Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Feminists ask students not to sponsor extremist speakers

Student politics has become a baffling world of obvious contradictions. The safe spaces/politically correct movement has banned so many speakers for views that most ordinary people would not find either offencive or out of the ordinary and yet it seems that when it comes to Islamist extremists none of the usual suspects seem to head for a room showing puppy videos.

Cage is an organisation that gained notoriety over it's description of mass murderer "Jihadi John" as being a "nice man". You'd think this groups view of ISIS would threaten everyones "safe space" and yet student lefties seem to have no problems not just letting these extremists speak at their universities but some very misguided "feminists" actually sponsor the event.

A number of real feminists have taken up the issue. Here is their letter:

Dear Exeter Feminist Society,

We are dismayed but not surprised to hear that Moazzam Begg has been invited to speak at Exeter University at a meeting sponsored by the Feminist Society along with the Socialist Society, the Islamic Society and Friends of Palestine. We understand from comments on Facebook and from your response to our tweets that he is due to address issues on the Prevent agenda; and that you were not responsible for choosing speakers. You say that he has denied the allegations against him and that there is no credible evidence to support such allegations.

Questions of civil liberties including the Prevent agenda are clearly of concern to students. We are mystified as to how a student response to Prevent grounded in feminist ideas or support for civil liberties could be developed by accepting the word of a man who has a long record of supporting murderous groups and individuals and treating them as heroes.

We do not accept that inviting a speaker does not mean endorsing their views. This can only hold true if the views that are abhorrent are challenged through debate. Others before you have made this mistake too. Human rights organisations have sullied their reputation for unbiased, well -researched information by working closely with Cage. In doing so, they risked amplifying the Cage narrative and helping to make their views attractive to potential recruits to al Qaeda and their related groups.

We are groups and individuals who work against all forms of religious fundamentalism. We have examined the work of Cage over a number of years. Unfortunately your argument that there is no credible evidence against Begg and Cage does not hold up. There is plenty of evidence and it comes from their own website and interviews. It is clear that Moazzam Begg and Cage have served as amplifiers of the ideology of al Qaeda through their promotion of key ideologues as respected scholars. They are not so much a prisoners rights group as a ‘Free the prisoners’ group’, as the article” Dissent v Incitement?’ written some years ago (page 29) explains. http://www.sacw.net/…/Infochange_Agenda_on_Censorship_22_Ju….

On March 17th, we will be demonstrating in front of the NUS calling for revision of their no platforming and safe space policies. We would like to know whether you are prepared to clarify your views on Begg and Cage in an open debate with other feminists? We are also perfectly prepared to debate Moazzam Begg and challenge his tendentious narratives and abhorrent views. Are you prepared to organise a debate, at a suitable time, rather than simply act as amplifiers of his message? As a first step, are you prepared to demonstrate your solidarity with resistance to terrorism and with victims of terrorism by withdrawing your sponsorship of the meeting?

Gita Sahgal and Yasmin Rehman, Centre for Secular Space
Pragna Patel, Southall Black Sisters
Maryam Namazie, One Law for All and Council for Ex-Muslims
Haydar Zaki, Quilliam Foundation and Right2Debate

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