As an activist, who is independent of any group, political or otherwise, it has come to my attention that “Student Rights” has been making headlines on the “Segregation” debate. As a Muslim woman calling for the right to freedom of speech and the right of choice to religious expression within the laws of the UK, Muslim students, Palestinian activists and anti-war campaigners should speak out against the Neo-conservatives. One excellent initiative that deserves to be recognised is:
Students for Real Student Rights
“Independent, grassroots student campaign for freedom of speech & against demonization – stop the witch-hunt of Muslim students & Palestine activists by front group “Student Rights“!
It could not have escaped anyone’s notice that Islām has been a hot topic in the mainstream media this year with huge coverage and debate on the niqāb, or face veil, a few weeks ago and presently the media is full of articles and interviews. Even the Prime Minister David Cameron has involved himself on gender segregation.
Is it a bad thing that everyone is discussing Islam? I prefer to believe that it is an opportunity for da’wah (inviting to Islam) but only if we as Muslims comport ourselves well and handle the situation wisely.
Gender segregation is not alien to western culture and is widely practiced in places such as public toilets, single sex schools, hospitals and sports. I wonder why feminists are not protesting that they are not allowed to play against men in singles tennis championships or against male teams at football matches? There seems to be some level of recognition that men and women are better doing some things in segregated groups so why has it become such a political hot potato when Muslims segregate by gender?
The answer to this is easy if you understand exactly what lurks beneath the muddy waters.
Driving these Islamophobic campaigns is the pro-Israel/Neo-conservative outfit, Student Rights. Student Rights as an offshoot of the Henry Jackson Society has an agenda to promote Israeli interests in the UK, which means that one of their main objectives is to demonise and disrupt Muslim activities on university campuses where there is a growing movement of support amongst Muslims and non-Muslims for Palestinian rights activism. Student Rights cannot fight the facts of Israel’s atrocities against the Palestinian people but what they can try to do is curb freedom of speech and expression for Muslims with their campaigns. This campaign on gender segregation is particularly satisfying for the Islamophobes as it has brought the political left—traditionally anti-war and supporters of Palestinian rights, therefore in direct opposition to the far right—onto their side over the perceived subjugation of women.
Because I have written before on these issues, I do not wish to write more now. However, please read other articles I have written, particularly Campus Wars, this one here about the Henry Jackson Society to which Student Rights is affiliated and my most recent article on the political left/right alliance here.
Enough has been written and spoken about these nefarious campaigns by pro-Israel groups, now I have to request, plead and beseech students to become active themselves. I cannot state firmly enough that if students do not organise now and take action, then we in the UK will wake up to find that our freedom to listen to the Muslim scholars we choose or to sit as we wish, will be completely gone. I can also confidently say that if these issues become a success for Student Rights, it will give them a credibility and legitimacy that they do not deserve, as they neither represent any student body nor are they students themselves. We must defend our freedom now, there is no more time left for being politically unaware and asleep. Exams are over for now and the holiday is the perfect time to consult and mobilise some action.
Go to your Student Union and Islamic societies and arrange a meeting in your university to have THIS MOTION passed. This motion is for all, especially anti-war activists, Palestinian rights activists as well as Muslim students.
Please also sign this PETITION.
Amanpaul writes: “why has it become such a political hot potato when Muslims segregate by gender?”
If Muslims only segregate themselves then no problem.
It’s when Muslim speakers are invited to mixed-sex institutions to speak to a mixed (Muslim and non-Muslim) audience and then insist on the audience being sexually segregated that I have a problem. This is tantamount to Muslims saying “be reasonable and do what we tell you to”. And then we complain when the non-Muslims refuse or get cross.
If a non-Muslim came to (e.g.) a mosque for a secular talk to a mixed audience and insisted on the men and women all sitting together, that too (given the location) would be offensive/upsetting – and the perpetrator would doubtless be sent for diversity training.