Academia,  Freedom & Liberty

University of West London cancels presentation on campus extremism [updated further with response from Charlie Klendjian ]

An event  presenting a new report on radicalisation on campus, due to be held tomorrow at the University of West London, and hosted by the UWL Law Society, has just been cancelled, apparently because of fears of bad publicity and complaints of lack of balance.  Extremist speakers regularly address student audiences.  The notorious Haitham Al-Haddad is one obvious example, and the University of West London itself has apparently been happy enough to allow Murtaza Khan to speak unhindered in the past.

The complaints of lack of balance seem particularly unconvincing; the Islamic Society had specifically been invited to the event and a full hour of the planned two hour session would have been devoted to questions and challenges from the audience. It is indeed ironic that a report highlighting issues of censorship should be silenced in this way. The NSS has more information.


CBinTH, writing in the comments, has raised some concerns about the report which would have been discussed at the cancelled event. He notes that Charlie Klendjian refers to the dangers of ‘Islam’, rather than only identifying certain interpretations and practices as problematic. I don’t see any evidence for his suggestion that Klendjian is trying to ban Islam on campus, but his point is still a reasonable one.

He also raises a concern about the views of Anne Marie Waters – and she is certainly someone who has been criticised on this site. The LSS does not routinely fail to distinguish between different teachings of Islam – in their extensive coverage of the Sharia wills issue it was pointed out that the controversial guidance reflected only one strict interpretation of Sharia. I would imagine that Klendjian would not have refused to acknowledge, if challenged on this point, the existence of secular Muslims who feel much as he does about segregation and censorship.  Jay Marshall, the UWL Law Soc President, would, judging from this post he left on the UWL ISOC Facebook page, have ensured the event was welcoming and inclusive.

We have invited a variety of student groups, but we would especially love you guys to attend, being this is obviously a subject you are well educated in. But I want to assure you this isn’t an attack on your faith by any means. That I can guarantee, and I believe me, I will be held personally accountable if it was. Please contact me ASAP, and if you have any questions, queries or concerns. Feel free to ask. Thank you for your time

The LSS has an update (worth reading in full) about the cancellation where it is stated that

The LSS also understands from Jay that many Muslims were excited about the event as they thought it was very important.

Although CBinTH’s questions are valid ones, Waters and Klendjian cannot be equated with the preachers they are so worried about. The best way to demonstrate that they might want to frame some of their concerns in a different way would be for secularists (including Muslim secularists) to attend the event, echo the report’s criticisms of hate preachers, but argue that not all Muslims follow an extreme form of Islam, and that many embrace secular values.  But now that opportunity has been lost.

Here is a response from Charlie Klendjian
To tell you the truth I’m fed up with people obsessing over different strands of Islam, and the Islam v Islamism debate. We don’t do that for other religions. The problem is Islam, it’s quite simple really. These people call themselves Muslims and they call their religion Islam – it seems reasonable that we do the same. And no that doesn’t mean that all Muslims are terrorists and need to be imprisoned, because people have rights but ideas don’t, and all Muslims are individuals. Some Muslims are good people and some are bad. This is basic stuff as far as I’m concerned. It’s secularism 1.01. I’m fed up debating about what the debate is about. It’s a very academic thing to do.

It’s very reassuring to find out me and AMW are not “extremists” (thanks by the way!!), but I think that just feeds the idea that we might be. When we should be talking about some highly unpleasant people given free rein to spout their hate on campus, and the university shutting down a talk about a report highlighting some really worrying stuff, all of a sudden we now have a sideshow discussion about whether me and AMW are “extremists”. It’s quite sad really.

I’m absolutely exhausted fighting this battle on two fronts – one against people who want to kill me, and one against people who want to call me racist/extremist/Islamophobe/whatever other bullshit terms there are. I don’t know why secularists are obsessed with this idea that they and their fellow secularists might be “extremists”. It’s the people who want to cut heads off, kill Jews, butcher vaginas, enslave women and utterly crush democracy who are the extremists – not the people who are highlighting that. It’s a good idea always to keep that in mind.

And yes of course I welcome Muslim allies and I have some – but I will never compromise facts and honesty just to earn their support. It would be nice if there were more of them though wouldn’t it? And I don’t just mean people who condemn a beheading of an aid worker – I won’t dance in the street about that, as if it’s some zenith of decent morality. I won’t be grateful to people who don’t want me dead.

If there were more liberal and secular Muslims willing to rise up – in large numbers – then maybe I could get on with the rest of my life and watch Eastenders and they could sort their fucking religion out themselves. But no, I’ll do it and for my trouble – as well as taking a physical risk – I’ll be forever trying to prove a negative: that I’m not racist, not extremist, not Islamophobic, etc.

People will say it’s “difficult” for Muslims to speak out. Yes it is. But it’s difficult for non-Muslims too – how about we acknowledge that as well? The more we keep saying it’s difficult for Muslims to speak out, the more we reinforce that idea, the more we discourage Muslims from speaking out, and the more we excuse their failure to speak out. And I refuse to assume that every Muslim who fails to speak out, especially in the UK, is scared to do so. Maybe some Muslims are just too lazy to speak out and are happy to leave this battle to other people to fight. And the same people who say it’s difficult for Muslims to speak out will often refuse to acknowledge there is a problem with Islam – when you think about it, logically these things can’t both be true.