London, UK – The Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) has welcomed the report by Universities UK, which provides guidance to Universities on policies and clarifies the position of voluntary separation of sexes at Muslim events.
Universities UK states “concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system”…”if imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition to the segregated areas contravenes the genuinely held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event, or those of the speaker, the institution should be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully”.
The debate about separation came to the fore earlier this year at an iERA event entitled: “Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense?” between Hamza Tzortzis and Professor Lawrence Krauss at the University College of London (UCL) on 9th March 2013. UCL subsequently refused to take any further bookings from iERA, accusing them of “forced segregation”.
iERA later released its own findings of an externally supervised investigation into the accusation of forced gender segregation at the debate. The investigation concluded that there was no such policy or evidence that it occurred on the night. Rather, in line with its duties under the Equality Act 2010, iERA had attempted to provide for the needs of all attendees by providing separate areas of seating for men and women (for those that wished to adhere to their deeply-held religious beliefs) as well as a mixed seating area.
Saqib Sattar, Vice-Chairman of iERA, said “Immense pressure from anti-Islamic groups before the event made it impossible for UCL and iERA to have a sensible discussion about the practicalities of catering for the seating needs of all attendees. We believe UCL acted rashly under pressure and without studying the facts or the law. They refused to co-operate with us in our investigation. The Universities UK guidance vindicates our policies and also our own investigation”
Jahangir Mohammed, Chief Executive of Communica which is an independent consultancy who advised iERA on policy formation and compliance stated: “The whole furore over gender separation shows that it is important for public authorities to have clear policies, to get unbiased advice, to talk to organisers and not be railroaded into making rash decisions because of anti-Muslim propaganda”
Abdurraheem Green, Chairman of iERA, stated: “With a growing number of Muslim countries seeing a revival in adherence to normative Islamic practices, the idea of being forced to sit with people of the opposite sex and observing the adoption of anti-Islamic policies by British Universities might well lead many to avoid choosing this country to further their education. Such behaviour is not in the economic interests of universities or indeed the country as a whole. iERA as an organisation is known and respected throughout the Muslim world for its work in inviting people to Islam. Hearing of iERA being banned from UCL and other universities certainly does not send a positive message about how welcome they will be to study in this country.”
The full Executive Summary is available on request, please see contact details below.
The Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) is a UK-based charity dedicated to providing a better understanding of Islam in order to create a more peaceful and harmonious society.
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