iERA issues statement on UCL ‘gender segregation’ controversy

The Islamic Education & Research Academy has issued a statement in response to the controversy over the “Islam or atheism” debate at University College London last Saturday.

iERA Investigates Complaints about Seating Arrangements at the debate, “Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense?”

The University College London (UCL) has decided to not take any further bookings from the Islamic Education & Research Academy (iERA) after the event entitled: “Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense?” that took place on its premises on Saturday 9th March 2013.

UCL’s reasoning is that they do not allow enforced segregation on any grounds at meetings held on campus and their assertion is that “attempts were made to enforce segregation at the meeting (sic).” iERA complied with the request from the University to cater for all preferences by having seating that was open for all attendees, male or female, and two sections to accommodate those that wished to adhere to their deeply held religious beliefs. We also adhered to UCL’s request to make sure that the respective areas were clearly marked and ushers were employed in order to facilitate the seating. Please access the following link that is a time-lapse video which demonstrates this.

iERA is an inclusive organisation and its lecturers are the most popular on UK campuses. iERA aims to bring different people together and with this goal seeks to accommodate varying needs. It is a common practice amongst Muslim communities across the UK, based across different schools of thought, to have separate seating arrangements for men and women out of modesty. In light of this iERA accommodated various preferences on the matter, whether religious or non-religious, by having areas to suit everyone. iERA has a responsibility under the Equalities Act 2010 to accommodate any reasonable adjustment to enable all members of society fair access of opportunity including those of religious orthodoxy.

UCL claims to have received some complaints from attendees who say they were asked to sit in a different section to what they chose. In a formal meeting we asked UCL to furnish us with details of those attendees and they were not forthcoming. We then offered UCL our entire guest list to check the email addresses to that of the complainants, they declined this also.

iERA is an organisation committed to constructive dialogue between people of all faiths and none, people of all colours, creeds or sexual orientation so it takes any complaints very seriously. In the absence of co-operation from UCL (although we are hoping that this will no longer will be the case), iERA is conducting an internal investigation with immediate effect. If we find there were any failures on implementing the agreed guidelines on the day, we will be the first to admit this and we will apologise for not honouring our word to UCL, our attendees as well as the general public. This is in accordance with the ordinance from Almighty God who states in the Quran, the final testament to mankind:

“You who believe, uphold justice and bear witness to God, even if it is against yourselves, your parents, or your close relatives. Whether the person is rich or poor, God can best take care of both. Refrain from following your own desire, so that you can act justly– if you distort or neglect justice, God is fully aware of what you do.” [Surah An-Nisa, Verse 135]

For further enquiries, please contact our Head of Public Relations, Saleem Chagtai. He can be reached at

iERA press release, 15 March 2013