “kill the gays” Islamist preacher Abu Usamah at-Thahabi, which was to be hosted by the university’s Muslim Society.
“Thahabi endorses the murder of gay people and of Muslims who give up their faith. He says women are deficient and encourages the beating of little girls who refuse to wear the hijab,” said Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights lobby, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
“While this cancellation is welcome, the stated reasons for the cancellation are inadequate.
“The university authorities say the event was cancelled due to threats of violent protests from the far right EDL. However, they have failed to condemn the Muslim Society for inviting Thahabi.
“Offering him a platform clearly violated the equal opportunities and non-discrimination policies of the university and the student’s union. He should have never been invited in the first place.
“Women, Muslim and LGBT students have a right to go to university without being menaced and threatened by hate preachers.
“Thahabi’s hateful, violent views are not shared by most Muslims in Britain,” said Mr Tatchell.
See below the briefing about Abu Usamah at-Thahabi’s history of murderous incitements, sexism and threats against fellow Muslims.
See this online local Reading press report of the meeting’s cancellation, posted at 19.30 last night:
A letter had been sent by the Peter Tatchell Foundation to the Vice Chancellor of Reading University, David Bell, protesting at the university’s decision to host Abu Usamah at-Thahabi, on the grounds that Thahabi had been filmed by Channel Four’s Dispatches programme justifying the murder of gay people. Incitement to murder is a serious criminal offence.
Below is a copy of this letter.
Other protests were made against Thahabi by the anti-extremist organisation, Students Rights, and by Reading University students.
Here is the text of the statement by Reading University:
Joint statement from Reading University Muslim Society, Reading University Students Union (RUSU) and the University of Reading:
Reading University Muslim Society, Reading University Students Union (RUSU) and the University of Reading are in agreement that the laudable aims of the Muslim Society’s Discover Islam Week are undermined by the increasing threat of violent protest from extremist groups outside the University community.
A careful assessment of the threat to the events on Wednesday and Thursday evening have led all three organisations to reluctantly agree to the cancelation of these talks. Our priority is to the safety of all those who had planned to attend or to peacefully protest outside the talk and we are very disappointed that we have had to take this course of action. However, the safety of our students, members, staff and visitors is of paramount importance.
Both the University and RUSU are committed to supporting the Muslim Society in its aims of raising awareness of Islam and building mutual understanding. We are delighted that other events in the week’s programme will be going ahead as planned.
As part of the review of these events, the University has agreed to work with RUSU to ensure its policies reflect the need to protect the principles of freedom of speech in balance with the rights of all constituent parts of the student community. The University is committed to upholding both the right to free speech and the right to lawful protest within an environment that guarantees the safety of all users of our campuses.
Here is my letter to Reading University:
Vice-Chancellor, Reading University
Dear David Bell,
I understand that Mr. Abu Usamah at-Thahabi is giving a talk at the University of Reading on Thursday, 28th February 2013.
This individual has incited hatred and murder of homosexuals. He has abused his right to free speech and infringed the right of LGBT people to go about their lives without threats or fear.
Please click on this link for more evidence of Mr at-Thahabi’s history of preaching hate and violence against LGBT people: http://bit.ly/QxFCVz
It is not good enough to monitor his presence on Thursday. His conduct before attending the University of Reading needs to weigh heavily upon any decision to permit him onto university property.
Allowing him to speak at your university would be a de facto reward for incitement to homophobic violence.
I would urge you to deny him a platform or hospitality, as it would be an insult to past/present/future LGBT individuals attending your university.
If Mr Abu Usamah at-Thahabi’s previous remarks had called for the murder of Jewish or black people I am sure he would not be permitted to speak at your university.
I urge you to not collude with a man who incites murder, and to not adopt double standards on incitements to racist and homophobic violence.
Equality for all. Hatred against none.
Yours with best wishes,
Peter Tatchell Foundation
Background Briefing on Abu Usamah at-Thahabi
Abu Usamah at-Thahabi has previously urged that gay people should be punished with death.
“Do you practice homosexuality with men? Take that homosexual man and throw him off the mountain,” Thahabi was recorded as saying by Channel Four’s Dispatches programme.
“If I were to call homosexuals perverted, dirty, filthy dogs who should be murdered, that’s my freedom of speech, isn’t it?”
On Muslims who leave the faith he said: “Kill him in the Islamic state…If the Imam wants to crucify him, he should crucify him. The person is put up on the wood and he’s left there to bleed to death for three days.”
He was filmed by Channel Four deriding women as “deficient”, inferior to men and religiously and intellectually “incomplete.”
He advocates violence against little girls who refuse to wear the hijab: “She should start hijab from the age of seven, by the age of ten it becomes an obligation on us to force her to wear hijab and if she doesn’t wear hijab, we hit her.”
Thahabi was caught on camera making these incitements while addressing worshippers at the Green Lane Mosque in Birmingham.
When he was later interviewed by Channel 4 News, he refused to withdraw or apologise for his comments.
Also read the statement from Student Rights, expressing dismay at the threats of violence.