Ghulam Esposito Haydar from Manchester New Muslim Network says that a new smear campaign is taking place against Islam under the banner of “Gender Apartheid”.
Official guidelines which allow gender separation due to religious or individual preferences at British universities are facing a growing backlash from student groups and “human rights” organisations.
Universities UK, the organisation which represents vice-chancellors released a statement last month allowing Islamic societies and other groups to keep men and women separate at public meetings on university campuses as long as men and women were seated side by side, rather than with women at the back. It also said that at any event where some segregation took place for religious reasons, a separate non-segregated area should also be provided.
An NUS spokeswoman said: “NUS supports the rights of groups to self-organise how they wish but would be concerned about enforced segregation and certainly does not endorse it. We believe the Universities UK guidance is saying that the university needs to take law into account when making decisions about what can and can’t happen on a campus.
“The gender segregation issue is far more nuanced than has been reported. For example segregation in certain religions for prayer is not something we would interfere with. However, mandatory segregation is a definite problem. If we heard of an instance of this we would discuss concerns with the students union and provide support and guidance in how to address this, potentially with the university where appropriate.”
The guidelines released by Universities UK seem very balanced and fair. It caters for both the religious and liberal values of society. It seems clear that as long as the needs of everyone is taken into consideration and it does not disadvantage any particular group (male, female and mixed), it is perfectly fine to have zonal seating.
Human rights groups
It is extremely ironic that human rights groups are protesting against this guidance when it clearly takes into consideration the religious and civic rights of all people, the religious and irreligious. Taking this into consideration along with the aggressive nature of the opposition, it seems like a cheap smear campaign against the normative orthodox Islamic community in the disguise of “human rights”.
Chris Moos, a PhD student who runs the secular society at the London School of Economics, said: “We believe there has been very clear outrage among the secular and libertarian community in the UK about these proposals. We will be examining if it is possible to rescind the guidelines. We are also asking our university to clarify its position on this.”
One organisation said it is setting up “segregation busting” teams which will deliberately disrupt meetings which attempt to enforce separate seating areas for men and women.
Another smear campaign against Islam by secular liberals
Maryam Namazie, a well known anti-Islamic commentator from the human rights organisation “One Law for All” which took part in the protest said: “We are setting up teams of ‘segregation busters’ who will target ‘sex apartheid’. We will send the teams to meetings and use the kind of techniques that were pioneered in countries like the US and South Africa in terms of black segregation. We won’t just obediently sit in the so-called ‘wrong’ place. This will be about not allowing segregation to take place.”
The following video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KZE7_VBaP8) is another example of the vile and aggressive behaviour of the Islamophobes when commentating on this issue. Notice the tact and civil behaviour of the president of the Federation of student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), Omar Ali when attempting to explain the nuanced position of British Muslim students which does not discriminate on the bases of gender.
It is very obvious from the “discussion” that both the news anchor and Yasmin Alibhai Brown were disinterested in listening to the nuanced truth presented by Omar Ali and there was quite obviously an agenda to push a certain narrative by the producers, especially when you consider the outbursts made by Alibhai Brown.
Her responses were all emotion with no justified argument. To claim the institutions as “our” with the exclusion of ”you” shows a lack of judgement and respect to the 100,000 Muslim students who fund Universities across the UK with £9000 a year tuition fees plus the 2%+ Muslim citizens who contribute nearly 10% of GPD which funds all state institutions. “Her” version of “our” is a liberal, democratic and secular “us” which does not accommodate, tolerate or allow to peacefully co-exist anything.
This whole episode is merely just another attempt from the secular liberals in trying to change the traditional orthodox values of Islam in favour of a secular liberal society where values and customs are dictated by society rather than the Divine.
The event which triggered this issue was when an Islamic organisation held an event at a London university attended by many non Muslims. The seating in the arena was zonal; a women’s zone, a men’s zone and a mixed zone. Some of the non Muslims wanted to sit amongst the Muslim women in the women’s zone and proceeded to following them around the lecture hall as the women moved seats.
This caused some trouble as the women claimed they were being harassed. It seems like the instigators of this trouble were trying to impose their point that the whole arena should be a mixed zone. Men and women who prefer to sit away from each other shouldn’t have their preferences catered for regardless whether they believe it is a religious requirement or an individual preference.
It is a grave dishonour to guise this particular topic as a “human rights” issue when the claim is intrinsically and fundamentally against the rights and wishes of other men and women.
Gender interaction in Islam
In Islam there are guidelines on gender interaction between “non mahram” men and women, for example lowering one’s gaze, observing the hijab and being modest in conversation. In certain scenarios where prolonged concentration is required for example lectures, classes and prayer, men and women are advised to sit away from each other to avoid distractions and this is as a submission to God, that He ultimately knows what is best for His creation. This is what generally happens in events organised by Muslims in their private masajid and other venues. It isn’t to demonise women or men, but to acknowledge the reality that one may be a distraction to another and God knows best.
Many Muslim men and women quite happily adhere to these guidelines and find no issue with it at all. They often extend it into their public lives, for example, many Muslim women naturally prefer to sit with other women in a public arena and likewise men when they have the option to do so.
I end the article with a quote from a non Muslim colleague:
“These demonstrators are pathetic. They are clearly trouble makers making a fuss about nothing. If men and women want to sit away from each other for whatever reason and other men and women are allowed to sit together, what on earth is the problem? And that lady in the video ranting at the guy on the screen just looks an idiot. He’s speaking in a very calm way, speaking sense and she is just being rude, trying to cut him off not letting him speak and telling him to make his own university. Don’t they see the irony?”