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Written by Student Rights on 27 February 2013 at 2pm

Students highlight concerns over Abu Usamah invite (Update: Revised statement from Reading University)

UPDATE: A revised statement has been issued on behalf of both the University of Reading and Reading University Student Union. It reads:

"The University and Reading University Students Union (RUSU) have reviewed the planned events of the Muslim Society's Discover Islam Week. The University has no evidence that its code of practice on freedom of speech will be contravened by any of the planned events. The University is committed to upholding both the right to free speech and the right to lawful protest within an environment that guarantees the safety of all users of our campuses.

The University and RUSU have met with representatives of the Muslim Society and received assurances that the Discover Islam Week events will remain true to their intention; to raise awareness of Islam among fellow students. The leadership of the Muslim Society will take responsibility for ensuring that the platform is used for mutual understanding and not for promulgating extreme views which may offend other communities among the Reading student population.

The President of the Muslim Society, the Reading University Student Union society organising the Discover Islam Week events, has said: "It is the duty of any member of the Muslim society to disallow non-members of the Muslim Society and individuals from outside the University from making any comment or engaging in activities that are not consistent with the values and code of the Muslim Society, and thus Reading University Students Union (RUSU)."

The University will maintain a presence at a number of the events planned for this week to ensure that the rights of all members of its communities are respected and protected".

Given that Student Rights requested that both these steps be taken in our original article we are glad to see that the university have taken our recommendations on board.

On Tuesday Student Rights uncovered that Reading University Muslim Society would be hosting Abu Usamah At-Thahabi as part of its 'Discover Islam Week'.

Given Thahabi's past record of hate speech we contacted students at the university to inform them of this, as well as the university authorities, and several statements have been released, whilst a peaceful protest has also been organised

The Reading University Atheist, Humanist and Secularist Society stated that:

"We are disappointed and disgusted that Abu Usamah At-Thahabi has been invited to speak on campus as part of Reading University Muslim Society’s Discover Islam week. In the past, At-Thahabi has incited violence against homosexual people saying “do you practice homosexuality with men? Take that homosexual man and throw him off the mountain.”

He has also incited violence against apostates when he said ““whoever changes his religion from al-Islam to anything else, kill him in the Islamic state.” In addition to this he has shown hatred towards women claiming that “Allah has created the women, even if she gets a PhD, deficient...her intellect is incomplete, deficient.”

Although we recognise everyone’s right rights to belief, we cannot condone hate speech and discrimination on our campus. Whilst we do not wish to remove Abu Usamah At-Thahabi we feel obliged to show our indignation by holding a protest outside the Palmer building on Thursday at 1800. We do not wish to disrupt the event".

This was followed by a statement from a University of Reading spokesperson, who told Student Rights:

"The University and Reading University Students Union ( RUSU) have met with representatives of the Muslim Society and received assurances that the Discover Islam Week events will remain true to their intention; to raise awareness of Islam among fellow students .

The leadership of the Muslim Society will take responsibility for ensuring that the platform is used for mutual understanding and not for promulgating extreme views which may offend other communities among the Reading student population".

In response to these statements that Muslim Society has told Student Rights that its members feel that the accusations against Abu Usamah were taken out of context and that:

Reading University Muslim Society has never once instituted hate in speech or action against anyone, regardless of belief, creed, ethics or norms. 

We are committed to upholding the high standard of Islam, of Islamic values, and of peaceful co-existence at the University of Reading and its environs”.

Student Rights believe that a meeting between LGBT Society members and Student Union staff will be taking place this afternoon to discuss whether the event will be allowed to go ahead, and we will be updating this story as it develops.