Students who invited Maryam Namazie to speak at Goldsmiths are petitioning the National Union of Students (NUS) to change its safe space policies following disruption at her lecture last week.
A petition started by Goldsmiths Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society president ‘Asher A-F’ has called on the NUS to adjust its “free-speech suppressing” safe space policies after “members and friends of Goldsmiths Islamic Society (Isoc) tried and failed to silence” Maryam Namazie.
The NUS and other students’ unions employ a “safe space” policy to ensure an accessible environment in which every student feels comfortable, safe, and free from intimidation and judgement. This policy extends to all events hosted by the union.
Breaching the policy, by using derogatory language or aggressive behaviour for instance, normally leads to individuals being removed from an event being attended.
The Atheist society has also complained to Goldsmiths students’ union over alleged intimidation at the event. The union confirmed last week the lecture was being investigated, and that it had asked Maryam Namazie to remove a video of her lecture, to which the speaker refused.
However, Isoc has also accused the Atheist society and security of “unnecessary bullying, abuse and violence” in the immediate aftermath of the talk, saying: “The university should be a safe space for all our students. Islamophobic views like those propagated by Namazie create a climate of hatred and bigotry towards Muslim students.”
The ASH petition, which has garnered over 2000 signatures at the time of writing, reads: “As this debacle shows, ‘safe spaces’ are being used to silence dissent and stifle free expression. Whilst ‘safe spaces’ are legitimate options for those who have been victimised and discriminated against, universities by their very definition cannot be ‘safe spaces’.
“Few would disagree that, if anywhere, universities should be bastions of freedom of thought and ideas, but for this to hold any meaning whatsoever, they must be bastions for the freedom of all ideas – regardless of how popular they may be or whether they are deemed ‘controversial’ or even offensive, by some.
“Offence, may act as an impetus for argument, but it is not, in and of itself, an argument, nor grounds for suppression. It is essential to be able to hear ideas that make us uncomfortable; this is the essence of tolerance. There should be no ‘safe spaces’ for ideas to go unchallenged.”
Following last week’s lecture, the Islamic Society has since won the support of the university’s feminism and LGBTQ+ societies in its dispute with the Atheist society.
FemSoc wrote in a Tumblr post: “Goldsmiths Feminist Society stands in solidarity with Goldsmiths Islamic Society. We support them in condemning the actions of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society and agree that hosting known Islamophobes at our university creates a climate of hatred.
“We showed our support on our Facebook page by sharing Isoc’s post with a message of solidarity. Our Facebook page is designed as a space for us to communicate with our members, and their safety is our first priority, under the policies set out by our Student Union.”
The NUS declined to give a statement as the organisation does not normally comment on individual cases.
Goldsmiths students’ union’s own safe space policy document reads: “Goldsmiths Students’ Union (GSU) recognises that systematic oppression excludes certain groups whilst providing others with unequal power.
“The safe space policy is designed to protect oppressed groups and enable their full participation in the student union. GSU is committed to operating as a space which is inclusive and supportive in which no forms of discrimination are tolerated.”
Goldsmiths Islamic Society was contacted for a response.
Featured image via YouTube.