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Real Student Rights vs Student Rights

Yesterday Real Student Rights drew attention to a joint statement which has recently been released by Nottingham University’s Islamic Society and LGBT network. The writers express concern that reporters from the Tab newspaper had been trying to stir up antagonism between the two groups in the wake of events featuring Uthman Lateef and Yusuf Chambers as part of Discover Islam Week.

The Islamic Society (ISoc) and the LGBT Network at the University of Nottingham would like to voice our disappointment and concern in hearing that Tab reporters have been approaching individuals from the LGBT Network in an attempt to provoke an antagonistic atmosphere between the two groups.

It was clearly agreed that neither speaker condoned a stance of inciting hatred. The two speakers have clarified their views in the past, and discarded any allegations of homophobia based on misquotations and out of context statements.

To begin with Lateef – he has said ‘“we don’t accept homosexuality…we hate it because Allah hates it”. He has in the past countered objections to this statement by pointing out that this is more or less the view of other religions, or conservative interpretations of those religions at least, and that he is not personalising his religious views in order to attack individuals.  Well, ok, but to quote habibi:

Can you imagine the uproar that there would be, were a speaker to appear on campus who said “We don’t accept Islam. We hate Islam”?

The case of Yusuf Chambers seems considerably more serious.

In a discussion with Dr Zakir Naik, a former IERAtrustee who has been barred from entering the UK, Chambers saidJazakAllah Khair (May Allah grant you goodness) for clearing that issue up” when told that “homosexuality is forbidden in Islam and the punishment for homosexuality is death”.

In the same discussion he also askedmay Allah allow us to bring back that punishment to protect all humanity” when told that “anyone who does zina [fornication] who is married…the punishment is giving them 100 stripes. Lashing them 100 times and then stoning to death”.

You can read the whole transcript here.

The statement goes on to complain that the speakers were challenged:

The Islamic Society has an open policy regarding attendance and questions. Although neither lecture explicitly discussed the topic of homosexuality, in both cases, a student journalist personally approached the speakers after the Q&A session and launched a series of open questions about their views. Both speakers initially welcomed this, as it gave them a chance to clarify any misconceptions about it. However, it was very apparent that questions were being asked only to provoke certain responses in an attempt to invoke tensions between the LGBT network and the Islamic Society. Dr. Uthman commented, “It is sad and deplorable that such smear tactics were used even in an event whose topic sought to allay antagonisms.”

It sounds like the reporter was doing his or her job here, and not accepting blandly misleading equivocations.

Ironically, although it slides over the real basis for finding Chambers’ views abhorrent, the statement is happy to condemn Student Rights on pretty vague grounds.  If there had been some genuine misrepresentation of either man’s views – a doctored transcript for example – surely this would have been flagged in order to prove the point?  And, even though anti-Muslim bigotry does of course exist, it doesn’t help to talk about ‘a backdrop of rising Islamophobia’ in a context where criticism and concern seem fully justified.