Protesters from the Goldsmiths University’s Islamic Society (ISOC) are said to have “heckled and aggressively disrupted” a talk from ex-Muslim and feminist campaigner Maryam Namazie after a video, this week, surfaced on YouTube.
Organised by students’ union group the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH), activist Namazie’s presentation focused on blasphemy and apostasy when several young men from the ISOC arrived and are said to have started disrupting the event.
In a video which has since been posted online of the entire talk, at around eleven minutes in, disruption began when a student in the front row began to laugh after Namazie said: “Islamism, as a political movement, is a global killing machine. Islamists will hack beloved Bangladeshi bloggers to death in Bangladesh whilst placing Bangladeshi bloggers, who are based in the UK, on an international death list.”
Looking at the student, Namazie asked: “Is it really funny that people get hacked to death? I know it’s funny for you.”
Watch the full event unfold here:
When another student in the front row shortly began to interrupt, Namazie shouted “be quiet or get out” a total of 17 times to which he claimed: “You are intimidating me.” Namazie then replied: “Oh, you’re intimidated? Go to your safe space.”
The situation, however, worsened when, at around 34 minutes in, the activist displayed images of the Prophet Muhammad in a ‘Jesus and Mo’ cartoon. The student in the front who had laughed earlier left his seat and turned Namazie’s projector off before being forcibly removed from the room by security.
According to media reports, Namazie described: “After my talk began, ISOC ‘brothers’ started coming into the room, repeatedly banging the door, falling on the floor, heckling me, playing on their phones, shouting out, and creating a climate of intimidation in order to try and prevent me from speaking.”
The ISOC took to their Facebook page after the event to “categorically condemn the vile harassment of our members (both male and female) by the ASH.”
The group claimed the ASH invited Namazie, whom they referred to as “a notorious islamophobe,” to speak at the event, “despite our polite request for them to reconsider.” The ISOC’s statement added: “The university should be a safe space for all our students. Islamophobic views like those propagated by Namazie create a climate of hatred and bigotry towards Muslim students.
“Muslim students who attended the event were shocked and horrified by statements made by Namazie, and peacefully expressed their dissent to the disrespectful cartoons shown of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
“These students were subsequently made subject to unnecessary bullying, abuse and violence by the ASH society and security staff. Some students were even forcibly removed from the event.”
The Goldsmiths Feminist Society also waded into the debate and released a statement saying it “stands in solidarity” with ISOC, and further supported the group in “condemning the actions of the ASH.”
Their statement continued: “Hosting known islamophobes [sic] at our university creates a climate of hatred. We showed our support on our Facebook page by sharing ISOC’s post with a message of solidarity. Our page is designed as a space for us to communicate with our members. We reserve the right to remove comments that contribute to the marginalisation of students.”
The National Secular Society - a campaign which says it works towards a society in where all citizens - regardless of religious belief, or lack of religious belief - can live together “fairly and cohesively” urged the university to “condemn the intolerance shown towards Namazie” and to make it clear to its student body “they do not have the right not to be offended.”
Campaign manager Stephen Evans said: “It’s becoming very clear the concept of ‘safe spaces’ is being abused to the point where it is becoming a direct threat to freedom of speech.
“Some students may find criticism of their religion offensive but, in an open and free society, that does not give them the right to close down such discussion and intimidate those expressing their views.”
The students’ union said the matter is currently under investigation and added it is “not in a position to comment further.”
However, in a statement, a university spokesperson said: “Goldsmiths supports freedom of speech and follows a set of regulations to help ensure that it is, within the law, is secured for members, students, employees, and for visiting speakers.”
Maryam Namazie has yet to respond to The Independent’s request for comment.