Islamic Society students at Goldsmiths, University of London, obstructed what they called a ‘blasphemous speech’ by human rights activist Maryam Namazie, arguing that she is known for her Islamophobia and bigoted views. Namazie says some members intimidated her during the lecture.
The Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH) at Goldsmiths invited Namazie to give a speech at the Society. Her lecture was titled: “Apostasy, Blasphemy and Free Expression in the Age of ISIS”. As Namazie says, according to the East London Lines, men of the Islamic Society entered the room heckled her and resorted to other forms of intimidation:
“After my talk began, Islamic Society ‘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,” Namazie blogged following the event.
To safely continue her lecture, University security intervened and stayed in the lecture room. Right after the lecture was over, the Islamic Society said that the ASH Society and the University security staff subjected them to ‘harassment’, ‘bullying’, ‘abuse’ and ‘violence’, which they posted about on Facebook, East London Lines reports.
The human rights activist has a long record of campaigning against practices in Islamic societies including acts of sexual apartheid, executions, and stoning. Namazie is the Spokesperson for Fitnah, the Organization for Women’s Liberation, Equal Rights Now, and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain.
The day before Namazie’s speech, the Islamic Society President at Goldsmiths said the campaigner held bigoted views. The Islamic Society President told the ASH, as The Daily Mail says, that:
“[W]e feel extremely uncomfortable by the fact that you have invited Maryam Namazie. As you very well probably know, she is renowned for being Islamophobic, and very controversial.“
He went on citing examples of her alleged lack of understanding of Islam and her offensive stance toward it. During her lecture on blasphemy, a student switched off her PowerPoint projector when it showed a Muhammad cartoon while an audience member said he received a death threat, the Daily Mail says.
Goldsmiths chose to say in a written statement that the institution supports freedom of speech and that Goldsmiths ensures that people on campus express themselves safely. The Goldsmiths Islamic Society invited controversial speakers to lecture on campus as well.
Previously, Warwick University banned Namazie from giving a speech on its campus. Namazie expressed her concern that freedom of speech is compromised on campuses, and that she found it worrying that student unions advocate for universities to be ‘safe places’. As she explained, debate and challenging others’ views should be allowed in academic institutions. According to the Telegraph, Namazie said:
“Safe places can be a good thing for women who face violence but a university cannot be a safe place. It needs to be an unsafe place where people learn to question ideas that they have taken for granted.”
A video of the lecture is on YouTube and featured on the Telegraph. Javier Espinoza reports that it follows a series of similar incidents of university ‘sanitization’ in which anything deemed politically incorrect is cancelled, banned or censored.