Queen Mary Islamic Society denies “extremist speaker” claims led to suspension
Queen Mary’s Islamic society (Isoc) has ‘categorically denied’ claims it was suspended for reasons a university source says include “hosting extremist speakers” and “gender segregation”.
The society was suspended on 15 November by Queen Mary Students’ Union (QMSU) from holding union-related events for 16 weeks.
Isoc has been accused of intimidating students’ union staff members, however London Student understands accusations of hosting “extremist speakers” and organising events without the students’ union’s consent are also among reasons that may have led to its suspension.
When contacted by London Student, Isoc said: “We are unable to disclose the details of the allegations due to an ongoing investigation currently taking place.
“However what you have suggested is misleading and a misrepresentation of the situation. We categorically deny these claims.”
A source within the university and close to the row, who wished to remain anonymous, told London Student the society was known for hosting “extremist speakers at Friday sermons”, for “strict gender segregation in the Multi-Faith Centre (MFC) [prayer room]” and for “advertising and promoting events without the QMSU stamp of approval.”
They added: “From what can be gathered on campus, the notion is that Isoc itself does not condone or organise fear of Islam among students. Those members within the society who hosted speakers that breached protocol have landed Isoc in hot water, both in terms of reputation with the student body and trust with QMSU.”
The accusations have been supported by a small number of Queen Mary students who have been commenting on social media this week.
One former member of the Islamic Society, who did not wish to be named, said: “They were suspended because they have over the years been breaking rules left, right and centre, but the SU has never done anything because they were so fearful of the response from the Muslim student population. They were afraid of being called Islamophobic and racist.”
Isoc wrote in a statement last week: “It is with a heavy heart and deep sorrow that we regret to inform you that the Queen Mary Islamic Society has been temporarily suspended.”
“The suspension comes as a result of allegations, many of which we are still unclear about. We are working with the SU to gain better clarity on these issues in hopes of putting this matter to rest”.
The Print, Queen Mary’s student newspaper, reported the suspension was discussed by students at the university’s annual student meeting (ASM) on 8 December.
One motion called for a clearer appeals process, prepared by Isoc’s principal officer Akiqul Hoque, read: “The society takes responsibility of some of the allegations which led to the suspension being issued. However, we feel that there is a need for suitable evidence to be provided and for the society to be allowed to appeal against some of the allegations.”
Students eventually passed a motion resolving that societies should “be able to discuss the allegations they are accused of before a conclusive outcome is made to uphold a fair, transparent and impartial investigation”.
Isoc also called for an emergency societies board meeting, the body which will discuss its suspension following the investigation, to be brought forward to December. The meeting was originally scheduled for January.
In recent months, students at Queen Mary have come under scrutiny for inviting so-called “extreme” speakers to the university.
The Print reported in October that Queen Mary had been named as an institution that has hosted one of the highest numbers of “extreme or intolerant speakers” in recent years.
Haitham al-Haddad, for example, spoke at Queen Mary in March 2014, apparently without the support of the society. He was previously blocked from speaking at the University of Westminster after he referred to homosexuality as a “criminal act”.
A spokesperson from QMSU told London Student: “The students’ union is currently looking into claims that Isoc has broken some of the rules associated with running a students’ union society.
“These rules apply to all societies and student groups and cover things like room bookings, event advertising and use of facilities. The students’ union is keen to resolve this investigation quickly to ensure that Isoc are able to resume their activities for their members.”
Reporting by Laura Potter, Emma Yeomans, Keumars Afifi-Sabet and James Andrew Smith.
Featured image via Keumars Afifi-Sabet.