Written by Student Rights on 10 May 2012 at 5pm

Waltham Forest Guardian: College criticised over Islamic scholar visit

A college is considering banning visits by speakers after it was criticised for hosting an event featuring a controversial Islamic scholar.

Leyton Sixth Form College in Essex Road has come under fire after students from its Islamic Society arranged for Sharia law expert Haitham al-Haddad to speak at its Discover Islam Week.

Campaign group Student Rights, which aims to "tackle extremism on campuses", said the visit was "deeply worrying".

They accuse Mr al-Haddad of being intolerant and divisive, saying he describes homosexuality as a "criminal act".

In a statement, a Student Rights spokesman said his presence at the college was "deeply concerning and is something that we would hope that Leyton College would investigate immediately".

The college said a senior member of staff attended the talk by Mr al-Haddad and he had not expressed any homophobic or similarly offensive views.

It is understood that the lecture involved a religiously conservative discussion on the roles of men and women in society.

College principal Kevin Watson said: "As an educational establishment, Leyton Sixth Form College attempts to raise awareness of, and promote debate on, a range of issues of relevance to modern society.

"Inevitably, many such issues are complex and controversial.

"We attempt to reconcile the often conflicting demands of freedom of speech, the desire not to offend others and the safeguarding of our students.

"A thorough review will take place as to the extent to which mistakes were made on this occasion."

Vice-principal Chris Price added that the review would involve a discussion over whether external speakers should be be allowed to visit the college in future.

Controversy over talks by Mr al-Haddad has previously engulfed other universities and colleges, such and the London School of Economics which cancelled a talk by the scholar in February.

It is thought the college was unaware of the controversy prior to the visit.