Article
Written by Student Rights on 27 November 2012 at 3pm

Huffington Post UK: 'Radical' Muslim Cleric Abu Usamah's Brunel University Speech Prompts Student Protest

By Lucy Sherriff

26th November 2012

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Students at a London University have organised a protest against the planned appearance of a Muslim cleric, who has previously been accused of advocating for the murder of homosexuals.

Abu Usamah Adh Dhahabi is to appear at Brunel University as part of Legends Week, organised by the Brunel Islamic Society, on Tuesday. He is to deliver a talk on Aisha, one of Muhammed's wives.

Promise Phillips, president of the Union of Brunel Students (UBS), confirmed a one-hour long "peaceful protest" would be taking place on the day but said the speech would continue to go ahead.

"The UBS is aware of the visit to speak next week from Abu Usamah, and is aware of controversial comments attributed to him and the challenges these bring," he said.

"The UBS works to ensure all speakers invited onto campus are authorised, have a clear understanding of the policy umbrella under which they are required to behave, and that the commitment to Freedom of Speech is balanced by Equality and Diversity Policies.

"The UBS further maintains a No Platform Policy and each speaker invited onto campus is assessed to ensure that this policy is not breached," he added.

"In this case, the UBS has risk assessed this visit and is putting in place appropriate measures. We are working with our Islamic Society who are confident that the subject matter of the speech sits within our equality guidelines."

Usamah was dubbed "radical" after appearing in the Channel 4 Dispatches report, Undercover Mosque, which was broadcast in 2007. The cleric was apparently filmed saying: "Whoever changes his religion from al-Islam to anything else kill him in the Islamic state.

"Do you practise homosexuality with men? Take that homosexual man and throw him off the mountain.

"Allah has created the woman, even if she gets a PhD, deficient. Her intellect is incomplete. She may be suffering from hormones that will make her emotional. It takes two witnesses of a woman to equal one witness of the man."

But West Midlands Police carried out an investigation of Usamah, along with two other speakers who appeared on the programme, after claims the programme had demonised and distorted the interviewees.

In an interview, uploaded on YouTube, Usamah responded to the programme, saying there were statements broadcast which had been taken out of context.

The Crown Prosecution Service said at the time: "The splicing together of extracts from longer speeches appears to have completely distorted what the speakers were saying.

"But in this case we have been dealing with a heavily edited television programme, apparently taking out of context aspects of speeches which in their totality could never provide a realistic prospect of any convictions."

Channel 4 has also denied the claims, saying "the offensive views expressed by the people revealed in the programme speak for themselves".

Usamah has previously appeared at Brunel in 2009, as part of a One World Week event, to talk about the universality of Islam. During his talk to the Islamic society, the cleric, who lives in Birmingham, appeared to address some of the controversy surrounding his views.

"We are not here to make anyone upset," he told students. "We are not here to be insensitive to any individuals or any religions, we're not here for that. I am not here to make any enemies."

A Brunel University spokesperson said: "The talk is going ahead as we have a legal duty to protect freedom of speech and we have asked for assurances from the Union of Brunel Students that this person will not breach the policies of the university, such as those on equality and diversity.

"This person has spoken at the university before without incident. However, if we are concerned that that these policies will be breached, the event will not be allowed to take place."

Usamah's speech has been criticised by the non-partisan group, Student Rights. Rupert Sutton, researcher at the group, said: "Abu Usamah’s hate-filled views on homosexuals, women and non-Muslims have no place on our university campuses.

"While we are normally reluctant to call for the banning of speakers, universities have a duty of care to their students, and providing a platform for an individual whose beliefs will threaten and intimidate a significant part of the student population should not be tolerated.

"We will be calling on Brunel University to review its decision to allow [him] to speak, and we would hope that should this event go ahead, it will be monitored by a member of staff to ensure that there is no opportunity for hate speech to be spread."

Usamah was due to speak at the University College of London in 2008 and 2009, but both appearances were cancelled by the university "due to concerns that the health and safety criteria cannot be met".

Peter Tatchell, a public campaigner of human rights, told the Huffington Post UK the university had "double standards".

"Abu Usamah endorses the murder of gay people and of Muslims who give up their faith.

"Brunel university would never allow a lecture by a white supremacist who used racist abuse and advocated the murder of black people. Why the double standards? Free speech does not include the right to incite violence. It creates an intimidatory atmosphere that diminishes people's freedom to speak their mind."

Brunel's Islamic Society has been contacted for comment but has yet to respond.