For what it’s worth, I wrote a letter to the Goldsmiths Student Union and University Communications team in support of Maryam Namazie. If you are unaware of what has recently been going on, Namazie, an atheist ex-Muslim secularist was asked to speak to the Goldsmiths Uni Atheists and Humanists. However, she was hounded at the talk by members of ISOC, the Islamic Society. Amazingly, and this is pretty shocking, ISOC’s actions and stance was then supported by Goldsmiths Feminist Society and the LGBTQ Society!
For a really good understanding of the events, read the Godless Spellchecker’s record of what has gone on. In fact, he has just posted about how the protagonist, and president of ISOC, Muhammad Patel, has stepped down.
What was sad is that the SU gave out a holding statement which looked to be supportive of the stance of ISOC and the Feminist Society. I simply cannot fathom the rationale to the aforementioned societies and the SU to support the Islamic Society who sought to shut down free speech, as opposed to a minority woman speaker who has campaigned on feminist and gay issues! it is insane. Especially given the openly homophobic views of Patel himself!
Anyway, I wrote this letter:
Dear Goldmiths SU,
I am writing to voice my concern over recent events with Maryam Namazie. I am a liberal, feminist philosopher who would normally be in strong support of the stances and actions of groups such as the Goldsmiths LGBTQ and Feminist societies. However, regarding the recent statements and actions by these two groups, and your own holding statement regarding Namazie’s speaking event, I am deeply concerned. As a minority, woman speaker, I would hope that you (and the aforementioned groups) would show some solidarity and support.
This appears to be far from the case.
I have been lucky enough to have edited and published deconversion accounts from around the world (Beyond An Absence Of Faith) which included a gender balance and some accounts from ex-Muslims that illustrated the massive struggle such people go through to deconvert, and the oppression and out-group mentality they suffer as a consequence.
Instead, it appears that you (collectively) have sided against such a person, and with such oppressors.This is deeply, deeply saddening.
I understand that, as the Muslim vs non-Muslim debate rages, everyone must be wary of Islamophobia. However, this must also not inoculate and insulate a worldview from any criticism whatsoever. This, itself, is tantamount to oppression: intellectual oppression. The very worst tyrannies start with disallowing criticism of any sort. Yes, we must tread carefully, and thoughtfully; but no, we should not shy away from debate and the importance of thinking critically. I understand that we need to be appealing to Islamic societies and communities in order to solve the myriad issues which have manifested. But that does not give Islamic societies and members free reign to act in any way they deem appropriate. Because some things are inappropriate, and need calling out for such. They way Namazie was treated on your campus, for example, being one.
It appears, sadly, that we live in a time of kneejerk reaction (and I hope this is not one). I would appreciate far more nuanced and thoughtful positions from both yourselves and the groups which have oddly found themselves pitted against a feminist, pro-gay rights woman speaker at your university.
Namazie’s position on LGBTQ issues is obvious. Just see her writing and work. She works hard to end such oppression, both here and abroad.
ISOC’s positions on feminism and LGTBQ issues are hilarious in the irony that plays out here, and where you and the two other groups are putting their support. It’s almost too at odds to believe. From President Muhammad Patel’s own positions (and support of people like al-Haddad), to the speakers they have invited (from al-Haddad who was petitioned not to speak by the LGBTQ society itself, to the despicable Tzortzis and his deplorable views).
In sum, there appears to be some monumental double standards in operation here. Across the internet, Goldsmiths has received some very bad press indeed (an institution I had always held in high regard, knowing several alumni and friends, LGBTQ no less!) which cannot be good.
For your own image, but more importantly, in the name of doing that which is right, I hope these ongoing issues are sorted out. The ball is in your court, but I do hope that you give due respect to the wishes and voice of your secular society, and for Maryam Namazie, who has enough issue and threat with being an openly deconverted, ex-Muslim, without other groups harassing her.
Jonathan MS Pearce