Islamist extremists blocked at East London university

Islamic Society promotes hate preachers & gender segregation

Islamist extremists shouldn’t be allowed to preach hate at British universities

Spectator – London, UK – 29 April 2014


More evidence has emerged that Islamic Societies at universities are continuing to host extremist preachers. Last month, students at the University of Westminster invited Murtaza Khan, before replacing him with the equally reprehensible Uthman Lateef.

At around the same time, Brunel University Islamic Society had Lateef and Dr Khalid Fikry as guest speakers.

Hardline preachers have been also promoted by Islamic Societies at other universities – including Nottingham, Salford, Kingston, SOAS and Queen Mary – despite concern that their sermons stir up sectarian hatred and sow social division.

The most recent instance was the University of East London (UEL), where the Islamic Society secured permission to hold its Annual Dinner on 17 April in the main lecture theatre of the Docklands campus. Billed to speak were two notorious Islamist advocates, Murtaza Khan and Uthman Lateef.

The event was advertised as “segregated.” Men and women who wanted to attend had to book tickets via two separate phone lines – one for “brothers” and the other for “sisters”.

As the counter-extremism group Student Rights pointed out:

“This is likely in breach of UEL’s ‘Equality and Diversity Policy Statement’, which states the university is ‘committed to ensuring that all students…enjoy equality of opportunity and are free from any experiences of any form of discrimination’. UEL’s ‘Gender Equality Scheme’ also stresses the institution’s ‘commitment to promote equality of opportunity between men and women’, something allowing segregated events hardly demonstrates.”

It is also in all probability against equality law for a public body, funded by the state, to facilitate gender segregation.

According to a briefing by Student Rights, Lateef and Khan hold extremist views that most British Muslims reject.

Uthman Lateef has stirred hostility towards non-Muslims and gay people, and denounced democracy and social integration. He has repeatedly referred to non-Muslims using the insulting word “kuffars”. At Queen Mary University, in 2007, he fuelled homophobia, stating that “we don’t accept homosexuality…we hate it because Allah hates it.”

He has also condemned secular Islam, attempts to reconcile Islam with democracy and warned against Muslims integrating into British society.

Lateef told an audience at the East London Mosque in 2009: “If we are teaching the way of life of the disbelievers, of the kuffar, Allah will bring humiliation on us” and that Muslims should not be misled by those advocating Islamic modernisation, such as “democratic Islam”.

Murtaza Khan has declared that homosexuality is “abominable” and that it should be punished with death.

He also endorses brutal punishments for sex outside of marriage, including flogging 100 times for unmarried persons and stoning to death for those who are married.

He has denounced non-Muslims – especially Jews and Christians – as “enemies” of Islam. This is an attack on people of other faiths and no faith.

The question is: why are universities – supposedly places of enlightenment and liberal values – hosting Islamist preachers whose ideology is often more extreme than that of the far right British National Party (BNP), which is banned from most campuses. Why the double standards when it comes to far right Islamists? How has it come to pass that some of the most vocal student radicalism today is not from the far left – as in the 1960s and 70s – but from bigoted religious fanatics?

Citing evidence of Khan’s and Lateef’s extremist views documented by Students Rights, the Peter Tatchell Foundation lobbied staff, students and John Joughin, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of East London, urging the Islamic Society event be disallowed on university premises on the grounds that the event was segregated and the speakers had a history of stirring hatred and discrimination.

We argued that although the Islamic Society’s event was deplorable, in a free society it was entitled to hold such a meeting in its own premises or a privately hired venue – but not in a publicly funded institution that is committed to equal treatment, social cohesion and good community relations.

We also highlighted that we would take the same view towards an event organised by the BNP. If they were inciting anti-Muslim hatred, or requiring Muslims to sit separately from non-Muslims, we’d want the university to deny the BNP a meeting space on campus. Just as there should be no toleration of anti-Muslim bigotry, there should be no toleration of bigotry espoused by Muslim extremists.

The UEL authorities said they were unaware of the hate and segregation issues when they accepted the Islamic Society booking. But once we drew these matters to their attention, they agreed the Islamic Society should not be permitted to meet on campus premises if its events featured hate preachers and gender segregation.

A UEL spokesperson responded to our appeal:

“The Islamic Society will not be permitted to use any of UEL’s facilities or premises to host this event. We have made it very clear to the organisers that the University will not tolerate segregation or hatred in any form.”

Student Rights applauded the university’s decision:

“It is encouraging to see a university standing up to those who would invite extremists onto campuses. We are delighted that Khan and Lateef were not given a platform at the University of East London. However, such successes are still all too rare, with many institutions around the UK still failing to challenge students who invite speakers with long histories of bigotry and intolerance. We hope that in the worst cases of extremism other universities will follow UEL’s laudable example.”

  • An edited version of this article was published by the Spectator online on 29 April 2014. Peter Tatchell is the Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation