Dr Haitham Al-Haddad has responded to a petition launched by the University of Westminster’s LGBTI Society to ban him from speaking at an Islamic Society (Isoc) event, a day before a national lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender festival is to be launched on campus.
More than 2,500 people have signed a petition urging the London university to censor the Muslim scholar from speaking at an Isoc event entitled, “Who is Muhammad?” on Thursday.
Earlier today, Dr Al Haddad responded to the campaign led by the LGBTI society to ban him from speaking on campus. He said: “This is a completely misplaced campaign. The event has nothing to do with Islam’s position on homosexuality yet this is the focus of their complaint.
“There is a clear attempt being made to almost criminalise certain aspects of being a Muslim. In the religion of Islam it is clear-cut that homosexual acts are a sin and are unlawful in the Shariah. Trying to censor lawful speech does not change this fact.”
In light of the recent Counter-Terrorism and Security Act which received Royal Assent on 12 February, university teachers will be expected to report students and ban speakers who they deem to be “extremist”.
Dr Al-Haddad added: “I do not believe the views I hold are much different to those of orthodox Christian or Jewish religious leaders. I have only ever engaged in lawful speech and have never been prosecuted for hate speech or inciting hatred. I would remind those who initiated this campaign that this country is supposed to be based on freedom of religious belief and expression. I am a strong believer in dialogue, regrettably the LGBTI society wants to shut it down.”
Isoc defends Dr Al-Haddad
University of Westminster Isoc also issued a statement on their Facebook page, defending their decision in inviting Dr Al-Haddad to speak at their event:
“The ISOC would like to take the opportunity to clarify some of the claims being made by certain students with regards to the upcoming “Who is Muhammad ﷺ” event on the 26th of February 2015.
The claims surround the ISOC inviting our esteemed teacher and scholar Shaykh Haitham al-Haddad to provide a lecture on the most important of all Islamic figures and the lessons we can learn from his life. It is also an opportunity for non-Muslims who may have any misconceptions about Muhammad ﷺ to gain the clarification they seek with regards to his biography. At no point has anything related to any LGBT topics, been scheduled to be spoken about.
The claims have suggested that the ISOC inviting Shaykh Haitham to the event is an affront to the LGBTI Society and community in the University of Westminster, especially given the upcoming National Students Pride event, and there have been campaigns and petitions made to ban Shaykh Haitham from entering and lecturing on campus.
The ISOC would like to respond by assuring our respected peers, the students of the University of Westminster, that Shaykh Haitham has not been invited as an indirect affront, insult or gesture of indifference towards any part of the student community. We have invited him because, despite the bad press he continually receives, the malignant rumours and misquotations gleefully spread about him, he is one of the most knowledgeable Islamic figures in the UK, and the ISOC is honoured to invite him to speak for us. Individuals who are upset and believe Shaykh Haitham supports FGM and is a virulent homophobe have been suckered in by the aforementioned scaremongering carried out against him, a man who has given up a massive portion of his life simply to the betterment and education of a much-maligned, ostracised and pressured Muslim community in the UK. Shaykh Haitham has on numerous occasions sought to clarify his opinions but these clarifications have thus fallen on deaf ears, either through unwillingness or through being thoroughly misinformed on the part of the intended audience.
Shaykh Haitham’s invitation has also been reviewed by the University’s Chaplain, and was signed off by him. If the University sees no issue with inviting Shaykh Haitham, having done the required research into his background and views, then this adds to the weakness of the complaints made against the Shaykh.
We would also like to remind our respected peers that the University of Westminster runs an Open Platform policy with regards to speakers. This is a basic element of the necessity to be able to think freely, discuss any topic, and dissent as one may please at Universities. Universities are considered the last place remaining where one may openly dissent without any fear of punishment, because of the need to develop ideas. Having said that, we, more than perhaps any denomination of students in the entire University, understand the fear of these platforms being used to insult. The students opposed to Shaykh Haitham’s invitation should be made aware that he has not and does not make insulting comments about any group of people and he has far better things to do than to come onto campus to insult other denominations from the student body.
The ISOC would like to also point out the irony of the situation, that when the discussion of the freedom to insult was taking place quite recently, the complaints of the Muslims stating that they should not have to accept being offended and insulted, fell on deaf ears. The claims were very real about a media-wide theme of discrediting and demonising the Muslim community, however, in this case where the claims are at the very best highly questionable and fraught with misinformation, this group of students (to whom we bear no ill-will), are demanding that they should not have to go through being offended or insulted (which they won’t be as we previously assured). It is poignant that now they are expecting others to listen to and act upon those complaints, whilst that same courtesy was not extended to the Muslim community. This is not about us against them, but a reminder that the context of their complaint flies in the face of the Muslim community who are continually subjected to offence and insult in the media and in other outlets.
We would like to remind the LGBTI Society and community of the University that they are free to invite whomsoever they please, and that we are powerless to stop them, and that we would have no intention of stopping them anyway. We respect the University’s Open Platform policy and respect the right of students to use it as they please.
And to conclude, the ISOC will not be going back on the decision to invite Shaykh Haitham al-Haddad to our event, nor will we apologise for doing so. We are not of the mindset that he has done anything wrong or that he is inciting violence and attacks against the LGBT community in the UK. We are more than happy to invite our esteemed teacher to provide us with beneficial knowledge once again, and have no qualms with looking to invite him again in the future.”
A counter petition has been launched by Muslims who claim they are against the criminalisation of normative, mainstream Islamic beliefs, and the silencing of Muslim speakers on university campuses.
Click here to sign the petition.