The last twelve months have seen a successful campaign of a broad coalition of women’s and human rights campaigners against gender segregation at universities. This campaign has resulted in the withdrawal of the a guidance by Universities UK condoning gender segregation. In addition, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission has found that gender segregation constitutes discrimination and is unlawful. In combination with forcing women to veil, gender segregation constitutes a particularly blatant case of discrimination on the grounds of gender and belief.
In light of the above, we are outraged to learn that forced veiling and gender segregation is still being practiced at British universities. Yesterday evening’s programme called “Make me a Muslim” on BBC 3 shows a lecture of an unnamed Islamic Charity at Glasgow University. The narrator explains that this Islamic study course is taking place on a weekly basis. The lecture is fully segregated, with women at the back, and men at the front.
Before the start of the lecture, the presenter of the programme is told by a course official that in order to attend, she will have to cover her hair. The presenter is Ms. Shanna Bukhari, who identifies herself as a Muslim woman. Only after she complies, the lecture goes ahead. After the lecture, Ms Bukhari expresses her shock and discomfort about the gender segregation, and at the fact that she was forced to veil. The full episode can be found here. The relevant scenes start from 22:50.
Maryam Namazie, a campaign organiser and spokesperson of One Law for All, noted: “Glasgow University must immediately investigate this matter and ensure that it never happens again. In the age of ISIS, it is becoming increasingly clear that Islamists posing as student groups or charities are imposing anti-women values and norms, opposed by many people, including Muslims in Britain and across the globe. It is high time that universities unequivocally take a stand against the religious-Right (in whatever guise) and instead defend equality, universal values and secularism.”
Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters stated: “This is yet another appalling example of the ways in which public bodies in the UK are increasingly capitulating to demands made by the Religious Right. Glasgow University like other public bodies are simply failing to understand that the right to manifest religion cannot trump the right to be protected from sex discrimination. The University must refer to the EHRC guidance which states unequivocally that such gender segregation is unlawful. This practice of appeasement to misogyny and illiberalism must stop”.
Gita Sahgal, Executive Director of the Centre for Secular Space, said:
“There have been multiple failures to ensure that human rights are protected by Glasgow University. Gender segregation and forced veiling violate women’s rights, but this event raises other serious questions. What is the content being taught at the ‘Islamic Study group’ where this occurred? The Charity Commission should not allow groups practising systematic discrimination to have the benefit of charitable status.”
Chris Moos, one of the organisers, concluded: “This case is particularly shocking, as it shows that gender segregation goes hand in hand with other discriminatory demands on women like forced veiling. We call on Glasgow University to immediately stop this practice, bar the Islamic charity in question from holding further events, and make sure that the individuals responsible will be held to account.”
One Law for All
077 1916 6731
Southall Black Sisters
020 8571 9595
Centre for Secular Space
079 7271 5090
LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
074 2872 0599
Photo credit: Telegraph