‘Death threats and intimidation’ at controversial Goldsmiths lecture with speaker Maryam Namazie

Update 12:41 03/12 – Footage from Monday evening’s event has been uploaded to YouTube by user Nano GoleSorkh

Students at Goldsmiths “disrupted” a controversial talk with human rights activist and broadcaster Maryam Namazie yesterday evening, with some audience members accused of issuing death threats.

Organised by Goldsmiths’ Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society, Namazie was speaking on the topic of ‘Apostasy, blasphemy and free expression in the age of ISIS’.

Namazie wrote after the event: “After my talk began, Isoc “brothers” started coming into the room, repeatedly banging the door, falling on the floor, heckling me, playing on their phones, shouting out, and creating a climate of intimidation in order to try and prevent me from speaking.

“I continued speaking as loudly as I could. They repeatedly walked back and forth in front of me. In the midst of my talk, one of the Isoc Islamists switched off my PowerPoint and left. The University security had to intervene and remain in the room as I continued my talk.

“Eventually the thug who had switched off my PowerPoint returned and continued his harassments. At this point, I stood my ground, screamed loudly and continued insisting that he be removed even when the security said he should stay because he was a student.”

A student, during yesterday’s lecture, moved to turn off the main screen when Namazie showed a cartoon from the series Jesus and Mo.

Allegations were also made in last night’s event that certain members of the audience had issued direct death threats. One speaker, lecturer and activist Reza Moradi, said that the person threatening him “looked right into my eyes and with his finger, shaping hand like a handgun, touched his forehead.”

He said: “I asked the security guard if he saw the death threat and he confirmed it”, adding that he has had “many issues with Islamists and lots of threats but this one was different.”

Moradi, having rewatched footage from the event, later added: “I’d like to correct a detail in my previous statement. I asked him to shut up and he then threatened me.”

Maryam Namazie had previously been invited by the Warwick Atheist, secularist and humanist society (WASH) in September but was told by organisers she was “highly inflammatory and could incite hatred” in Muslim students. Warwick’s students’ union overturned its decision to ban her, however, following a successful campaign.

Prior to yesterday’s event, Goldsmiths’ Islamic Society (Isoc) released a statement saying that it “[expressed] deep concern regarding Goldsmiths Atheist, secularist and humanist society with renounced Islamophobe Maryam Namazi”.

The statement continued to read she “is known to hold very controversial views”, adding “we feel such an individual will violate our safe space”.

When London Student requested a response from the organisers of the event, the Goldsmiths’ ASH society, its president said the society had sent an email to the Islamic society’s president “because I wanted them to be included in Maryam’s talk and the ensuing discussion,” but that the group “had responded to my email with a thinly veiled threat asking me to call off the event on the grounds of violating the safe space policy”.

He also clarified that despite the students’ union approving the speaker “some of the predominantly male members of the Isoc then showed up and made a strong effort to disrupt Maryam’s speech”.

He accused some in the Goldsmiths Islamic Society of making a “great effort to create an atmosphere of intimidation and belligerence at the event, rendering the talk feeling unsafe for non-Isoc attendees who wished to have a ‘safe space’ to discuss dissenting ideas about religion.”

An email seen by London Student, sent by the president of Isoc to the president of the ASH society read: “As an Islamic society, we feel extremely uncomfortable by the fact that you have invited Maryam Namazie. As you very well probably know, she is renowned for being Islamophobic, and very controversial.

“Just a few examples of her Islamophobic statements, she labelled the niqab- a religious symbol for Muslim women, “a flag for far-right Islamism”. Also, she went onto tweet, they are ”body bags” for women. That is just 2 examples of how mindless she is, and presents her lack of understanding and knowledge about Islam.

“We feel having her present, will be a violation to our safe space, a policy which Goldsmiths SU adheres to strictly, and my society feels that all she will do is incite hatred and bigotry, at a very sensitive time for Muslims in the light of a huge rise in Islamophobic attacks.

“For this reason, we advise you to reconsider your event tomorrow. We will otherwise, take this to the Students Union, and present our case there. I however, out of courtesy, felt it would be better to speak to you first.”

Maryam Namazi, when asked if she could give her response to the talk, said: “Goldsmiths Isoc never made any formal complaint to the students’ union” arguing last night’s incidents were an “attempt at intimidating Atheist Secularist and Humanist organisers”.

She also told London Student: This very group which absurdly speaks of “safe spaces” has in the past invited Hamza Tzortzis of IERA which says beheading of apostates is painless and Moazem Begg of Cage Prisoners that advocates “defensive jihad”.

Namazie added that despite the “many attempts by the ISOC “brothers” the meeting ended successfully and raised critical issues, including that criticism of Islam and Islamism are not bigotry against Muslims who are often the first victims of Islamism.”

Featured image via @RezaMoradi/Twitter

  • This article was amended on 1 December to clarify at student did not turn of Nawazie’s powerpoint presentation after she showed a cartoon from the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, but after she showed a cartoon from Jesus and Mo.
  • The headline was also changed to describe the lecture itself as ‘controversial’ rather than the speaker.
  • The details of an alleged death threat, as referenced in the headline, were mistakenly removed during an edit, but restored on 2 December.
  • A passage was updated to describe Reza Moradi as a lecturer and activist. He was previously without a description.
  • A further detail was added to the alleged death threat, after Moradi who spoke with London Student, rewatched footage from the event. 

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