UCL bans Islamic group from campus in row over segregated seating

Source http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/15/ucl-bans-islamic-group-over-segregation

Prof Lawrence Krauss walked out after saying he would not speak at an event that was segregated.
A London university has banned an Islamic organisation from taking part in events on its campus after the group hosted a debate with seating segregated by gender.

University College London took the action against the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) after concluding that it had attempted to enforce segregation at the debate on 9 March.

"Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense?" featured Prof Lawrence Krauss, an eminent atheist, and Hamza Andreas Tzortzis, a lecturer on Islam. When Krauss saw people being moved from their seats, he said he would not speak at an event that was segregated and walked out to cheers and boos from the audience. An organiser pursued him and said segregation would be abandoned.

UCL said in a statement: "We do not allow enforced segregation on any grounds [but] it now appears that, despite our clear instructions, attempts were made to enforce segregation at the meeting.

"We are still investigating what actually happened at the meeting but, given iERA's original intentions for a segregated audience, we have concluded that their interests are contrary to UCL's ethos and that we should not allow any further events involving them to take place on UCL premises."

Saleem Chagtai, head of PR at iERA, expressed disappointment at the ban and denied that the group had tried to enforce segregation at the event.

The group has put a time-lapse video of the audience taking their seats before the event on YouTube. But as there is no sound, it does not reveal whether or not men and women were asked to sit separately when they came into the lecture theatre.

It is also unclear whether the video ends when the whole audience had arrived and taken their seats.

Chagtai claimed that the group had offered audience members separate seating, with mixed-sex seating at the front of the lecture theatre with rows only for men and women who wished to adhere to their religious beliefs further back.

He said: "I would classify segregation as people saying, 'you're a man you sit there, you're a woman you sit there'. We understood that we could not enforce separate seating but we could facilitate it."

Chagati also speculated that the university had taken action after Richard Dawkins, the head of the Foundation for Reason and Science, condemned the event on Twitter, describing the segregation as "sexual apartheid".

UCL spokesman Dominique Fourniol said representatives of iERA met the university's senior administrative officer, vice provost Rex Knight, and a diversity officer on Tuesday when the issue of segregation was thoroughly examined. He added that the event was not originally booked by iERA but an individual.

Dana Sondergaard who attended the event, wrote on her Facebook page: "After having been told the event would NOT be gender segregated, we arrived and were told that women were to sit in the back of the auditorium, while men and couples could file into the front.

"After watching three people be kicked out of the auditorium for not following this seating plan, Dr Krauss bravely defended his beliefs of gender equality and informed event staff that he would not participate unless they removed the segregated seating.

"Needless to say, the staff got their shit together pretty quickly and the event (thankfully) continued."


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