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Student Union backs down and apologises

Student Union backs down and apologises

In a frank apology on their website, Warwick Student Union admitted they had ‘failed, and failed badly’ over a ban imposed on secular campaigner Maryam Namazie, above.

Its climb-down came in the wake of huge public pressure and was today welcomed by the the National Secular Society.

Namazie had been blocked from speaking at a Warwick Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society event after the Student Union said the ex-Muslim campaigner could “insult” religion. The SU were also concerned that Namazie, an NSS honorary associate who campaigns for human rights and equality, could “incite hatred”.

Informing Ms Namazie of their initial decision to block her, the SU wrote:

There a number of articles written both by the speaker and by others about the speaker that indicate that she is highly inflammatory, and could incite hatred on campus. This is in contravention of our external speaker policy.

The SU has now promised to

Act immediately to examine how that happened, and to it put it right.

NSS executive director Keith Porteous Wood commented:

We welcome the Student Union’s change of heart and hope their ‘continued commitment to free speech’ is reflected in actions as well as words. Freedom of expression is under growing threat, particularly when it involves discussions surrounding Islam. Every act of appeasement to those intent on closing down debate encourages self-censorship and depletes this freedom further.

Freedom of expression is not only a pre-requisite for resolving challenging problems but for the functioning of democracy itself.

The Student Union’s decision has saved it and the University from an escalation of this unfortunate situation and potentially even a legal challenge further down the line.

He added:

While this case has ended in the right outcome, we still have grave concerns about an external speaker policy which says guests on campus must ‘avoid insulting other faiths’. This is extremely broad and open to a wide variety of interpretations, and therefore extremely restrictive to freedom of speech.

Universities have a legal duty to defend freedom of expression and in our view certain Student Union policies may be working in direct conflict with that duty. This is an issue we hope to discuss with the NUS in the coming weeks.

Hat tip: Stephen Mynett and Angela K

21 responses to “Student Union backs down and apologises”

  1. barriejohn says:

    And Bournemouth is finally going to show The Life of Brian after 36 years (but only to a private audience, and only as a one-off concession!), so two-and-a-half cheers for free thought:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3251646/Bournemouth-cinema-finally-set-Monty-Python-s-Life-Brian-councillors-relax-ban-film-36-years-released.html

    (I couldn’t find a report in the local media, though the Times does carry the story as well.)

  2. dennis says:

    Yes! now on to the next challenge with a critical eye back to verify compliance with freedom.

  3. Broga says:

    The disaster for the reputation of the SU is that it initially censored the speaker in terms which indicated a membership that insisted on censorship in preference to free speech. They will need to do more than offer their grovelling apology to redeem that reputation.

  4. So What! says:

    ‘Twas all a mistake apparently…according to this email I just got…check out the link. Glad that’s all sorted out.

    Hi

    Thanks for getting in touch with your concerns. Contrary to speculation online and in the press, however, this situation arose simply as a result of miscommunication at the SU and Ms Namazie was in fact never “banned” from speaking – we have addressed this in more detail in our latest statement here, where we have also outlined the various steps being taken to now rectify the situation:

    http://www.warwicksu.com/news/article/warwicksu/Warwick-SU-to-host-Maryam-Namazie-as-an-External-Speaker/

    Best wishes,

    Complaints at Warwick Students’ Union
    complaints@warwicksu.com

    —–Original Message—–
    Date: Sat, 26 Sep 2015 08:47:59 +0100
    To: “complaints@warwicksu.com”
    Subject: Maryam

    Shame on Warwick University SU for backing down in the face of Islamic bullying and intolerance. Truly brave people like Maryam protect your rights and guard you while you you sleep. Wake up before it’s too late and show us that you really understand and care about freedom of speech.

  5. Trevor Blake says:

    Even this critic of Maryam Namazie writes “However, the weaselly little Leftist authoritarians at Warwick University should let her speak, and remember for once that a university should be a place where all perspectives can be heard and discussed, and evaluated on their merits.”

    http://www.jihadwatch.org/2015/09/uk-marxist-anti-semitic-anti-jihad-activist-maryam-namazie-banned-from-university-for-fear-of-offending-muslims

    I am a steady reader of this critic. He has changed my views several times and I his once. He and I are free thinkers (if, at the same time, only I am a freethinker).

  6. TrickyDicky says:

    Sorry but I smell a rat, lets see if Maryam gets to speak at the event before we celebrate.

    The event and/or Maryam’s attendance could still be blocked by the University or the Police for “security fears” and the cost of additional security and policing costs.

    Take a look at this article:-
    http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/sep/26/sylvanian-families-isis-freedom-of-expression-exhibition

  7. barriejohn says:

    TrickyDicky: I agree. I posted that link on another thread the other day, and there is plenty of time for Muslim objectors to freethought to mobilize their supporters and force the dreaded “cancelled due to security fears” decision, thus getting what they wanted all along.

  8. barriejohn says:

    I see that Robert Spencer is saying: It is ironic that the only ones defending Maryam Namazie’s right to speak are her enemies on the “far-Right.”

    He obviously has internet access, so why doesn’t he use it?

  9. Broga says:

    ” this situation arose simply as a result of miscommunication ..” Is there such a word as “miscommunication”? Sounds like something from George Bush. And there was nothing “simple” about it except that a bunch of snivelling students, with grandiose ideas about their power, thought they would not be challenged. When they were challenged, especially by some heavy weight academics, they panicked.

    They lack they courage to defend what they wanted and intended. They leave a stain on their university and this bunch of self important bigots and enemies of free speech leave a nasty smell hanging around the SU.

  10. TrickyDicky says:

    @Broga says:
    Mon 28 Sep at 3:57 pm

    ” a nasty smell hanging around the SU.”

    Probably the winter coal has already been delivered.

  11. Har Davids says:

    One can only boycott this university until it’s been purged on all levels of the morons who want to stifle free speech because some Muslims, we’re talking about them after all, might get upset to hear an ex-Muslim talking against his sky-fairy.

  12. AgentCormac says:

    @barriejohn
    ‘…there is plenty of time for Muslim objectors to freethought to mobilize their supporters and force the dreaded “cancelled due to security fears” decision’.
    Agreed. You can put your mortgage on the fact that the lovers of peace will be planning to ensure that this backdown, this ‘miscommunication’, gets resolved in their favour – or else! You can see the resulting climbdown coming a mile away.

  13. Cali Ron says:

    May the gourd be with you!

    Life of Brian was always my favorite from the Pythons.

  14. RussellW says:

    As usual, the problem is the arrogance of Western society’s useful idiots who are prepared to surrender freedom in the interests of ‘social harmony’.

    How can a religion be insulted?

  15. Cali Ron says:

    New meaning of miscommunication: “When someone believes what you said instead of what you wished you’d have said after getting a lot of heat for it.”

    Broga: George Bush’s miscommunication: “Mission accomplished”- the mission was actually to start a war, not win one.

  16. Great Satan says:

    “Whitewash” and “backpedalling” are a couple of words that come to mind, still, its a small victory – though the meeting could still be physically disrupted by islamist/leftist thugs.
    As the Spiked online newspaper has pointed out, there have been numerous incidents of formal and informal college censorship – why mention this incident as though it is a one off ?
    We have a long way to go before thorny issues such as islamification can be discussed in society at large.

  17. Cali Ron says:

    “We have a long way to go before thorny issues such as islamification can be discussed in society at large.” Sad comment on our society. Civilized society ought to be able to discuss such important issues openly, without fear, intimidation or bureaucratic intervention. Maybe mankind just isn’t that civilized yet.

  18. barriejohn says:

    Further evidence that British students have completely lost the plot:

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/29/uea-student-union-bans-racist-sombreros

    Student union officials at the University of East Anglia have banned a Mexican restaurant from handing out sombreros to students, branding the marketing stunt racist.

    The high-crowned straw hats had been given to students at a freshers’ fair in Norwich by staff from Pedro’s Tex Mex Cantina, a Mexican-themed restaurant in the city.

    Union officials took them away from new students, according to reports, and told restaurant workers the hats breached a policy forbidding stallholders from handing out materials including “discriminatory or stereotypical imagery”.

    I thought it was a wind-up when I first came across this story!

  19. JohnMWhite says:

    …Act immediately to examine how that happened, and to it put it right.

    How hard do you have to look to find out ‘how that happened’? You made it happen, you fucking clowns.

    I despise the way student unions seem to have become just a breeding ground for political spin doctors to hone their craft of empty bullshit and fake apologies for their willful fuck-ups.

  20. Stephen Mynett says:

    Looking at this, it is a dismal picture of university attitudes in the UK: http://www.spiked-online.com/free-speech-university-rankings/findings