Readers may recall the controversy earlier this year concerning the islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) who were banned from UCL after being found to be segregating men and women at a University debate.
iERA, and speakers such as Hamza Tsortsis, have been a high profile presence on many university campuses, despite being from the unreconstructed wing of British Islam. For example, visit their website and you will notice that whilst their male speakers are pictured, the female are not only listed at the end, but are faceless, existing only as blank hijabs. The perfect metaphor for the type of society iERA are seeking to create!
Following the furore at UCL, UK Universities appear to have gone away to ponder guidance on campus meetings. This has come down on allowing segregation, provided it is equal and does not disadvantage anyone. Those of us old enough to remember apartheid era South Africa may giggle at the concept of an approach which is 'seperate' but equal. You can find a link to the full guidance in this article on the UK Universities blog, where they also clarify their position.
This appears game, set and match to the Islamists, something iERA recognise. Of particular interest here is their argument that under the Equality Act 2010, UK Universities have no option but to comply with requests for seperate seating.
Some strong critical pieces have appeared about UK Universities stance, for example by Sara Khan, along (of course) with a determined silence from those on the left of the political spectrum, who once spoke so loudly against segregation on the grounds of race.
There is a petition asking Universities UK to reverse its decision. I have signed it, along with over 6000 others. You may wish to do so.