University 'safe space' policies stifle freedom of expression, warns human rights activist

Maryam Namazie calls for re-evaluation of policies after being threatened while giving a talk on freedom of expression

Rules protecting university students from abuse on campus are being used to stifle freedom of expression, a human rights activist has warned. 

Maryam Namazie has called for a re-evaluation of “safe-space” policies after she was threatened by student protesters while giving a talk on freedom of expression. Security had to intervene.

The ex-Muslim feminist campaigner was interrupted at Goldsmith’s University, London, by a group of male students from the institution’s Islamic Society (ISOC), who claimed Ms Namazie was “violating their safe space” with her outspoken views.

“Goldsmiths definitely need to rethink their policy of safe-space,” said Ms Namazie. “Not just that, but a lot of these policies at universities which are designed to protect people are actually encouraging extremist groups. It’s become progressive now to defend censorship and not freedom of speech. I feel like I’m in a nightmare and someone needs to wake me up.” 

Ms Namazie, who fled Iran’s oppressive regime and now campaigns against Islamic extremism, was giving a talk organised by the university’s Atheist Society on “Apostasy, blasphemy and free expression in the age of Isis”.

The incident is the latest in a string of events to fall foul of university “safe space” policies, with controversial speakers being banned from campuses for fear of causing offence to some students. A video of Monday evening’s event shows the Muslim “brothers” heckling Namazie, standing in her way and turning a projector off.

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