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Written by Student Rights on 4 March 2013 at 3pm

Haitham Al-Haddad invited to address Essex University Islamic Society (Update: Event cancelled)

UPDATE: A statement from the University of Essex has been released to Student Rights which reads:

The University of Essex is proud to support the University’s Islamic Society in delivering its Islamic Awareness Week.  The University is committed to academic freedom and freedom of expression within the law. We have clear guidelines on Freedom of Speech set out in our Code of Practice and expect any event being held at the University to observe these guidelines.

“Due to the strong likelihood of protests by groups from outside the University, one of the talks organised by the Islamic Society on Wednesday 6 March will not now go ahead due to concerns over the safety of students and our staff.

The University’s top priority must be the safety and wellbeing of staff, students and visitors to campus and in circumstances where this could not be assured, one event has had to be cancelled.  The rest of the events organised for Islamic Awareness Week will go ahead as planned”.

Here at Student Rights we are disappointed to see yet another event cancelled due to a university feeling unable to protect students. staff and speakers. We would also highlight once again the importance of allowing dialogue between students and staff to solve these issues, not threats of violent protest.

Following the invitation of the homophobic preacher Abu Usamah At-Thahabi onto campus in Reading last week, the extremist cleric Haitham Al-Haddad will address the University of Essex Islamic Society on Wednesday.

Barred from speaking at both the London School of Economics and London Metropolitan University in the past year, Haddad will speak on the topic of Sharia law on the 6th March as part of Islamic Awareness Week, something that is likely to alarm students from many different groups.

He has claimed that “the scourge of homosexuality” is a “criminal act” in an article on his website Islam21C, and also stated in a recent interview that the death penalty for apostasy “does make perfect sense”.

Haddad can also be seen in this video stating that “a man should not be questioned why he hit his wife, because this is something between them”.

Given that he will be discussing Sharia law with students, and is a judge for the Islamic Sharia Council in the UK, the suggestion that domestic violence should not be challenged is deeply concerning.

He has also been accused of extreme anti-Semitism over speeches he gave at the al-Muntada al-Islami mosque and claims that he is a victim of a “smear campaign conducted by the British Zionist lobby” when criticised by the media.

Jewish students are also likely to be further unsettled by his rhetorical support for the anti-Semitic paramilitary group Hamas, proscribed as a terrorist organisation in the UK.

Haddad believes that the group is only opposed by the West as “there is a high level of enmity and hatred against Hamas as a Muslim group”.

In December Student Rights found that students were being offered considerable discounts to attend events organised by Haddad’s Sabeel organisation, and this talk appears to be further evidence of his attempts to preach to young people.

We believe that this event will have a detrimental effect on campus cohesion, and feel that many students will be appalled to hear that a man like Haddad has been approved to speak on campus.

Student Rights will be contacting students at the University of Essex to raise opposition to this event, as well as contacting the Islamic Society and university authorities to recommend that the invitation is reviewed, and that oversight is provided should the event go ahead.