Maryam Namazie, an Iranian, ex-Muslim, feminist, secularist and human rights campaigner, who was invited to speak at Goldsmiths University in London by the school’s Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH), was met by a hostile group of students intent on disrupting her talk.
The presentation by Maryam Namazie (titled “Apostasy, blasphemy and free expression in the age of ISIS “) was already wrapped in controversy, with several school organizations condemning her pending presence on campus. Despite requests to have her talk cancelled, specifically by the Goldsmiths Islamic Society (ISOC), the event continued as scheduled. It did, however, end up descending into disorganized chaos, instigated by members of the Goldsmiths ISOC.
The night before she was to speak at Goldsmiths, the ISOC expressed their anger about Maryam Namazie being invited by sending a strongly worded email to ASH.
“As an Islamic society, we 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. Just a few examples of her Islamophobic statements, she labelled the niqab, a religious symbol for Muslim women, ‘a flag for far-right Islamism’. Also, she went onto tweet, they are ‘body bags’ for women. That is just 2 examples of how mindless she is, and presents her lack of understanding and knowledge about Islam. I could go on for a while if you would like further examples.”
Goldsmiths ISOC claimed that Namazie threatened their “safe space” on campus, insisting that this would be against school policy to allow her to speak.
As reported in the Telegraph, Maryam Namazie described what happened when some Goldsmiths IOC students hijacked her speech.
“They shut my projector, shouted over me, threw themselves on the floor. They created a climate of fear and intimidation. I spoke as loud as I could. Security had to come in to allow me to carry speaking and the same person who shut my projector came back into the room again. I shouted ‘you have to get out’ and security finally escorted him out.”
After the chaotic presentation by Maryam Namazie, two seemingly unlikely allies of the ISOC – The Goldsmiths LGBTQ+ Society and Goldsmiths Feminist Society – spoke out against Namazie. The LGBTQ+ Society took to Facebook to express their solidary with the ISOC.
Goldsmiths LGBTQ+ say they support Islamic Society “in this delicate time” as they were ‘racialized’ @MaryamNamazie pic.twitter.com/iAR3lzvtWa
— Hari (@_har1_) December 4, 2015
Meanwhile, Goldsmiths Feminist Society condemned Maryam Namazie’s presentation on their Tumblr account.
“Goldsmiths Feminist Society stands in solidarity with Goldsmiths Islamic Society. We support them in condemning the actions of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society and agree that hosting known islamophobes at our university creates a climate of hatred.”
— Lalo Dagach (@LaloDagach) December 3, 2015
— Faisal Saeed AlMutar (@faisalalmutar) December 3, 2015
Videos of what occurred have circulated on Youtube, which has angered Goldsmiths ISOC and the Goldsmiths Student Union, who have demanded that it be taken down. Maryam Namazie has been defiant, insisting she won’t, although it can be found on a number of accounts anyway. She sent an email to Goldsmiths ISOC explaining her position on the video.
“We won’t be removing the video of my talk at Goldsmiths and the attempts at intimidation carried out by a number of the Islamic Society’s “brothers”. The video has now gone viral and been posted on numerous media outlets and other websites… [S]ome ISOC members have made their own selective clips of the meeting and publicised it on social media, a video of the entire meeting is needed to clarify any misinformation and provide the full facts. This is particularly crucial given that the Goldsmiths Atheist Society is calling for an investigation into the debacle.”
Maryam Namazie has faced scrutiny before, with a scheduled presentation at Warwick University in September being nixed by the Warwick University Student Union. The cancellation (a decision that was later overturned due to outrage) triggered an intense discussion about freedom of speech on University campuses, the issue of “safe spaces” and the idea of banning speakers deemed offensive. The Student Union used similar concerns as to those expressed at Goldsmiths in justifying the cancelling of Maryam Namazie’s talk at Warwick.
[Feature image Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images]