How a speech about secularism at Goldsmiths University sparked a debate about homophobia and Islam

Published December 13th, 2015 - 07:15 GMT
The LGBTQ+ Society and Islamic Society are standing together, and not everyone is happy about that. (Facebook)
The LGBTQ+ Society and Islamic Society are standing together, and not everyone is happy about that. (Facebook)

What began as an event about secularism at Goldsmiths University has tumbled into a state of hysteria this week on social media, after the school's LGBTQ+ Society threw its weight behind the Islamic Society (ISOC) against human rights campaigner and former Muslim, Maryam Namazie.

Now, we realize there's a lot of terms in here, but that's exactly what makes this story interesting.

Namazie was at the university in an event organized by the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH) when members of the ISOC began disrupting her in an incident that was partially filmed and uploaded to Youtube. Following the event, Namazie wrote that some ISOC members had created “a climate of intimidation in order to try and prevent [her] from speaking.”

The ISOC, meanwhile, claimed their members had “peacefully expressed their dissent” but were “subsequently made subject to unnecessary bullying, abuse and violence by the ASH society and security staff.”

That's when a third party entered the controversy—the LGBTQ+ Society. Claiming that Namazie had violated a designated "safe space" on campus, the group sided with ISOC, issuing the following statement on Facebook.


Following recent events on- and offline, we would like to state and show our solidarity with the sisters and brothers of...

Posted by Goldsmiths LGBTQ+ Society on Thursday, 3 December 2015


In a comment underneath, the rights group stated: “We stand by Isoc and our statement is not negotiable.”

Under normal circumstances, the statement probably would not have been all that controversial. But the ISOC president, Muhammed Patel, had also been accused of rampant homophobia in the past—tweets reportedly found on his account appear to show him saying that homosexuality is a disease. Something social media users were pretty quick to point out.


Bet you're real proud of yourselves for standing in solidarity with the ISOC! :)

Posted by Joseph Undaloc on Thursday, 10 December 2015
Patel has since resigned in the wake of these allegations. The Goldsmiths ISOC stated that “In light of recent allegations attributed to Muhammed Patel, a meeting was called to discuss a motion of no confidence. Soon after Muhammad tendered his resignation and it was accepted by the committee.”
The entire fiasco has seen voices from within the LGBTQ+ community distancing themselves from the society. Meanwhile, questions are being raised about why other, equally homophobic speakers allegedly hosted by the ISOC weren't pressed by the LGBTQ+ Society instead of Namazie, who is a gay and trans* activist herself.
Have a look at some of those responses below.


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