That’s the headline to a report in the Guardian. Essentially, it’s just a repeat of the nonsense that was published about the iERA debate at University College London last month, although this story concerns an iERA meeting at the University of Leicester.
To the credit of the authorities at that university, and in contrast to their counterparts at UCL, they appear to have taken a stand against this ignorant and bigoted witch-hunting. Contrary to the headline, Leicester University has launched no formal inquiry into the allegation that gender separation was enforced at the iERA meeting.
A university spokesperson is quoted as saying: “The University will not interfere with people’s right to choose where to sit. If some people choose to sit in a segregated manner because of their religious convictions then they are free to do so. By the same token, if people attending do not wish to sit in a segregated manner, they are free to do so.”
He adds: “To our knowledge, no-one was forced to sit in any particular seat. If there is evidence of enforced segregation, that would be a matter the university and students’ union would investigate.”
To counter this, and bolster the claim that single-gender seating was indeed imposed on the audience at the Leicester meeting, the Guardian report includes a lengthy statement from Peter Tatchell, even though he obviously knows sod all about this particular case. Tatchell is quoted as saying:
“Gender segregated seating contravenes the equal opportunities and anti-discrimination policies of universities and student unions. Students and staff should not be subjected to sexist segregationist policies.
“Universities are supposed to be places of enlightenment, tolerance, liberalism and human rights. It is shocking the way some student Islamist societies are being allowed to force women to sit apart from men, sometimes with the connivance of the university authorities, who take a hands-off approach. Some universities are doing very little to ensure that the campus is a safe and equal place for all students.”
The bottom line here, however, is the quote from a representative of the Henry Jackson Society’s front organisation Student Rights (blandly described by the Guardian as a “campus watchdog”) on the issue of gender separation at Muslim meetings: “While this may be portrayed as voluntary by those who enforce it, the pressure put on female students to conform and obey these rules that encourage subjugation should not be underestimated.”
According to this line of argument, then, Muslim women are too cowed and oppressed to decide freely for themselves whether they want to sit in a mixed-gender or women-only section of a meeting. They need the Zionist neocons of the HJS, or intellectually superior atheists like Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss, to impose true freedom on them by denying them the right to choose.
Frankly, it’s a disgrace that a liberal paper like the Guardian should publish a wilfully distorted report like this. It’s the sort of dishonest journalism you would expect from the Daily Mail.