Women Forced to Sit in Back at Leading UK University Event
Women were prevented from asking questions at a recent public seminar at a top London University and were forced to enter the hall from an entrance separate from the men.
The event at Queen Mary University titled “Deception of the Dunya [world] was hosted by the Queen Mary Islamic Society. The featured speaker, Ustadh Abu Abdillah, was discussing how to live a moral life.
Men participating in the event were allowed to raise their hands with questions and were called upon directly by the speaker. Women were banned from asking questions and were told to write their questions down, after whic they would be passed to the speaker.
“It’s not just about segregation but also about how they're treating women,” said one woman quoted by the Sunday Times, who asked not to be identified for fear of being attacked. The experience was “degrading. It's one thing to be segregated, but a whole other thing being told we are not allowed to speak and men being told not to look at woman,' said added.
The student, a devout Muslim herself also described the experience as “embarrassing. You just want to shake them and say "Why are you being so disrespectful?”
The controversy was not the first for the UK’s universities. The same week, at any event at the University of Leicester featuring a hardline Islamist group, women were forced to sit in the back, with the front rows reserved for male students.
Outcry over that event forced the intervention of Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron himself, who said, “I’m absolutely clear that there should not be segregated audiences for visiting speakers to universities in Britain. That is not the right approach. The guidance should say that universities should not allow this.”
The Prime Minister’s comments came after Education Secretary Michael Gove said he thought that universities were guilty of “pandering to extremism.”
When the controversy first erupted, guidelines had apparently been issued by the vice-chancellors’ association (Universities UK) that permitted Islamic groups on campuses to require segregated seating at their events.
However, after a consultation with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), those guidelines were withdrawn.
Mark Hammond, the EHRC’s chief executive Mark Hammond explained that while it is acceptable that a university provide separate facilities for dormitories, sports and the like, or have private member clubs that are gender-based, he said that “in an academic meeting or in a lecture open to the public it is not, in the Commission’s view, permissible to segregate by gender.”
Hammond clarified that, “‘Universities can also provide facilities for religious meetings and associations based on faith, as in the rest of society. Equality law permits gender segregation in premises that are permanently or temporarily being used for the purposes of an organized religion where its doctrines require it.”
Student Rights, an organization that fights extremism at universities, reported that their research showed that in the course of a year (ending in March 2013), 40 events were held at 21 different UK institutions where gender segregation was either promoted or implied.
Opponents called the practice “sexual apartheid.” In addition, a petition condemning the practice been circulating and has garnered more than 9,000 signatures.
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
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The Clarion Project.