Student and women’s groups write open letter to UN condemning gender segregation in UK universities

January 15, 2014

 

Students and women’s groups have written an open letter to the UN to condemn gender segregation at British universities. Writing to the UN’s special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, the signatories are hoping to build pressure on UK universities to ban segregation of any kind.

They write: “Gender segregation reinforces negative views about women, undermines their right to participate in public life on equal terms with men and disproportionately impedes women from ethnic and religious minorities, whose rights to education and gender equality are already imperilled.”

The letter appeared on the LSE student union page on Tuesday, and has been signed by various people including Chris Moos, the secretary of LSE’s Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society, and Nahla Mahmoud, the spokesperson for the council of ex-Muslims of Britain.

Mr Moos, who was recently involved in a freedom of expression battle with LSE, believes that any type of segregation should be fought and that the UN pressure would help public discussion.

Universities UK and the Federation of Islamic Students Societies were both targets in the open letter. Last December, UUK said in a report that “Assuming the side-by-side segregated seating arrangement is adopted, there does not appear to be any discrimination”, but later clarified their position, saying: “[UUK] agrees entirely with the prime minister that universities should not enforce gender segregation on audiences at the request of guest speakers”.

FOISS were mentioned as their guidelines recommend societies “maintain segregation between brothers and sisters, keeping interactions between them at a minimum”.

A march has also been planned which will take place on March 8th.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/student-and-womens-groups-write-open-letter-to-un-condemning-gender-segregation-in-uk-universities-9061327.html

LSE apologises to students asked to cover Jesus and Muhammad T-shirts

The London School of Economics (LSE) has apologised to two students who were forced to cover up T-shirts depicting a cartoon of Jesus and the prophet Muhammad.

Christian Moos and Abhishek Phadnis were representing the students’ union Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH) at the university’s fresher’s fair in October, when they were told that displaying a depiction of Muhammad, prohibited under Islamic law, may constitute harassment of a religious group.

After security staff threatened them with expulsion from the fair, the two students agreed to cover up the T-shirts. The students then submitted a formal complaint, which has prompted LSE to issue an apology from its director, Prof Craig Calhoun, acknowledging that, “with hindsight, the wearing of the T-shirts on this occasion did not amount to harassment or contravene the law or LSE policies”.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/students-win-lse-apology-over-ban-on-tshirts-depicting-prophet-mohamed-and-jesus-christ-9018476.html

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/dec/20/lse-university-apology-students-atheism-tshirt-religion-jesus-muhammad

‘Sanctimonious little prigs’: Richard Dawkins wades into row as LSE atheist society ‘banned from wearing satirical Jesus and Prophet Mohamed T-shirts’

The London School of Economics is embroiled in an increasingly bitter fight over free speech, after members of its atheist society were forced to cover up satirical T-shirts depicting Jesus and Prophet Mohamed at a Freshers’ fair on Thursday. Security guards and SU officers threatened two representatives of LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Student society with expulsion after several students complained about the shirts, which featured characters from the popular “Jesus and Mo” web comic.

 

Abishek Phadnis and Chris Moos at first refused to remove their shirts, as well as certain literature, from their stall. They were eventually confronted by a representative of LSE’s legal and compliance team, and its head of security, and told that the T-shirts were creating an “offensive atmosphere” and could constitute “harassment” – and that they were not behaving in an “orderly or responsible manner”.

 

The two students complied, but in a subsequent written statement denied “in the strongest possible terms” that they were trying to harass other students. Adding that: “As much as we respect and defend the rights of others to wear whatever they choose to wear, we claim this right for ourselves. Our right to free expression and participation in the LSE student community is being curtailed for no other reason than that we are expressing views that are not shared by others.”

 

Jay Stoll LSESU’s general secretary hit back, insisting that the t-shirts had been “provocative”, and confirming that they’d received a number of complaints. Expressing the commitment of LSE to promoting freedom of expression and is known for its public events and wide range of speakers. In this instance, it was judged that the actions of the students were undermining what should have been a welcoming and inclusive event.

 

Stephen Evans, of the National Secular Society, said: “There is something very disturbing about the curtailing of free speech on university campuses simply on the grounds of claimed offence. Being offended from time to time is the price you pay for living in an open and free society. If any religion is off-limits for open debate we are in a very dangerous situation.”

 

Richard Dawkins waded into the row on Friday, describing the SU reps as “sanctimonious little prigs”. He tweeted: “I’m “offended” by backwards baseball caps, chewing gum, niqabs, “basically” and “awesome”. Quick, LSE Student Union, ban them all.”

Fury Over Event Hosting Sarrazin to Speak at London School of Economics

14 February 2011

More than 100 UK-based German students and academics have signed an open letter objecting to the choice of panellists for a debate at the London School of Economics on Monday.

The “Integration Debate: Europe’s Future – ‘Decline of the West’?”, which opens a week-long German Symposium at the LSE, will feature Thilo Sarrazin, a banker and author, and Henryk M. Broder, a journalist, who according to the letter argue that “there exists a pathological unwillingness among minorities in Germany (in particular Muslims) to integrate into society”.

The letter continues: “The stigmatization of certain social groups by Mr Sarrazin threatens social harmony and social cohesion…Both warn of an allegedly looming Islamization of Europe and thereby join a group of Islamophobic publicists and politicians across the continent.”

Rather than giving “a prominent platform” to “the polemical, socially divisive and non-scientific theses of Mr Sarrazin and Mr Broder”, it concludes, the LSE’s German Society “should aim to represent a modern, progressive and open-minded Germany, which is fit to face the challenges of the 21st century”.

The German Society responded to the concerns with a statement of commitment to freedom of speech, saying that it has “invited prominent figures from all spheres of public life in Germany” and is “hoping for an open discussion without thought control”.