I came across this article a few days ago on The Guardian website. It covers a hot topic issue that I mentioned in my coverage of the debate between Hamza Tzortkis and Prof. Lawrence Krauss. In brief, that event was being held at UCL and was promoted as not segregated. Unfortunately, the religious dimwits who set up the event chose to do otherwise, going against university policy, and invited the ire of Lawrence Krauss.
Here is his original reaction and answer when questioned on it:
The UCL ended up banning that Muslim organization from conducting future events on their premises. I think it serves them right for bringing their archaic views to a place of knowledge and forward thinking. Unfortunately, Universities UK didn’t get the memo.
Universities UK, the representative body for universities across the UK, has seen it fit to produce a 40 page document which, essentially, grants external speakers the right to demand audience segregation. In other words, speakers now have the right to demand that men and women sit apart. That doesn’t sound too maddening. What if a speaker asks black people to sit at the back so the white people have a better view? How about asking one religious denomination to not partake in a lecture because they eat pork? What if a speaker separated gay people from straight people? Where do we draw the line?
Here is the excerpt from Universities UK:
“…concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system”. If “imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition to the segregated areas contravenes the genuinely held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event, or those of the speaker, the institution should be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully.”
There have been multiple cases in the UK where such segregation has taken place, mostly at the behest of religious speakers. The problem here is that society in general is becoming too tolerant. We don’t want to allow ideas that could be seen as harmful or insulting to pervade the psyche of those we fear. Let’s keep everyone happy and not ask for trouble. Sadly, the trouble starts when you allows anachronistic ideas to gain footing because one party wants to honor and respect the wishes, no matter how ridiculous, of another. Really? Let’s be mindful of the religious beliefs of the speaker who thinks segregation is a bonafide idea? Fuck that.
On October 3rd (My birthday. Send gifts!), two Athiest students at LSE wore amusing t-shirts with a religious inflection to their message. The authorities (gung-ho campus security) was on them in an instant and they were told, not asked, to cover up their t-shirts for fear of offending others. So what? Fuck the others if they’re so offended. Life, and certainly hallowed halls of education, exist to challenge our notions and beliefs to create smarter, free-thinking denizens.
Here is a quote from the most gentle of gentlemen, Stephen Fry:
“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what.”
Let’s take a modern example: the world is fawning over how Malala has stood up to the persecution and violence that the Taliban have wrought on women in their campaign to keep them from the evils of education. Heck, she’s given speeches at British universities and been nominated for peace prizes. What if Malala was asked to sit apart from others for being a Muslim, or a women, at a university in the UK? I hope that you can see the point I am trying to make. She does not let anyone tell her that she cannot take part in education because of her race, creed, or gender. The fact that the representative body of institutions across the UK thinks it is ok for a speaker to do so is pathetic. Additionally, if you choose to partake in such a deplorable exercise, then you have already failed the first test of education and should stop wasting your parents money.
Once again, education is a supremely powerful tool. In fact, a lot of the bigotry and hate that has inflicted the world is because there is a severe lack of it in many corners of the globe. People resign themselves to the ideas and livelihood placed upon them by the cosmos or their families and leaders. That’s not how it should be. Personally, I hate the fact that religion is building a foundation in education across different countries. For instance, states in the USA are trying to get Evolution banned from being taught in school. Also, faith schools are cropping up in the UK where admission is based on your religious beliefs and staff are forced to wear headscarves or something equally asinine. What’s even more beguiling is that they are 100% state-funded. Yup, your hard earned money is being used to fund discriminatory education practices.
Where did we go wrong? When did finding answers for ourselves and revelling in our differences and the world become such an intolerance? When did we halt our dissent of ideas that fail to advance the ideals of an equal and educated society? When did we stop giving a fuck and start sanctioning bigotry and assisting persecution? Tolerance is a dirty word, and the fear of offending sensibilities should not keep us from speaking our mind.
I hope that universities will choose to uphold the ideals which they were founded upon and rescind the farcical document published by Universities UK. Polly Toynbee sums up my beliefs perfectly in her piece:
“My own view is that religion is like any other opinion and deserves to be subjected to the same challenge or mockery as anyone’s political views, with no special respect or forbearance. Universities are the anvils for hammering out these ideas, not for setting religious sensibilities above women’s rights, and beyond challenge, trumping all other argument.”