Segregated Seating at University College London Debate Between Islam and Atheism Sparks Controversy

11 March 2013


A debate held on the campus of University College London (UCL) and hosted by the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) between Professor Lawrence Krauss, a leading atheist, and Hamza Andreas Tzortzis, a lecturer on Islam, sparked controversy when event organizers instituted a gender-segregated seating policy, though the specifics of this policy are contested. The debate was held on 9 March and was entitled, “Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense?”


Reports indicate that Professor Krauss, upon seeing women directed toward the back of the auditorium and three men being removed from the women’s section, threatened to walk out of the debate. This apparently prompted event organizers to abandon the seating policy and the event was held as scheduled.


Accounts differ as to the nature of the seating policy, with one member of the iERA claiming that women attendees merely had the option to sit in a women’s only section and were not forced to do so. The arrangement was instituted to respect those Muslim women who desired to “adhere to orthodox Islamic principles” by sitting in their own section. The member further emphasized that the seating arrangement, consisting of one all-male section, one all-female section, and one mixed section, was approved by UCL representatives prior to the debate.


For its part, UCL has launched an investigation into the issue to determine whether any university policies had been violated.

Muslim Medical Students Boycott Lectures on Evolution

An increasing number of Muslim biology and medical students as well as trainee doctors at the University College London (UCL) are boycotting lectures on evolution, claiming they clash with ideas established in the Quran. As the Daily Mail reports, similar to the beliefs expressed by fundamentalist Christians, Muslim opponents to Darwinism maintain that Allah created the world, mankind, and all known species. Yet, Professors at UCL are increasingly concerned about the students’ boycott of lectures, as Darwinist theory forms an important part of the syllabus.

Abdulmutallab in contact with jihadists since 2007, fostered worldwide network of contacts while in London

British police are focusing on Abdulmutallab’s time at University College London (UCL). In an examination of emails and texts, they have found him to be in contact with jihadists across the globe since 2007.

Abdulmutallab’s examined emails fantasized about jihad:

“I won’t go into too much details about me [sic] fantasy but basically they are jihad fantasies, I imagine how the great jihad will take place, how the Muslims will win,God willing, and rule the whole world and establish the greatest empire once again!”

The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre may have flagged UCL in 2008 as one of about 12 colleges harboring an extremism problem.

Extremist information is being disseminated in London. DVDs of Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaida-tied cleric in Yemen who may have inspired Abdulmutallab, can be purchased through bookstores and websites in the UK. Experts say his influence on locals is growing.

The US and the UK are working together on Yemeni and Somali terrorism issues.

Post-Immigration Minorities, Religion and National Identities

Registration is now available for the Bristol-UCL Leverhulme Programme on Migration and Citizenship conference on Post-Immigration Minorities, Religion and National Identities, 14-15 November, 2008 in Bristol. A limited number of places are available for non-paper givers and those not connected to the Programme.

The Leverhulme Programme team will address topics based on the following themes: Ethnic Enclaves and Economic Integration, Social Capital, Gender and Differential Educational and Economic Outcomes, National Identity, Citizenship and Religious ’Difference’ and Majoritarian Identities and Resentment of Multiculturalism.

Keynote speakers will address issues in relation to contemporary issues on minority ethnicity, religion, integration and national identity, and include:

  • Professor Zygmunt Bauman (Leeds)
  • Professor Craig Calhoun (New York University and President of the Social Science Research Council)
  • Professor Reina Lewis (London College of Fashion)
  • Professor Lord Bhikhu Parekh (Westminster)
  • Professor Roland Robertson (University of Pittsburgh and University of Aberdeen)

Over 50 additional papers will be presented. The conference will begin with registration at 9.30 – 10.30am on Friday, 14th November and the final paper session will conclude at about 6pm on Saturday, 15th November, followed by a dinner at 7.30pm.

Please find a registration form for the conference on our website here.

Contact: Sara Tonge (Leverhulme Conference Administrator)

Further details of the programme and centre.