On Saturday, the Islamic Education and Research Academy booked space at UCL for a debate entitled ”Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense?” between Professor Lawrence Krauss, a prominent atheist, and Hamza Andreas Tzortzis, a lecturer in Islamic Studies. The seating arrangements had three sections: women only, men only and mixed. This seating created such a stooshie, that Krauss walked out of the hall. The IERA are now banned from holding any further events at UCL, on the basis of “equality and diversity”.
The event at UCL was part of a series of “Big Debates”, that the IERA is currently organising. Some women has requested that there was a seperate women-only space provided in the hall for those women who did not wish to sit beside men, and the organisers complied by providing men-only, women-only and mixed space for those who wished it. Additionally, there was a separate women’s entrance for women to enter the hall.
Even before the debate started, men started disrespecting that. Two men had to be hoicked out of the women’s entrance as they tried to barge their way, refusing to accept the right of women to have their own entrance. Then once in the hall, three dudes decided to make a point by moving into the seats allocated for women. They resisted the attempts by security to persuade them to move and Krauss walked out of the hall unless the men were allowed to sit in the seats of their choosing. To appease the white dudes, both on the platform and in the hall, the organisers moved women to free up space so that men could sit where they wanted, but even that wasn’t good enough for them.
One white dude said
I cannot tell you how disappointed I and many other attendees are that UCL did not live up to its promise to make sure that its Equality and Diversity policy was enforced
While another white dude said
“What happened on Saturday is a scandal. UCL and the organisers owe an apology to me, my friend, the audience and the general public….It’s insulting to be told that because I’m a man I can’t sit near women in the audience.
After all, how dare UCL and the organisers deny white dudes the right to sit where-ever the hell they like. The stench of male entitlement here is just overpowering. Equality for the white dudes is ignoring women’s rights to their own spaces; diversity is catering to their seating whims while women have to move to accommodate them.
Then the odious Richard Dwarkins got in on the act…
. .. for these weren’t just any women, they were Muslim women. I mean who the hell do these Muslim women think that they are telling white dudes where they can and can’t sit. Its bad enough with the ordinary kind of women, but Muslim women demanding that white dudes don’t sit with them. This cowardly capitulation must end or the white dudes will have no rights left!
Now I’m not saying that the seating arrangements at that debate were perfect. As I understand it, the women’s area was to the back of the hall, with a less advantaged viewpoint, and I’m certainly not saying that there are no problems with women’s rights among Islamic organisations, but the breathtaking arrogance of men who refuse the right of women to have their own space and muscle in on their territory, accusing other men of sexism is simply astonishing. And this is what this has turned into – one group of men talking to another group of men about who has the right to access Muslim women’s space.
There are some kick-ass Muslim feminists out there, who are more than capable of joining with their sisters to demand true equality, but is that there is buggar all chance of that happening unless women have the right to their own spaces, and that right is defended and enforced, so that the dudes – both Islamic and secular – don’t muscle in and set their own agenda.