A lecture by a controversial Muslim speaker has been called off at the last minute by Sheffield Hallam University – the second cancellation in a month.
Jalal Ibn Saeed had originally been asked to speak at an event titled The Pursuit of Paradise organised by the Sheffield Hallam Islamic Society but pulled out at short notice. The society booked another speaker, Murtaza Khan, claimed by opponents to be an anti-Semitic extremist.
But university authorities stepped in and told the society to cancel the meeting as the speaker had been changed at a late stage. A spokesman said: “Changing the speaker invalidated the conditions of the booking and therefore event due to take place last night had to be cancelled. The society were advised of this.”
Last month a talk by preacher Assim Al Hakeem was also cancelled at the last minute after pressure from campus authorities and protests from students. Al Hakeem had been invited by the Islamic society to speak on the position of women in Islam.
Students planned to picket and said Al Hakeem was an opponent of homosexuality and favoured the subjugation of women in marriage. Similar concerns were raised about Khan, also said by opponents to be homophobic and anti-Semitic.
Pressure group Student Rights said the situation was worrying. Spokesman Rupert Sutton said: “The ease with which the Islamic Society at Sheffield Hallam University tried to replace one extremist speaker with another shows the sheer scale of a problem which too many people seek to downplay – as well as demonstrating a worrying lack of judgement by the society committee.”
University authorities obviously employ double standards when it comes to free speech. Those at neighbouring Sheffield University had no objection to the student atheist society holding a meeting last month on the question “Is it racist to criticise Islam?“, which was advertised with a flyer featuring an illustration (taken from the film Persepolis) of two Muslim women abusing a child. The leaflet accused Islam of making “demands for undue power & privileges” and held the faith responsible for “assaults upon RE teachers, riots over plays & cartoons, suicide bombings”.