18th May, 2022

Warwick University Student's Union forced to overturn ban on ex-Muslim speaker

Coventry Editorial 28th Sep, 2015 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

THE UNIVERSITY of Warwick Student’s Union has been forced to u-turn on its decision to ban a secularist speaker from campus over fears Muslim students could been offended.

Following 48 hours of intense pressure from students and high-profile figures, the Student’s Union (SU) has reversed its decision to block Maryam Namazie, leader of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and human rights activist, from giving a speech.

The ex-Muslim – known for speaking about the aspects of Islam she does not agree with – had been invited to give a talk by the Warwick Atheist Secularist and Humanist Society (WASH), but was blocked by the Student’s Union over concerns she could ‘incite hatred on campus’.

In a response to WASH’s initial application for Ms Namazie to deliver a speech on October 28, the SU stated that ‘a number of flags’ had been raised over her ‘highly inflammatory’ opinions.

But the move was slammed by students, who argued the ban was an infringement of freedom of expression and attracted the attention of leading academics and high profile figures including famous atheist Richard Dawkins and celebrity physicist Dr Brian Cox.

In an official statement from Warwick SU said an ‘unequivocal apology’ would be issued to Ms Namazie for the SU’s ‘egregious and highly regrettable error’ and confirmed she would be allowed to deliver her speech.

It went on to argue that only SU president, Isaac Leigh, and other selected members of senior staff had the ability to deny speakers on campus – placing the blame on an unnamed member of SU staff for authorising the decision to ban Ms Namazie.

Acknowledging that it had ‘failed, and failed badly in this case,’ the SU said it would meet with the leadership of Warwick Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (WASH) to help with necessary arrangements for Ms Namazie’s visit to take place, and would examine its own process of vetting external speakers.

It added: “Warwick SU has a process for assessing any potential risks or legal issues associated with any external speaker, and it is now very clear to us that in this case that process has not been followed.

“Neither the SU President, nor senior SU staff, were consulted as they should have been.

“This is a significant error for which there can be no excuse.”

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