One can only imagine the atmosphere at the cretinous Warwick Student Union as it decided to overturn a decision to block the anti-Islamist campaigner Maryam Namazie from speaking at the university.
Since the story broke in the press, Isaac Leigh, president of the union, has hidden behind the claim that no “final decision” had been made on the refused application, the matter having been subsequently appealed by Warwick Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society, the club arranging Namazie’s visit. He therefore had little choice but to flip-flop.
Of course by Leigh’s logic a court that has convicted a criminal has also made no “final decision” on whether he is guilty – though that will not stop the perp being carted off the jail in the meantime. The fact is that in an email to Benjamin David, president of the atheist society, the student union had clearly declined her application, with no intimation this decision was likely to change.
Perhaps Leigh was always intending to reverse this policy, and is a stern advocate of liberalism, free thought and rigorous debate. But if so the president of Warwick Student Union must surely be planning to revise the squalid rules that were used to justify Namazie’s exclusion, which stipulate a speaker:
- Must not spread hatred and intolerance in the community and thus aid in disrupting social and community harmony
- Must seek to avoid insulting other faiths or groups, within a framework of positive debate and challenge
How exactly one is supposed to criticise something without accepting a risk of insult is unclear. And why one wouldn’t wish to insult, hate and reject some religious practices – the more charming of which include homophobic abuse, maiming of children’s genitals and rejection of modern medicine – is still more mysterious.
Given the behaviour of the student union, and indeed Warwick’s pedigree as a leftwing university, one suspects the union would not have combated insults, hatred and intolerance directed against the Westboro Baptist Church with the same zeal with which they sought to protect Islam, certain adherents of which are even now terrorising the Middle East in the name of their god.
Hate speech remains a crime in Britain, though the law is roughly enforced and provides caveats for criticism of religion. Perhaps Warwick’s student union is just supporting the law, though again one suspects that if this were not the law a similar policy would still stand at the university.
Ultimately the failure at Warwick was not that it blocked Namazie from speaking, but that such policies that could exclude her from speaking existed in the first place. Spiked and the Spectator have already chronicled the spread of censorship at university campuses, and for this there has been little apology from the so-called Stepford students who dominate many student bodies.
Until that attitude changes, student unions will continue to censor dissent and sanitise debate. That certainly should not be tolerated.
Image Credit – Maryam Namazie, January 2015 by Anders Henrikson