Article
Written by Student Rights on 6 November 2013 at 4pm

Responses to Haitham Al-Haddad's invitation to Westminster

Following our report on 4th November that Haitham Al-Haddad had been announced at short notice as a speaker at the University of Westminster, the university has released a statement which reads:

The Islamic Society is an organization under the administration of the Students’ Union which does not fall directly under the governance of the university and concerned students should approach the Students’ Union in the first instance. 

Providing a safe environment for our students is a top priority. All speakers on University premises are required to give their agreement to abide by our code of practice on tolerance of other religions and beliefs.

Those speakers that do not comply with this policy would not be permitted to speak at the University.  The University will always speak to the Students’ Union if there are concerns”.

Despite the claim that the Union would deal with this, when approached by concerned students and student media at Westminster University a Student Union official allegedly refused to discuss the issue, and a statement is yet to be released.

In the past, the issue of extreme or intolerant speakers has been dismissed by the Union, with a statement in February 2012 declaring of attempts to prevent extremists from speaking:

 “The no-platform policy is not an adopted policy at Westminster University and is not binding on the Univeristy [sic]of Westminster Students’ Union. Therefore, the NUS have no authority to dictate Westminster SU policy”.

The Islamic Society has responded on this occasion by denying any wrongdoing, with a statement from Islamic Society President Ahmad Illo released yesterday saying:

We see that the allegation that the Islamic Society had allegedly concealed the identity of our guest speaker as a complete non story.

All University vetting procedures were followed, and the approval was signed off by the University Chaplain in line with those procedures. We have nothing further to add regarding this.

[...]

This has nothing but a detrimental impact on the welfare of Muslim students by feeding into a pernicious campaign which increasingly demonises them, contributing to a climate of fear and suspicion of Muslim students who work tirelessly to build more accepting and inclusive campuses”.

The University Chaplain has since refused to comment on his approval of Haddad as a speaker, and the fact that this appears to be all it took to replace Wasim Kempson highlights our concerns about the ease with which students can book speakers like Haddad.

It would also be worth the Islamic Society responding to questions about how exactly inviting a speaker who excuses domestic violence and declares homosexuality to be a “scourge” helps to build "accepting and inclusive campuses".