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The segregation of women and the appeasement of bigotry at Britain’s universities (part two)

11 December 2013

11 December 2013

On the Today programme this morning Justin Webb covered the decision by Universities UK to allow fundamentalist speakers to segregate women from men at public meetings.

With a characteristic disdain for accepted standards of behaviour, Universities UK refused to go on air and answer his questions. Webb had to ‘put the other side of the story’ himself. He told a Palestinian woman demonstrating outside Universities UK headquarters in central London, [1hr 36mins in] ‘What Universities UK say is, if non segregated seating is also provided, it could be all right.’

Put like that it can sound just about all right. Men and women who want to sit apart can do so. Meanwhile there will be mixed seating for students who find the notion of sexual apartheid as repellent as racial apartheid. A typically British compromise, you might say.

I am not having a go at Webb. He delivered a fine report. Nor do I blame him for not understanding the Universities UK report on segregation – the academics write as if they learned English as a foreign language in an understaffed Brussels business school. But Webb, like many others, underestimates the extremism of the leaders of our institutes of “higher” learning.

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They insist that the wishes of the misogynist cleric must be paramount. If he wants sexual segregation, he must have it, regardless of the views of the audience. It would be an attack on his human rights to refuse him. As I said in my original piece for the Spectator, Universities UK is giving religious fanatics a power over the audience at a public event no other speaker enjoys. It is as if Justin Webb were to invite me on to the Today programme, and I were to say, ‘Before I appear, you must guarantee that you and the Radio 4 listeners will behave as if you agreed with my prejudices. Think carefully before you refuse. If you do, my advisers say that I can sue the BBC for attacking my human rights.’

True to form, Universities UK raises the possibility of allowing an unsegregated space for liberal students in university meetings, only to dismiss it. Here is the shameful passage in full [From page 28].

Ultimately, 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. Those opposed to segregation are entitled to engage in lawful protest against segregation, and could be encouraged to hold a separate debate of the issues, but their views do not require an institution to stifle a religious society’s segregated debate where the segregation accords with a genuinely-held religious belief. The s.43 duty requires an institution to secure freedom of speech within the law.

The Today programme ought to learn that it’s always best to assume the worst when you are dealing with pseudo-leftists from the English middle class. You’re more likely to get it right that way.

To all of this Universities UK say: oh we’re just acting on legal advice. But as you can find lawyers who will say that black is white and 2 + 2 = 5, the question remains: is its legal advice any good? No one knows. Universities UK has not published its advice, and thus deprived feminist lawyers of the chance to examine it.

It admitted to me, in the days when it was talking to journalists, that it was just acting on this mysterious advice. It accepted that no court had ruled on whether speakers can impose segregation. Even without judicial authority, however, it went ahead and upheld the supposed rights of speakers with a ‘genuinely held religious belief’.

If you read the whole report, you discover a glaring double standard. When Universities UK moves on to discuss the rights of women, far more stringent criteria apply. It speculates that ‘feminism’ might be a ‘belief protected by the Equalities Act’. If it were, then maybe feminists could stop segregation. A terrible prospect, indeed. But Universities UK finds reassurance in the knowledge that no judge has ruled on the status of feminism.

‘The question of whether such [feminist] beliefs are protected under the Act is unclear without a court ruling.’

To spell it out, Universities UK is prepared to appease religious fanatics without a court ruling but will not defend sexual equality until a court tells it to. While I am at it, let me spell out something else. With the exception of the odd [in all senses of the word] Orthodox Jew, the speakers Universities UK wants to appease are Islamists. So it won’t be women with white skins who will be affected by this on the whole; but women with brown skins. Along with all the charges of sexism, secrecy and hypocrisy I can level at the academics, I catch a whiff of the racism of low expectations as well.


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Show comments
  • Lambert Butler

    ha ha. segregation of women? but on the guardian half your colleagues write their stories specifically for women and segregate themselves from men. aren’t you a libellous (proved on your blog), hypocritical moron, Nick? no wait, if you are, how could you possibly know? here’s some segregation by your colleagues, blair’s little p.r. boy:

    just the latest but on my grid there are 100s of factually presented attacks on the guardian’s sexism and gender division. and here you are going even further right than the guardian, writing for the peers of nigel farage and lord rennard.

    The Guardian and Independent’s Harriet Walker has managed to blame men for what women and men both are to blame for.

    In one of the most innocuous articles relating to sexism I have ever read on the Guardian, Harriet Walker falls off the tight-rope long enough to blame men for something done by both women and men and not as a result of being either women or men.

    What she has done is said “Blame Richard Branson, blame Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary. No, go on, do – it’s something of a national sport anyway. But in all truth, these men – and those at BA – are behind the weird suppression of progress in what was originally one of the most liberating jobs a woman could hold” with reference to women’s uniforms in the airline industry and very reasonable claims that sexism controls what women wear, unfairly (and this needs addressing).

    Not only does she build up to her attack on Branson with some very carefully written suggestions that men and ‘chauvinism’ are to blame for what she is talking about (whilst using intelligent phrases which point at the airline industry, correctly, and blame an industry, rather than a gender, an industry in which women and men work together to do all the jobs being done), she even cites someone she emphasizes is a female ballroom dancing designer (the emphasis that the designer is female comes out of referring to only male protagonists at the helm of the industry around her, denying the possibility that women also work in these companies and also make decisions about uniforms, along with men who make decisions about them) who designed trousers for one set of the uniforms, but the industry prevented the use of them. What she omits is that Vivienne Westwood, in the summer of 2013, designed Virgin Atlantic’s uniforms.

    If Walker wants to churlishly tell us to blame Richard Branson and to imply that it is because of his genes that he is to blame, then she is probably in denial about the fact that Vivienne Westwood recently designed uniforms for Branson and that it is not Branson who is sexist but industry and society at large, including Walker’s paymasters and if she has integrity with regard to standing up against sexism, she should instead write for a source with integrity over this matter (eg on a grid, where she can acknowledge any mistakes and fix them, rather than in an environment where it is ‘unusual’ and a ‘weakness’ to be seen to be correcting yourself, as though self-development is taboo.

    http://show.tvhobo.com/?1.841

  • Terry Field

    There is little defence by deploying a relativist culture to tackle an absolutist religion.
    Islam is dangerously incompatible with British life, since it can act only to replace our world; it looks to supplant it and we are in the process of seeing the actions of our world being replaced – before our eyes, and in ‘real time’.
    Although this horror seems as ‘unreal’ as it is possible to be.
    We have no balls; we can do nothing . We are the shame of our antecedents.

  • Terry Field

    There is little defence by deploying a relativist culture to tackle an absolutist religion.
    Islam is dangerously incompatible with British life, since it can act only to replace our world; it looks to supplant it and we are in the process of seeing the actions of our world being replaced – before our eyes, and in ‘real time’.
    Although this horror seems as ‘unreal’ as it is possible to be.
    We have no balls; we can do nothing . We are the shame of our antecedents.

  • Coleridge1

    What would Moslems who advocate gender-apartheid say if universities permitted students to segregate Moslems from the rest of mankind at university meetings?

  • John Lea

    Why are women even allowed in universities anyway, when they’re all daft as brushes?

  • Lynne T

    The proposed offering of mixed seating to those who request it is a non-starter, as the sort of guest speakers likely to be invited to speak would not speak to an audience that includes a section where men and women may be seated next to each other without any separation., If anything, attendees who insist on such accommodation would be perceived of as provocateurs there to report on any extremist crap spewn forth from the speakers’ lecturn.

  • Agrippina

    Dandridge is female and she sought legal advice from Fenella Morris QC, who styles herself as the ‘Star at the Bar’, a little tarnished now I believe. She only had to see the difference between a religious meeting and a speaker in a learning institution, and that they should not impose any segregation in the second place.

    Heaven help us if the women are helping the male zealots to oppress us, how on earth are we to get on and be treated equally and fairly.

  • Coleridge1

    If Moslems believe that non-Moslems must respect their ‘right’ to segregate women from men, they should also respect the right of those who would like to hold meetings with separate facilities for Moslems and the rest of mankind. ie people who don’t want to have to be forced to be in close proximity to Moslems should have their wishes respected.

  • ThePrussian

    “The Today programme ought to learn that it’s always best to assume the worst when you are dealing with pseudo-leftists from the English middle class. You’re more likely to get it right that way.”

    Ain’t it the truth.

  • Roy

    It appears the powers that be in the institutions of the country have become riddled with extreme minority viewpoints of which they are determined to quash any of the old British cultural standards of the majority. It would appear to be so serious as to need a national law spelled out to identify the British system under risk and protect it with a full system of democratic enforcement of this law. There is no reason why Britain should entertain any new foreign system of rules throughout society. It is absolutely abhorrent that such adjustments should even be considered. It is with the thin edge of the wedge that these people intend to open-up their insidious ways. An whole new list will be continuously pressed forward to comply with their way of thinking and manipulation. This should be fought tooth and nail to prevent. Let them comply with the law of the land and the culture of the people or go elsewhere.

  • Omar

    People have rights. Ideologies and groups do not.

    As “People,” Women have rights, including the right not to be excluded from areas of public seating. If muslims wish to segregate themselves, they must find a way to do so (amongst themselves and WITHOUT state support) that won’t impinge on the rights of other persons.

  • Daniel Maris

    I don’t think we should be too hard on Universities UK – they are just seeking to apply the law which has raised “religion” to protected status in our equality legislation. There lies the fault. Labour introduced the legislation and the Tories and Lib Dems have not repealed it.

    It is profoundly regressive legislation, taking us back about 300 years in our political history. Before we are all prevented from saying anything unpleasant about scientology, can we please remove this legislation.

    • http://mrsdbliss.blogspot.com/ MrsDBliss

      Only some religions in practise though.

    • http://mrsdbliss.blogspot.com/ MrsDBliss

      Only some religions in practise though.

  • Richard Sanderson

    Take note of the people jumping to defence of gender apartheid on Twitter.

    They include the likes of a representative of the extremist group Hizb ut Tahrir (who has written an apologist piece which Yvonne Ridley approvingly cites), and the group Writers of Colour. The latter is particularly noteworthy because they have presented themselves as a Liberal organisation fighting to highlight inequality against people of colour. I guess their credibility just went down the pipes when they endorsed gender apartheid!

  • John Smith

    Good ol’ lefties what would we do without them?

    – Be a better country?

  • Chris

    1) Make a list of all people who have propagated “liberalism” “tolerance” “multiculturism” “anti-racism” etc etc
    2) Place them in a Nuremburg style trails for crimes against humanity.
    3) Hang them all.
    It’s that easy.

  • Richard Baron

    UUK have now put a legal opinion online. This is not any opinion on which they relied when writing the guidance, but one that was obtained today, in response to the controversy:

    http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/highereducation/Documents/2013/ExternalSpeakersLegalOpinion.pdf

    Paragraph 8 of the legal opinion, which is the key paragraph, is unconvincing. The argument is that a speaker’s desire for segregation may engage two European Convention rights, article 9 (manifestation of religion) and article 10 (freedom of speech), and that between them, they could outweigh the audience’s right to freedom of association.

    On article 9, no-one in an unsegregated audience prevents the speaker from manifesting his religion. He can read from his holy book, dress as he sees fit, and pray out loud, as much as he likes. Non-segregation of an audience merely prevents him from getting other people to manifest his religion, which is something he has no right to do. On article 10, non-segregation does not limit his freedom of speech. If he decides not to speak to an unsegregated audience, it is his own petulance that limits his freedom of speech.

    • Penny

      This is all such a nonsense, though. How is it that a speaker can go about his normal day-to-day life co-mingling with women he doesn’t know yet suddenly find his religious rights compromised when giving a talk? Does he refuse medical treatment/service in a shop/transport – and so on – based on his inability to manifest his religion on account of coming into contact with women?

      And what is a “segregation achieved” distance – or is that, too, simply a random affectation? Is it arms length, three metres, on the other side of a wide hall?

      These things and more make me think this is all about posturing and control.

  • Daniel Maris

    The problem is that there seems to be no understanding of what the free speech priniciple means – it means allowing people you don’t agree with to speak. The fact that the UK government shamefully bans people like Geert Wilders and Robert Spencer shows how frightened of free speech our rulers are.

  • Chaotopia

    Presumably, if the Grand Wizard of the KKK were speaking and demanded that the audience were racially segregated then Universities UK would have absolutely no problem with this out of respect for the “sincere religious convictions” held by the KKK.

    In other words, Universities UK and other idiot apologists for utter evil have no actual problem with bigotry, apartheid and segregation as long as those who want IT are true believers in fact-free fairy tales.

    Kind of makes you wonder what all that fuss regarding Nelson Mandela was all about.

  • Bonkim

    Never heard of Universities UK. Are they a commercial for profit organisation offering visas to overseas students?

    In any case people going to such a junk meeting have an option to stay away – why don’y they just ignore these bigoted meetings.

  • English Republican News

    Nicola Dandridge is a dead man walking.

  • R. J. Whyte

    Rosa Parks would sit in the male section, and not move after being told to move. I’m sure, if nothing else can be done, you will all have the balls to do this as well.

  • andy_gill

    The disgraceful Universities UK report demonstrates everything that’s wrong with British liberals. These silly people seem to live in some abstract world where FGM, honour killing and the institutionalized inferiority of women does not exist. in Islamic societies .

    By submitting to gender segregation, Universities UK are signalling their tolerance for an obnoxious cultural theme that has no place in a civilized society.

    • justejudexultionis

      I am a socialist and consider Islam a very real danger to our liberty in this country. The greatest danger, however, as rightly pointed out by Cohen, is the ‘useful idiots’, otherwise known as bien-pensant multiculturalist liberals.

    • Chris

      Rubbish. They are fully aware of what Islam is. If you want to understand why UK universities have done this, just refer to Gramsci, and his calls for socialist to ally with “historic forces” to undermine the cultural hegemony of the west.
      They are using Muslims to attack us and our values.

  • britsalz

    unbelievable judgement error of university heads. Lets just segregate audiences according to eye colour, height, nationalities, race and iQ.

  • Mark Dubbery

    There is no “freedom of speech within the law” at Universities because the student unions run a militant “no platform” policy whereby any speaker who is deemed to offend the politically correct, antisemitic and left wing orthodoxy is quite simply banned (along with any newspaper or hit record which is deemed offensive or capable of causing offence). That anyone would expect Universities to be a bastion of free-speech is, I suspect, incomprehensible to anyone who has attended one since the 1980’s.

  • valles

    Bravo Nic . Down with nonsense and fanatics-.

  • Richard Baron

    If an academic wishes to make a case for a position, he or she is expected to publish the supporting evidence. If UUK refuse to publish their legal advice, perhaps they would like to explain why the norms of those who work within the bodies that they represent do not apply to them.

  • http://dave.langers.nl/ Dave Langers

    Someone explain: how can “forbidding segregation” curtail “freedom of speech”?

  • jorge espinha

    Human rights are human rights are human rights. Either human rights are universal or we may as well quit. Of all places , to witness Universities behaving in this fashion is despairing

    • Chris

      Its an allying of the Marxist with “historical forces” to attack the western worlds values. see Gramsci.
      And as for Human rights, the positive rights of the EU are nothing more then a shopping list of socialism. The enforcement of the state to provide for the citizen. This is fundamental socialism. The successive UK governments who have given up our negative rights under the Bill of Rights etc, for positive rights, should be hung for treason. We should start by exhuming Heath and putting his corpse on trial.

  • http://www.earwicker.com Daniel Earwicker

    Solution: campaigners opposed to segregation must declare that their opposition is rooted in their “genuinely-held religious belief.”

    This is the phrase that appears in the legal advice and which seems to act as a trump card. On no account should the campaigners try to give a reasoned argument to back up their belief. That would introduce a risk of it being viewed as reasonable, instead of religious.

    In order to get back on a level playing field before the law, try to appear as if your belief is motivated by nothing solid at all, and above all make sure to drop hints that it is “genuinely held”.

  • Treebrain

    When Prince Charles attended the inauguration of the new Chief Rabbi, were women present, or were they segregated?

    By attending such an event, Is Prince Charles not endorsing segregation?

    • Richard Sanderson

      Wow, wait. The son of the head of the Church of England might be privileging religion. Oh my golly, I’m amazed.

      Yes, women are segregated for the same unpleasant reasons in inaugurations of Chief Rabbis. Turns out Islam is not alone in these sorts of practices, but then again, NOBODY ever said that was the case.

      • MikeF

        I presume the inauguration of the Chief Rabbi took place in a synagogue and not at a supposedly open forum in a UK university. That is a rather fundamental difference.

        • Richard Sanderson

          Thanks.

          I knew that treebrain’s whataboutery was logically faulty.

    • Penny

      No more than when he meets a priest or a pope – both being roles women cannot occupy. But these are inter-faith arguments and having nothing to do with what occurs in the public square.

  • ablanche

    That reliable source of left wing establishment wrong headedness Prof Beard is peddling the line followed by so many here and anatomised by Nick Cohen that all the UU whatever are doing is setting out the legal framework (neither described or explained) that such folk have apparently now discovered obliges them to be complicit in despicable acts.

    It seems to pass such people by that if there is such a legal justification (and of course there isnt its just an excuse) then surely the law is wrong and should be defied with the same vigour they oppose free schools or educational reforms from the evil tories.

  • mrsjosephinehydehartley

    Feminism can’t be clearly defined as a general rule..it moves in mysterious ways. But human rights generally aren’t mysterious. Firms that expect to affect the allocation of seating according to gender here in the UK are treating our space like some huge public convenience. But the general public shouldn’t have to pay for such visits..

    Personally, I should sack the legal advice if I were CEO of universities UK.

  • John Richmond

    No culture or religion that would imprison half its post puberty population in cages of cloth is worthy of respect. Remind them of this and, if they are not prepared to accept the reminder, expel them from the country.

    • zanzamander

      if they are not prepared to accept the reminder, expel them from the country.

      There is more chance of you being shut out, banned or censored, than that to happen.

      BTW, expel them where exactly? Most of them are now born here.

      • crosscop

        Back to where they belong, of course. Wherever they were born, they do not belong here.

  • Chris

    Don’t argue with the left wing moral relativists. Just shoot them

  • Agrippina

    These are British universities supported by British tax payers, they are learning institutions. If these ‘religion of peace’ folks want this type of nonsense, build and fund your own uni and do as you wish. This is not a religious building, no segregation permitted. Go to a muslim country and practice this absurd behaviour, not here, we are not muslims.

    Wake up folks, the fools in charge of all our institutions need to be ousted. The judge that says it is ok for a defendant to cover up in court. The sixth form college who says it is ok for the female pupils to cover up in class, and now this from the uni’s uk, discriminate against our females.

    Our useless scared politicians are going to do nothing, it will end up with civil unrest, stop voting for the same people and expect a different solution.

    • FrenchNewsonlin

      “Build and fund” .. they already do, they call them madrasahs and they locate inside the tens of thousands of mosques dotted around Europe.

  • Ed McArthur

    there is a link to a petition against gender segregation at http://www.petitions2013.webs.com

  • Reborn

    The fear of Islam in all its forms characterises the UK & much of the West today.
    If we had any confidence in our values the message would be simple.
    We do not segregate sexes or races in the UK.
    Just as Westerners are expected to comply with the rules of muslim societies, if they have the misfortune to visit such places, so muslims will show similar respect for us.
    I believe the yet to be found “moderate muslim” may exist in the shadows, but while our great institutions show their fear of aliens with evil values, I can understand their reluctance to show their faces (sometimes literally).
    If the Ku Klux Klan were to be offered a platform at university, & its views & even its dress is very like those of islam, would the authorities happily submit to “no blacks, Jews or Catholics & women at the back”
    The UK taxpayer funds muslim schools & our institutions bow to islam.
    The muslims think they’re winning.
    I fear they will when the demographics favour them in 30 years.
    It feels very strange at my age, to see the UK steadily abandoning all pretence of national pride & accepting colonisation by a patently inferior culture on the one hand & by Continental civil servants on the other.
    I wish we had the courage of even the French, let alone the Americans, Chinese or the Russians

    • Daniel Maris

      A short law is required, in line with the (correct) judgement of the European Court of Human Rights that Sharia is incompatible with human rights, to outlaw: Sharia generally as incompatible with our constitution, Sharia court judgments that conflict with our laws, and specific Sharia injunctions e.g. inferiority of Kaffirs, inequality of the genders, the ban on outmarriage and arranged marriages.

    • FrenchNewsonlin

      Ironic isn’t it that in the week British media have been lionising Nelson Mandela, parts of the great UK liberal establishment appear happy to bend over backwards to mirror (Reservation of Separate Amenities Act) some of the worst aspects of the apartheid system they once so vociferously denounced. Seems these people seek to turn universities which have their origins in the Latin Church into madrasahs.

      • Reborn

        You’re so right.
        The ability of our allegedly liberal media to compartmentalise is
        breathtaking.
        This blatant case had not occurred to me, probably because I’m so used to doublethink.
        Funny how simple & completely understandable reactions from the EDL are described as “extreme right wing”, while those whose terrorism & criminality is pre medieval are never described as
        “right wing” – since that term is the greatest form of condemnation known in PC Britain.

  • Helen Stanton

    Women have fought long and hard for their right to be treated equally to men. It seems that the sensitivities of religion hold more sway than the rights of half of the population. There is a worryingly large section of society too scared to be seen as racist or not ‘respectful’ of belief systems. This seems to be more important than the rights of women to be seen as equal to men, a view I find astounding. And the people who will suffer the most from this denial are muslim women, who just want to be treated equally too. So now who’s racist?

    • itbeso

      Certain Religious beliefs are obnoxious – period. We should be having no truck with this. I can’t even understand why we aren’t simply showing these Islamists the door – no discussion necessary it’s bleeding obvious we don’t want this. As far as I’m aware there is no himan right to practice misogyny.

  • Pootles

    Keep on at this, Nick, don’t let up. Well done. There is always the possibility, of course, that UUK might be hoist with their own petard. There are people around who believe that they are Odinists – would they be within their rights to segregate ‘Aryans’ from ‘non-Aryans’ ?

  • ADW

    Point 1: Every one of the arguments in favour of giving in to the segregationists could have been (and mostly were) applied a century ago to the suffragettes. Discrimination against women was part of English culture, had been for centuries, and many English women were entirely happy with it and prepared to fight tooth and nail to preserve the existing inequalities, it was sanctioned by the Bible and promoted by religious leaders of the day. And so on and so forth.

    Point 2: Exactly why are religious leaders being fawned on by universities in the first place? Universities are supposed to be places of learning – of reason and evidence; of falsification of ideas. Religious fundamentalism is the complete opposite of all that. To be sure, religious ideas can be advanced at university, but they should be subjected to the same scrutiny as those of philosophers and scientists.

    Point 3: The legal advice charade is a total cop-out. Publish the advice and see if it stands up legally. (The right to confidentiality is that of the university as the client paying for the advice – it can waive it any time it chooses.) This sounds suspiciously like the Rochdale Council excuse for removing the children from a UKIP couple – they also said it was on legal advice, which Lord Lester QC pointed out would have been palpably false advice if indeed it actually existed.

  • MikeF

    “It won’t be women with white-skins it will require to live at university as if they were in the South Africa of Nelson Mandela’s childhood, but women with brown skins.
    So along with all the charges of sexism, secrecy and hypocrisy we can level at the academics, we need to consider the accusation that they are borderline racists as well.”
    Why – are you saying that ‘racism’ can only be directed against people with brown or black and never against people with white skins? Why don’t you just stand up unambiguously and unapologetically for rationalism and (real not ‘post’) Enlightenment values instead of trying to wrap up your argument in a sugar coating of ‘anti-racist’ posturing – especially since so many ‘anti-racists’ would probably side with the Islamists in any case?

  • megamurph

    One way to challenge such moral and intellectual bankruptcy is head on; students who care about freedom should be organising lecturers from every crackpot fundamentalism imaginable and segregating accordingly. Why not start with an extremist (real or created for the occasion) who wants the audience segregated on caste lines?
    Sadly though, the only students who seem to have any fire in their bellies these days are those who actively want to undermine the very fabric of our hard won liberal freedoms. It’s not funny at all, but maybe only ridicule will show up this truly appalling decision by Universities UK for the apartheid it really is.

    • Peter Fogarty

      Oh

      • Peter Fogarty

        Oh Megamurph what a wonderful reply but are the students up to it?
        The fun you could have with inventing spoof religions who demand segregation along unusual and bizarre lines. The Gingerists who will only present if Ginger people sit separately.

        • Richard Ferguson

          Get yourself to a St Andrews night or Burns Supper Peter. The Gingerists are already among us….congregrating….

        • megamurph

          Indeed, a number did cross my mind but were jettisoned in the cause of brevity. I was going to volunteer to refuse to lecture unless the audience was divided up so readers of the Daily Mail and the Guardian were made to sit alternately in the name of balance. I also wondered about inviting the Loony Leftie Party and the Rabid Rightie Party and having them ban anyone who would/would not wear an ‘I love Maggie” T shirt as appropriate. Still seems to me though, that the point would best be made by insisting that people with different colours of skin sit in different parts of the room. Can’t beat that for a ridiculous idea, can you?

        • Reborn

          In my student days the Miserable Left were starting to make the running.
          The old time student rags were still present, but increasingly minus the cheerful minor vandalism. That was steadily being replaced with the dangerous politically motivated hooliganism & criminality which forced the Conservative Party to quit Millbank, as no company would insure the offices against politica thuggery.
          Now, students seem lacking all sense of fun as a section of society & seem forced to embrace Far Left/Pro Muslim/anti Jewish views as a condition of membership.

  • zanzamander

    It won’t be women with white-skins it will require to live at university
    as if they were in the South Africa of Nelson Mandela’s childhood but
    women with brown skins.

    This is completely ignoring the fact that there are millions of women
    in the world, and many hundreds of thousands in this country (that
    number rising every minute) who are not “white-skinned” but happen to
    choose gender apartheid out of their religious conviction. Ask Lauren
    Booth, Yvonne Ridley and thousands of their sisters who convert every
    day where they sit on the subject

    • Richard Sanderson

      Have you ever asked WHY some women support gender apartheid? After centuries of political, religious, social and cultural pressure of subtly telling women “to know their place” and to highlight their inferiority, is it any wonder some women conform to gender apartheid?

      As for converts such as Yvonne Ridley, Lauren Booth and other “sisters”, why should anybody take them seriously. If they want to defend gender apartheid, than they are wrong. Further, you might want to ask the thousands of women who either leave Islam, or perhaps more commonly, have to pretend they are still religious while stuck in a culture that punishes severely for any hint of “apostasy”. My concern is with the latter, and not with the likes of conforming “sisters” such as Ridley and Booth.

      • itbeso

        I’ve no truck with idiots like Ridley and Booth brought up in equality only to turn around and spit on it. I guess it is lost on them that, not coming from an Islamic background, they can up and leave Islam without censure ditto taking off the veil. Those born into a Muslim family/culture will not find their whims/choices so easily accomodated.

        • Richard Sanderson

          Good point. “Sisters” such as Ridley and Booth don’t experience life in the same way most Muslim women do. Ridley and Booth are privileged, middle class, white, and western. They remind me of the middle class types who turn Buddhist while travelling on papa’s credit card through Asia. They don’t actually have the same experience as someone stuck in that culture, geographical area, and religion.

          • zanzamander

            Nobody is “stuck” with Buddhism. Buddhists can join or leave their faith as they please. The only “religion” that forbids apostasy is Islam, which calls for death of those who leave. So the only people who are “stuck” are followers of Islam.

            And again, judging by the numbers of immigrates from predominantly Islamic countries, the only people who seem to want to “un-stick” themselves from their geographical and cultural areas are the followers of Islam.

            Nice try for having a dig at Buddhists though, reminding us once again that it is not just Islam. I see you’ve also had a go at Mormons, who next, Jews (oh that one is done to a death, if you see what I mean), try Hindus or Sikhs even – much fertile grounds, I reckon.

            • Richard Sanderson

              Nobody is “stuck” with Buddhism. Buddhists can join or leave their faith as they please. The only “religion” that forbids apostasy is Islam, which calls for death of those who leave. So the only people who are “stuck” are followers of Islam.

              Obviously, nuance is a bit much for you. I’ll try to keep it as simple as possible next time.

              George Harrison looked East and found love and affection and kept his original name. Same cannot be said of Yusuf Islam (not a name his papa gave him), who after conversion, wished unpleasant things would happen to Salman Rushdie and refused to shake women radio presenters’ hand.

              Yeah I know, but that was not the point at all, was it. Herp derp.

              And again, judging by the numbers of immigrates from predominantly Islamic countries, the only people who seem to want to “un-stick” themselves from their geographical and cultural areas are the followers of Islam.

              I don’t want to repeat myself, but again, you’ve completely missed the point.

              Nice try for having a dig at Buddhists though, diverting us once again away from Islam.

              Indeed, because handling two thought processes at once is too complicated for you. As I said, I’ll try to keep it as simple as possible so you can keep up. Oh, and keep missing the point.

  • zanzamander

    There is at least one lady I spy in the above photo who most probably doesn’t mind gender apartheid (which is ironic given the subject matter she seems to be applauding).

    Can you spot her?

  • sarahsmith232

    Isn’t it about time you came out the political right-wing closet Cohen? You’re becoming one of us, come on dear, would it really be so traumatising? A confessional webcam uploaded to Youtube, the difficulty in dealing w/ the disgust & shame, your friends & family turning from you but you know you need to be truer to yourself . .. you’re a Tory. You can do it Cohen, admit it, you’re no longer someone that’s Left-wing.

    • Richard Sanderson

      Opposing gender apartheid is a left-wing cause, is it not?

      • sarahsmith232

        well, it certainly should be but good luck trying to find anyone on the Left that doesn’t immediately start screaming about bigotry when someone tries to take on the muslims. It/’s left up to Right to go after them.

        • itbeso

          The left hear the word religion and come over all funny with a case of the vapours.

          • Mike Oxenfire

            Itbeso, the left have no problem, and even take delight in attacking Christianity, also, Jew hatred is now very popular, which certainly was not the case 15 years ago.
            They do also seem to “come over all funny” as you put it in the case of islam.

            FGM, honour killings, rape gangs, welfareism, sharia patrols, terrorist murders, gender segregation, underage marrage, these are problems not happening in some far away lands.

            They are happening here. The left says and does nothing.

      • anotherjoeblogs

        It is traditionally but in the game of libtard trumps, religious rights of a perceived oppressed minority trumps all inc. opposing gender apartheid, opposing homophobia, opposing animal rights, opposing genital mutilation, slavery, misogeny etc.

        • Richard Sanderson

          That’s unfair to Liberals. Much of the driving force of getting this gender segregation issue in the news has come about because of Liberals. Perhaps you mean the Hard Left types, such as the SWP, George Galloway, etc. who WILL happily drop all pretence of liberalism when it comes to protecting bigoted religious privilege.

          It has been noted that some of the most vicious rhetoric from the likes of Andy Newman (SWP) and George Galloway is towards Liberals who dare to challenge the privilege of religion and Islamism. Just look at the hostility of some on the Hard Left to Liberals like Nick Cohen!

      • Guest

        Opposing gender apartheid is right wing, it’s appeasing islamofasists, that is a right wing attitude. It is a “Unite against fascism attitude” (UAF is fascist)

        • Richard Sanderson

          Opposing gender apartheid is right wing, it’s appeasing islamofasists, that is a right wing attitude.

          That is a confused statement. Opposing gender apartheid has never been associated with “right wing attitudes”. Simply because some right-wingers jump on this issue to stick it to Islamofacists, does not change that. Just as campaigning for gay equality is not suddenly a “right wing attitude” because some criticise Islamists for homophobia. You don’t get to rewrite history just like that.

  • zanzamander

    It won’t be women with white-skins it will require to live at university
    as if they were in the South Africa of Nelson Mandela’s childhood but
    women with brown skins.

    This is completely ignoring the fact that there are millions of women in the world, and many hundreds of thousands in this country (that number rising every minute) who are not “white-skinned” but happen to choose gender apartheid out of their religious conviction. Ask Lauren Booth, Yvonne Ridley and thousands of their sisters who convert every day where they sit on the subject.

    • Richard Sanderson

      Your constant appeals to popularity are noted as logical fallacies. Gender apartheid is still wrong, and always will be. I also have to giggle at the notion that Ridley and Booth are spokespeople on behalf of Muslim “sisters”.

      • zanzamander

        I don’t know how double post of my comment happened (if that is what you’re alluding to in your cryptic first line) I blame Disqus – I didn’t delete it out of courtesy to you, seeing that you had already replied to both comments and the sight of someone’s response to a nonexistent comment doesn’t look good.

        Be that as it may, but did you not have a little giggle at Nick’s belief that only women who subscribe to this religious following are brown-skinned (because that is exactly what he is implying)? I thought it was hilariously ignorant.

        As far as Ridley and Booth are concerned, I have seen them being invited to numerous TV interviews, debates, conferences, gatherings etc. precisely because they are white Muslim women converts. – without their conversion, no one would pay them a blind bit of notice. We ignore their views at our own peril.

        BTW, I also am against banning the burqua, again on similar grounds, that it should be personal choice. If nobody is forcing you to sit separately but you nonetheless choose to do so out your own volition (and religious conviction), then what is it to you or anyone else? After all, we do live in a free society, so the legend goes.

        • Richard Sanderson

          Nothing to do with double posts. You keep mentioning “numbers” and how your numbers “are rising”. That is irrelevant.

          Can you point out where Nick has the belief that all Muslims are brown-skinned? Thanks.

          I’ve also seen Ridley and Booth “debate”, and they are no more credible than anybody else. In fact, Ridley in particular, is prepared to defend the patriarchal view of Islam.

          The burqa is a completely separate issue. However, there is a cultural, social, religious, and political pressure, conditioning for many centuries, to make women wear the burqa. It is the same with gender segregation – centuries of conformation and “tradition” mean it is not always a “free choice”, even when women state that it is. If you don’t believe that, speak to ex-Muslims who will tell you they felt pressure to “cover up” and to “segregate themselves”. The pressure was always there, even if it was not explicitly stated.

          Finally, having a “religious conviction” DOES NOT overide other values in a public meeting in a public space, in the same way that in decades past, groups with a particular “religious conviction” (ie the Mormons), would not have the right to segregate black people.

          • zanzamander

            Can you point out where Nick has the belief that all Muslims are brown-skinned?

            No, not after Nick has slyly introduced a word to his original post. I’ve highlighted it for you. Compare the new one below with that of my previous quote of his that I copied ‘n’ pasted previously.

            With the exception of the odd [in all senses of the word] Orthodox Jew, the speakers Universities UK wants to appease are Islamists. So it won’t be women with white skins who will be predominantly affected by this; but women with brown skins.

            That makes all the difference, so thanks Nick!

            And, rising numbers is absolutely relevant, as this matter would have never risen in British (or any Western) universities, oh, a mere couple of decades ago when Muslim population was small compared to what it is today. Same with other areas of Western public life where Islam has come in direct conflict with the long established norms . And as this population rises (as it surely will) these conflicts of values will become even more intense. Don’t take my word for it, just have a look around the world, in Nigeria e.g. in Myanmar, Indonesia, Kenya etc.

            The only way you can ignore this fact is by shutting down on people who bring this fact up.

            BTW, nice try of bringing in the Mormons in a negative sort of a way. Reminding us once again that it is not just Islam.

            • Richard Sanderson

              No, not after Nick has slyly introduced a word to his original post. I’ve highlighted it for you. Compare the new one below with that of my previous quote of his that I copied ‘n’ pasted previously.

              That still does not demonstrate that Nick thinks all Muslims are brown-skinned, which is what you implied. The question as to which people are more affected by this form of gender segregation is a separate issue.

              And, rising numbers is absolutely relevant, as this matter would have never risen in British (or any Western universities, oh, a mere couple of decades ago when Muslim population was small compared to what it is today.

              Take a break and rest your arms after all that moving goalposts around a muddy field. Your earlier mentions of increasing numbers implied that increased numbers meant credibility and justification. I pointed out that it does not. As for whether “increased numbers” means this sort of thing will have to be opposed more often, then that is probably true, but it would also be true to say the numbers of Muslims who oppose gender segregation is on the increase. Regardless, just as when there are “increased numbers” of Far Right racists, the cause will remain the same, and they will be opposed. Numbers don’t matter in this respect.

              BTW, nice try of bringing in the Mormons in a negative sort of a way. Reminding us once again that it is not just Islam.

              Nobody said it was just Islam. In fact, the vast majority of religions have discriminated against women. However, some religions still think they can get away with it.

    • sarah_13

      Lauren Booth chose to convert to Islam before reading the Koran, she says this herself when she appeared on bbc political show where she was discussing her conversion with i think it was Andrew Neil and Kate Hoey and Michael Portillo. I’m not quite sure what religious conviction you can have prior to reading the holy book of the religion you are converting to.

  • zanzamander

    These articles/blogs by Nick Cohen, Douglas Murray et al remind me of scenes from some wildlife documentary where we see little birds pecking diligently away at pachydermic Hippo, wandering completely unperturbed, the wast plains of African Savanna.

    • Alexandrovich

      The bird is not ‘pesky’ and they are ‘unperturbed’ because the birds are removing unwanted tics. It’s called symbiosis.

      • zanzamander

        Ah, symbiotic, the same relation that exists between politicians, media and Islam – mutually beneficial.

  • Ben Cobley

    I normally agree with Nick on the idiot left, but I disagree here. I don’t see what actual evil or wrong is being done by having women and men sitting in different places. We have segregation of different kinds in many parts of public life – schools, sports teams, toilets, changing rooms, ethnically-based organisations and also places of worship. To me this seems to be stepping over the line and targeting a group’s practices because you don’t like the group rather than because the practices are inherently wrong.

    Personally, I don’t like this sort of segregation, and indeed I probably wouldn’t like the groups carrying it out, but in a free society I don’t see how you can be banning it without opening yourself to all sorts of justified accusations of double standards. Target wrong and evil where it takes place, but where no one is actually being harmed, as with this practice of separation, I don’t think it’s right for public bodies to be banning things so casually; it would stink of ideology and intolerance towards difference rather than actual wrongdoing.

    http://afreeleftblog.blogspot.co.uk/

    • zanzamander

      In order not to offend, Nick and his fellow so called journalists, pick the most innocuous of subjects to beat the giant beast (that shall remain nameless). They think they’re being clever, but all they’re ending up doing is making a case for these bigots. They don’t even know yet that they’ve been beaten.

      I agree with you though, if women choose to sit separately, what business is it of Nick? Nobody is forcing them to do so… yet, and when they are, forced in mean, that will be when, thanks to people like Nick and his friends, gender and religious apartheid will be the law of the land anyway, So who cares?

    • Butter Cumpets

      Seriously Ben, are you really too dim to understand the difference between a public lecture held in a public university AND public toilets/ changing rooms, sport teams etc? If morons of faith wish to segregate in their spaces then it’s up to them, but public places like lecture halls etc are secular spaces and must be kept open to all.

      • Ben Cobley

        Yes, I am too dim to not understand that a toilet and a lecture are different things. Sorry!

        • Sarka

          Okay, let’s try to help you.
          Simple exercise:
          1) Explain the cultural rationale for provision of separate women’s and men’s loos.
          2) Explain the cultural rationale for organisation of separate men’s and women’s sports teams (where they are separate, this is not invariable)
          Is the rationale at all different?

          If – as I think you’ll find on reflection, the rationale is somewhat different, then it will become clearer to you that segregation in different contexts is legitimised by its specific meanings and purposes in each case. This is why I wouldn”t get far arguing in Western society that BECAUSE public toilets were separate, and football teams were separate, nobody should object to offices being segregated, or public transport being segregated.

          So – if you want to adduce separate toilets etc etc…as a reason for allowing segregation in a public, usually on-principle non-segregated space, except for toilets and changing rooms ( a university – not for example a centre owned or run by a religious organisation, where the organisers can to some extent make their own rules), then you have to demonstrate how that segregation is LIKE toilet segregation etc, in rationale. Now it is not obvious that attending a public lecture, whether for a man or woman, is like going to have a pee, stripping off etc….nor is it obvious that men and women attending a lecture require to be segregated to ensure that e.g. women, being physically generally weaker, will have more of a far fight with each other, and men will also better compete with their peers, if punch-ups ensue in the course of the lively debate over the lecture!

          Once you concede – as you must – that meaning and purpose is relevant, you can see that your toilet and sports arguments become largely irrelevant Unless, of course, you are arguing a radical libertarian cultural relativist case according to which a university should, for example, have no objection to a nudist hedonist society having a public meeting at which those attending are required to strip off and pee publicly (after all, people strip off in communal bathrooms and pee in front of each other in urinals, so what’s the prob?).

          You suggest that segregated seating (unless front back) doesn’t harm anyone – which is a slightly better argument than the toilets rubbish. I would respond that it harms the university ethos (by the way, the report refers to the need for events to be in line with university ethos/principles, but fails to define or develop the notion), according to which conditions for public events at the uni should not be out of kilter with principles for lecturing and teaching and other directly uni-organised public events normal for the university in its mission.

          Worst of all, though, is the argument in the report that the outside speaker has (possibly) the right to lay down conditions as a matter of his/her free speech (which is not the same as the no-harm argument at all!). This is not only ridiculous generally, but – to take the most obvious next step – means that the speaker could insist that all women listening to him be veiled, for example…or be removed to another room (well – if video and sound quality were good, who would it harm?)

          Finally there is a general political context, which is evident from close inspection of the report, and is quite amusing in a grim way.

          The report offers five invented cases as a way of illustrating contemporary uni problems with outside speakers: They are:
          – the religious speaker and segregation (amusingly the word used is “Orthodox”, suggesting maybe Jews, but clearly in context it is a Muslim issue.
          – a Saudi Arabian lawyer arguing for Shariah at a Law Society meeting (bad publicity, human rights issues etc etc.)
          – A Palestinian Society threatened with trouble by extremist pro-Israelis when they invite some Palestinian speaker.
          – A Pentacostalist (???) local preacher with strong antigay views who is invited by some Christian society and a rumpus threatens…
          – A BNP speaker – to whom an SU “No Platform”policy applies, but not a uni no-platform policy.

          What’s funny is that the list has been fiddled with a bit to prevent a rather obvious impression:
          – Problems around Israel/Palestine at British campuses almost invariable involve extreme BDsers/ Muslim reps disrupting JSocs/Israel speakers, NOT vice versa as in the fiction case.
          – Pentacostalist preachers? At unis? C’mon…the problems with very serious anti-gay stuff have all been with Muslim preachers.

          Which makes four out of the five cases basically about Islamic related problems.

          That’s the real political context, Ben…and a worrying one. ,

          .

          .

          .

          • Ben Cobley

            If you want someone to respond properly to your very long comment, it isn’t a good idea to patronise them in your first sentence (I certainly don’t need your ‘help’). But anyway, all I am doing with the toilets etc example is to show that segregation and discrimination is already practised in many contexts. The core point at issue is whether inequality is being practised, and in my view UUK is right that segregation can be practised equally towards male and female. After all the abuse and criticism I received here and elsewhere, I ended up doing a blogpost to explain myself fully: http://afreeleftblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/gender-segregation-and-clash-of.html

            • Sarka

              If you want to do the mock “I’m dim” stunt, then you can expect the mock patronising stunt in return and should have the sense not to complain about it.

              Other than that – which you asked for – I was not abusive to you at all and offered comments at length (I read your blog piece before doing so).

              I paid you the compliment (not at all an insult) of setting out my objections to your view at length. I’m not interested in your self-pity about abuse and criticism. I’m only interested in your arguments – and you have not yet presented any more.

            • Penny

              Ben

              Your blog article mentions a hypothetical case study. Let’s look at a real case, and one which it is fair to say has highlighted at least one issue with gender segregation: the debate between Laurence Krauss and Hamza Tzortzis. I can’t remember the precise wording of the motion but the essence was: what’s best, Islam or atheism?

              Krauss walked out of that debate when he realised the audience was being segregated, returning only when mixed seating was allowed.

              This was a debate in which a mixed audience was expected to accept segregation being imposed upon them when attending a debate – not a religious meeting or talk. Who, in your view, held the moral right: Tzortzis or Krauss? And why?

              Ben – I’ve asked you to explain why you think a visiting cleric would ask for women to sit separately from men and you haven’t replied. I’m asking again because, as I’ve said, in my view you cannot divorce rationale from action.

            • Penny

              Ben – you may think you’re “showing that segregation and discrimination is already practiced in many contexts”, but you aren’t. You’ve simply listed facilities that men and women use separately. That is not an explanation of segregation or discrimination. You would have to identify the ways in which I, as a woman, experience discrimination and/or inequality when I go into ( for example) a female-only changing room or toilet.

    • sarahsmith232

      So it didn’t take long for someone to invoke the intolerance line. That’s nowhere near as dead simple as you think. What you’re actually commenting on is rights. The more diverse a society the more rights will clash w/ each other in ways w/ are absolutely irreconcilable.
      You say ‘no one is harmed’. What on earth are you going on about dear? Women’s right to choose to sit wherever they **** well please being thrown out by a Uni’ is not an e.g of causing harm? What??
      It is absolutely relevant that this is a state funded body, it means that the state has marked out new terrain in society which states that morally and ethically that is acceptable behaviour.
      So this has got didely-squat to do w/ intolerance of difference. It’s about rights, who’s should be understood as supreme. The state body has officially marked women’s rights as secondary. You’re completely missing the point when you talk about intolerance. Personally, do your worse dear, label a female like me as absolutely, rock solidly intolerant. I am not going to tolerate being treated as 3rd class citizen by the still a couple of centuries away from the Enlightenment movement newly acquired members of our society, on the say so of a pack of prat looney Left idiots.

      • Ben Cobley

        You seem to be arguing against someone else there, “dear”. I never advocated anyone getting thrown out by a university for sitting where they wanted. I am however in favour of letting people self-segregate if that is what they want to do. Are we a free society or not? Or are we up for needless and pointless ideological wars (of which one seems to be brewing nicely here between Islamists and feminists)?

        • Rocio Deliot

          Which bit of “this will be forced segregation” did you not understand? Self segregation happens if you have a free space and you sit where they want, with your male friends if you are a male or your female friends if you are a female. You have no right however to tell others to move away by reason of gender. Here there will be two arrows, one to the left saying “brothers” and another saying “sisters”. As a woman I find this extremely humiliating!

          • Ben Cobley

            But do you want to go to Islamic society meetings in university Rocio? Isn’t it up to them how they conduct their affairs, as long as they don’t break reasonable rules around hate speech and pejorative language to women and/or other groups (the ‘infidel’ for example)? If these events are conducted in a respectful manner to those who choose to attend because they want to be there and don’t break decent rules, I don’t see a case for banning them. Indeed I would see it as a provocative act that would backfire and needlessly increase antagonism.

            • Rocio Deliot

              Here we go, racism of lower expectations…I detect that you wouldn’t want to go yourself, but hey, ” let those inferior creatures practice their barbaric customs…” let’s face it, that is your attitude. And yes, we will be organising events to break segregation. And FYI, segregating IS breaking reasonable rules, segregation IS hate.

              • Rocio Deliot

                I can’t believe you said: “isn’t it up to them”? Who is “them”? Them and us?……Just appalling Ben, utterly wrong

                • Ben Cobley

                  I’m sorry Rocio, I normally don’t use bad language on public boards, but that is a truly idiotic thing to say. To claim there is no differentiation between a Muslim and a non-Muslim (which I just proved isn’t the case by using those words) is a classic case of liberal-left ideology gone crazy. And also to call me a racist – very, very poor.

                • Rocio Deliot

                  WHATT? You are saying that Muslims and non Muslims are essentially different? You are outright racist. Need I say more?

                • Ben Cobley

                  I didn’t say they were *essentially* different. It’s very poor practice to be putting words into people’s mouths like that and then slandering them based on those words that you have said and they haven’t.

                • Rocio Deliot

                  Kindly then explain what you mean by “them”. Has it ever occurred to you that Muslims oppose apartheid??? And that Muslims are the number one victims of Islamism? Do you not consider their struggle worthy of your time that you have to reduce your arguments to “let them decide, I wash my hands”???

                • Ben Cobley

                  You’re not very clever are you Rocio? And not very pleasant either.

                • Rocio Deliot

                  The one who uses the ad hominems is not the clever one. I went to a protest yesterday and all Muslims in Tavistock Square shouted loud and clear: “Religious leaders don’t speak for us”. But you want to believe they are all fanatical Islamists…not very clever. Muslims are not Islamists, they are their victims.

                • Penny

                  Ben – I think you may be falling into the trap of believing that all Muslims agree with gender segregation. This is just not the case. Those who do not may wish to attend a talk – not all meetings are echo chambers of belief and some may want to question/challenge – perhaps on the issue of gender segregation. In a private venue they may simply have to accept this rule, but not in the public square.

                  As I said above, this requirement is new. These speakers have manged perfectly well in the past so the notion of their religious rights being infringed seems somewhat convenient.

                • Richard Ferguson

                  Come on, I don’t agree with Ben’s arguments at all but that’s quite a straw man you’ve thrown up there Rocio.

                • zanzamander

                  Talk about hyperbole. No one is doing witchcraft or killing kids here, this is about freedom of women (and men) to sit where they like, even in a separate space provided exclusively or them, if they so wish. They’re not made to sit on the floor or at the back or by force. It is like the burqua – if women willingly want to wear the blanket, who am I to object?

                • Rocio Deliot

                  “If they so wish”…who says that’s what they wish??? Who would wish to be forcefully segregated? I haven’t yet met a Muslim who agrees with segregation (PS by Muslim I don’t mean “fanatical extremist”, I mean my friends, neighbours, colleagues who would all disagree with you)

                • Alexandrovich

                  You must be quite young otherwise you wouldn’t waste your time being reasonable with him. You’ll soon recognise his mealy-mouthed intractability for what it is. If you don’t, you’ll reduce your argument to angels and pinheads before you can say knife.

            • Alexsandr

              But these are meetings in a public taxpayer funded building, so we should expect those using them to do so within normal British behaviour. We don’t allow segregation on grounds of colour, why should we allow it on grounds of gender?

              • Ben Cobley

                Since when did you have to be ‘normal’ to be allowed to speak in a university? Also, why not argue on the actual point of gender segregation (in which both genders are being segregated equally) rather than arguing about race, which isn’t at issue here and is illegal under the Equality Act?

                • Alexsandr

                  so is gender inequality
                  wake up!

                • Ben Cobley

                  But it’s not inequality: the segregation is happening to both sexes under the same terms.

                • Alexsandr

                  so if I turn up with my partner would we sit in the men bit or the woman bit? or would he be forced to separate?

                • sarah_13

                  That is the point, both genders are not being segregated equally, that is a rouse, 5 minutes considering the ideology and reasoning behind the segregation will disabuse anyone of that notion. The problem is those allowing this will not scrutinise the reasons behind out of fear and that is a further abuse of liberalism. All ideologies and views are to be exposed to criticism without fear or favour, no ideology can be held in an untouchable position. The purpose of the segregation is designed to undermine the autonomy and sovereignty of women and their right to hear the same arguments, and make the same choices and decisions as men. A few minutes listening to the authority that those who propose this segregation is sufficient for anyone with any interest in intellectual honesty. To allow this is not to prevent freedom of association it is to give credence to misogyny, to do the misogynists work for them and to turn liberalism on its head.

                • Ben Cobley

                  But the Universities UK report that is the centre of this storm says specifically, and I quote: “if the speaker
                  is unwilling to accept [both segregated and non-segregated areas], the institution will need to consider the speaker’s reasons under equalities legislation”. So, they will actually scrutinise the reasons, and you seem not to know what you are talking about, using this as an excuse to attack Muslims for *other* practices and other reasons.

                • sarah_13

                  I do not attack anyone for “other” practices. ALL PRACTICES in a liberal society should be exposed to all manner of scrutiny. In respect of the quote from the report you use, it simply reinforces and exposes the cowardly and unacceptable position of UK universities “guidance”. It is obscure in an attempt to avoid a clear position. The quote you use restates that segregation is unacceptable under equalities legislation, so any advice purporting to give acceptance to segregation is simply unacceptable. Their advice should end there but in attempt to appease segregation they have not done that. The headline advice does not state this and that is deliberate. By not stating this clearly they give a veneer of credence to segregation, knowing full well that it cannot be defended without simply ignoring the truthful reasons or accepting disingenuous arguments. So, what they will in fact do sir, is ignore where they can segregation unless others do their work for them and kick up enough stink …they have evaded their responsibility as representatives of l beal universities in the UK.

        • sarahsmith232

          Er, yes you did. You’re saying that female students shouldn’t be allowed to attend discussions on their campus if they’re not prepared to bow to this.
          Yes dear, we are a free society, w/ is exactly the reason why women should be freely allowed to choose for themselves where they want to sit. Nothing pointless or needless about this, you either believe that a female student has the right to choose for herself where she wants to sit or you believe she deserves to be dictated to by the backward. Uni’/s have chosen, they’re saying that females rights are inferior when they clash w/ the rights of the religious fanatic.

          • Ben Cobley

            Another one – putting words into my mouth. Very poor. If your argument is good enough, then you should be able to make it using the truth rather than resorting to inventions.

    • Nan Parkinson

      Ben – you say: “…in a free society I don’t see how you can be banning it…” Don’t you see a contradiction in your view, there? In a free society, how can one even contemplate forcing women to sit separately from men in a public meeting in the UK???? I wish I were a student again – I would plonk myself down among all those men.

      • Ben Cobley

        The point is that, whether you or I like it or not, Islamic cultures do practice gender segregation. I think it’s their right to do this in our country too. When it comes down to it, you are asserting your right to sit where you like over that of Muslim women who want to sit separately to men. I say fair enough for your belief (which I share), but that we should exercise a little tolerance unless actual harm is being done. You could just as well go and sit in the men’s toilets in a public building or demand to play in the men’s football team of your university – your point wouldn’t be much different.

        • Nan Parkinson

          Thanks, Ben, for your reply. I don’t think Islamic cultures do have a right to practice gender segregation in public meetings in this country. Our hard-won gender equality laws must surely take precedence.

          • Ben Cobley

            I guess the crux here is what is a ‘public’ meeting. I sympathise with your view on this, but it’s a definite grey area whether an Islamic Society meeting counts as a meeting of that society or as a public meeting, and indeed if a gathering in a mosque is private or public.

            On gender equality, there’s a disjuncture there between you and a Muslim woman who wants men and women to sit separately – that’s a dilemma that can’t be resolved according to the mores of equality – it’s a judgement call in which one or other side is going to get offended.

            • Nan Parkinson

              If an Islamic Society meeting were to be held and ALL were invited (an open meeting), then I would expect to be able to attend it (for interest’s sake) and I would certainly expect to sit wherever I wanted to sit. If the meeting organiser stated: “for Muslims only” then I would not attned. HOWEVER, what if one or more Muslim women (or men?) attending happened to disagree with the segregated seating policy? E.g. what if some Muslims think this is an outdated tradition that should be revised?

              • Penny

                Your latter point is one I’ve just made below, Nan (our comments were posted simultaneously).

                There is an assumption here that a) all Muslims are in agreement with the speaker’s view and b) all Muslims agree with gender segregation. This is patently not the case. Generally speaking, most talks allow for the speaker to be questioned and challenged so I think it highly likely attendees both for and against the views aired would want to be present.

                Recently Laurence Krauss spoke alongside Hamza Tzortzis. Krauss refused to speak to a gender-segregated audience and walked out (until the situation had been rectified). As he walked out you can clearly hear both cheers/applause and boos – indicating that there certainly were people in the audience who were supportive of his position.

                Let people do as they wish in private venues – but the public square should not have any single group, organisation or religion dictate terms.

            • itbeso

              Personally i take great pleasure in offending fascists.

        • Penny

          Ben – some of the examples you cite aren’t all equal. Toilets and changing rooms are separate due to the requirement for personal privacy. Parent’s may choose single-sex schools out of a belief that the education is better. Teams – well, I expect this is just a preference based on the sport in question and the degree of physical strength/contact. I’d imagine a mixed rugby team is impractical. I agree, however, that religious buildings can do what they please. The difference between these places and a university is that the latter is considered public space and it is ill-advised to allow any religious person to dictate the terms therein.

          • Penny

            I would add that I think the reasons for segregation cannot be divorced from the reasons for its implementation. Nor can the issue of competing rights.

            Why does a speaker demand gender segregation? Is it for practical or privacy reasons? In the case in question I would say not. It is simply a religious belief – and one only recently seen as necessary. Muslims have been in the UK for decades and speakers have managed quite well until now.

            Is it the case that all of those wishing to attend are in agreement with gender segregation? I think that, too, is unlikely – it’s an assumption that all wishing to attend a talk are a) all Muslims b) Muslims that agree with gender segregation c) all in agreement with the speaker’s views. So who’s rights do we consider?

          • Ben Cobley

            Hi Penny, I’ve slightly changed my mind on this, thinking that it really revolves around whether a meeting is public or private. If it is public, and all are invited, then I think it’s unacceptable for any speaker to be dictating to a university how they distribute their people by gender or anything else. But if it’s a meeting of the Islamic Society for example (which is kind of public too) then I say it’s up to them how they do their business as long as they stick within rules of respect and decency.

            • Penny

              I’ve answered your comment elsewhere, Ben, so won’t repeat myself here except to say that I’m curious as to what might be interpreted as being matters of “respect and decency”.

              Personally, as a female aware of past sexism, I would ask you to consider why these speakers want men and women segregated. What is the underlying reason? I would suggest that it has nothing to do with privacy or practicality but is framed by a view of women that the majority do not find particularly wholesome. In the public space, then, where all should stand equal, are my rights to equality lesser than a male speaker’s preferences?

              The point I’m trying to make is there are competing rights in any society and juggling whose trumps whose would become a rather chaotic nightmare should we open the door to them in the public square. We must leave this completely free of the right to impose a view/belief of any description so that we can compete on equal terms.

              • sarah_13

                Having read your comments above Penny I very much agree. I have mentioned this above but I think it might be worth repeating i.e. what is the essence of liberalism? The intention behind all gender segregation is to undermine women’s autonomy; their sovereignty. This is the antithesis of liberalism. This segregation is designed to treat women differently, to not expose women to the same arguments, in the same circumstances as men and this is illiberal. For anyone to purport to make a liberal argument defending sexual segregation is to deliberately to misconstrue and misapprehend liberalism, but worse it is to give credence to misogyny.

                • Penny

                  I agree, Sarah.

                  I’m afraid I see this particular instance of “tolerance” as a product of confusion – and a touch of social piety.

            • itbeso

              It’s a meeting of an Islamic student body in a British University campus. They don’t get to spread their inequality on our campus. It is public property. They want to do it in a mosque built with Saudi money they can. Time we checked the source of the funds for these mega mosques however.

        • laurence

          This is the kind of partially cooked quasi-liberal idiocy that Nick bemoans; a spurious, ill-thought out moral relativism that in its desire not to offend ends up being wholly illiberal and wholly offensive. You seem to have a poorly developed positive view of freedom: people ought to be free to do whatever they wish. Do you, though, account for negative freedom, that is freedom from? What if positive freedoms – the right to maintain a vile practice imported from one’s home society – conflicts with our society’s wish to reject these practices; what happens to our having freedom from? In ancient Sparta, disabled children were thrown from cliffs. I presume were this still practiced today you would counsel our not interfering nor condemning since ‘it’s how they do things there’. Too much? What about female genital mutilation? That too is imported from Islamic cultural hotspots like Somalia. Indeed, recent news reports would seem to indicate that these fine chaps choose this country to perform this barbarism simply because we are too frightened to be labled ‘racist’ if we voice opposition. Go have a read at Colin McGinn’s The Making of a Philosopher. It is easily accessible for a novice and there you will find a clear and effective filleting of the kind of naive cultural relativism with which well-meaning students arrive at university.

          • Ben Cobley

            I am far from a moral relativist, laurence. In fact I believe the liberal-left needs to start privileging ethics and ditch the ideology. I do however believe in tolerance of the tolerable; gender separation is not something I like but is something I am prepared to tolerate if it is important to other people and does no direct harm.

            • Nan Parkinson

              Thanks to all for this v. interesting discussion – good talk. Bye for now.

              • Ben Cobley

                You too Nan.

            • Penny

              “I am prepared to tolerate it”

              Ben – I’m trying not to be sarcastic here, but who are you to tolerate illiberal practices perpetrated on women?

              Our society has fought to establish gender and other equalities. There are women in other societies trying to do likewise. Given the type of punishments that their governments dole out they are likely braver than our own suffragettes and do not need us to *tolerate* the very thing they’re trying to shake off.

              • Ben Cobley

                As the Universities UK report points out, in this case,
                “Both men and women are being treated equally, as
                they are both being segregated in the same way.” Your version of liberalism and indeed of equality is ideological rather than based on values. You attack this practice of self-segregation because it is Muslims practising it (c.f your comment about ‘their governments’) rather than what it actually is – there’s a slippery slope there which ends up in some very illiberal and inequitable places.

                • Penny

                  Ben – There isn’t anything I’ve said that warrants your comment that I “attack this practice….because it is Muslims practicing it” You have imposed your own rather bad faith assumptions here. I certainly can make judgement calls on governments that hang gays from cranes, stone people to death and behead people for ridiculous claims of sorcery. I can condemn practices that are against universal values of human rights. If you cannot make the same judgement calls, Ben, then that, in my view, is not a call for tolerance but an abnegation of social responsibility.

                  I would like to know what you think lies behind the practice of segregation – in this case. Why does the cleric make this a condition of speech?

                  I don’t think you’re seeing the real slippery slope, Ben. You are narrowing this discussion down to the moment when in my view, there is a need to understand the value of a free, lacking-in-imposition, public square.

          • sarah_13

            I agree. I think you could add further that at the heart of the liberalism that our society, until recently, was the value of individual autonomy and sovereignty. The imposition of segregation by gender is entirely illiberal, it is designed to undermine the autonomy of women, to expose them to arguments in different circumstances than men and indeed to different arguments and could never be acceptable in any society that purports to be liberal. All people must be exposed to all arguments, the right to hear all there is to be said on any subject so that without coercion the individual makes up her/his mind for themselves on any matter. Beyond that the fact that some ideologies, whether political, religious or both are given special untouchable status and cannot be criticised is a big problem in a liberal society. JS Mill didn’t take care to elucidate his arguments on this matter for nothing, the fact that all subjects no matter the truth of them, the dogma status etc must be constantly exposed to argument means that any illiberal ideology would in time be exposed and discarded unless artificially protected, as in totalitarian regimes or religious republics. A society that privileges some texts as perfect and untouchable whilst exposing others to argument is not liberal and never can be and those who give credence to the illiberal with supposedly liberal arguments are entirely misguided.

        • Alexandrovich

          Islamic cultures practice lots of things you idiot. For example, death by stoning for adultery, Do you ” think it’s their right to do this in our country too.”?

          • Richard Ferguson

            OK, I’ll bite. As I’ve said I don’t agree with Ben’s arguments in any way but he has responded elsewhere and this would be unacceptable because of “respect, taste and decency” grounds etc

            But what I wanted to say was can you refrain from the “you idiot” stuff, please? Leave that market to the Mail, Telegraph and Comment is free websites.

            • Alexandrovich

              Now two idiots have pitched up.

        • itbeso

          “whether you or I like it or not, Islamic cultures do practice gender segregation.”

          The UK does not have an Islamic culture.

        • Jambo25

          Islamic cultures are free to do what they wish in Islamic societies. When they transport themselves to post-Christian, secular Britain that may have to change as they are no longer existing in an Islamic society. If the Islamic adherents wish they can build, buy or hire private facilities so they can do what they see as Islamicky things. If, however, they wish to import their beliefs into the publicly funded sphere then, perhaps, they should consider a one way ticket back to some Islamic society where they will, no doubt, be happier.

        • sarah_13

          I would say it is not even “their right to do this” in their own country, to use your expression. The fact that gender segregation exists anywhere in the world and almost always directly associated with it rights violations from the small the the egregious, does not mean their is any right to the paternalistic imposition of a sexual segretation. Gender segregation is always initially implemented by coercion as in saudi arabia etc and iran, and from force can become custom and tacit acquiescence, acceptance is achieved last, after much enforcement and coercion.

          The idea that segregating women in this way is not causing some harm I think is wrong. My view is that first principles would tell us that all ideology whether religious or political or both should, and must, be exposed to argument and criticism whether true, false, half true or simply a truth that has become a dogma. The purpose of this is that everyone is able to hear all the arguments freely, so that those listening as well as those speaking may make up their minds as to their beliefs having heard all there is to be said on the subject; it is autonomy that the classic Millian liberal wishes to preserve. The autonomy of women and men to hear all the arguments to make up their mind, to be sovereign, is at the essence of liberalism. The idea that it is liberal to protect the segregation of women, the reasoning behind such segregation being to limit autonomy and to treat women differently, to impede their ability to be sovereign to think or to sit where they want is an extension to far, and more importantly is thoroughly illiberal.

          So unless we can expose all ideological or religious thinking to the same scrutiny then liberal principles are not being respected and the idea that banning something so overtly illiberal could be justified to protect the illiberal and retrograde discriminatory ideas of any particular group is turning liberalism completely on its head. Liberalism only works because all exist on a level playing field, no special treatment for certain dogmas and not others, all are exposed and fall if they don’t persuade without special treatment.

      • Rocio Deliot

        Nan, this is being organised, the protest last nite was the beginning. Maryam Namazie issued a warning: we will be busting this. We will be attending segregated events to break the segregation. Watch this space

        • Nan Parkinson

          Very pleased to hear it. Well done.

        • Richard Ferguson

          Go for it Rocio.

    • Ben Allen

      Firstly, we aren’t talking about banning it. We’re talking about whether it should be allowed at taxpayer-funded Universities.

      Look at it this way. Would you allow a speaker to segregate according to race? Or religion? Or according to gender, on non-religious grounds? If not, I’d like your take on why those things are different from what’s being discussed.

      The answer is obvious. The only reason this is even happening is because people are too spineless to tackle religious misogyny. Religion gets a free pass. Well, fuck that.

      • Ben Cobley

        Good arguments Ben that I have a lot of sympathy with. I think this issue really comes into a grey area that raises all sorts of questions about the equalities agenda. I certainly don’t think it’s acceptable for a speaker to dictate segregation to a university, but if it’s happening within the confines of an Islamic Society in a university, then that’s up to them, and tolerance is due. But the principle itself of being against segregation per se quite clearly doesn’t work because it is practised in so many other places in our society, including within universities and other institutions. If it’s freely accepted and chosen, then I think there’s a measure of respect to be shown for that – the crux comes with a public event, and this issue lies on the boundary of public and private from what I can see.

        • Penny

          Ben – putting aside the general arguments against gender segregation, this isn’t about who organises an event – it’s about the venue. If an Islamic society hires out, say, a conference room in a hotel then it is hiring private space and so, within the confines of the law, may do as it pleases and invite who it pleases.

          A university or any other public building should not be host to any group – religious or otherwise – who require different rules than are normal within wider society.

          • Ben Cobley

            But gender segregation is normal within Muslim communities. Do they not count as real ‘society’, unless they conform to your views? I think we’ve got to be very careful here and stick to principles, including that of tolerance unless there is clear harm being done.

            • Penny

              Ben – with respect I do think you’re missing the point. Not least because I think you are considering Muslims as signing up en bloc to a very new development in terms of their religious rights.

              I have no issues with any community doing as it wishes (lawfully) in a venue it has hired for its own purposes. Talks, receptions, wedding parties – whatever the reasons – they’ve hired a private space and can do as they wish and invite who they will.

              What we have to consider are a ) precedents and b) the many different communities that exist in the UK and whose rights might be said to be competing. If we say it is OK for one of them to impose their beliefs upon others in the public space (and this is the critical factor), then can we stop other groups or those holding minority rationales? The public space has to be kept free of impositions so that all can be represented on equal terms.

            • laurence

              Ben, you are confusing facts and values. From the fact that gender segregation or, for that matter, female genital mutilation, is practiced in Moslem communities, it does not follow that such practices are valuable, to be tolerated, to be accepted or to be encouraged here or anywhere else. Also, the ‘harm’ that you mention seems to be, prima facie, a reasonable if utilitarian criterion for moral acceptability but do you intend simply physical harm, or do you include mental harm? Frankly, the dressing of women in sacks, the treating of them as chattels – of which this segregation is an instance – ,the visceral loathing of Jews, the contempt for our values, that abound in these ‘communities’ may all be physically harmless to me but they absolutely appal my liberal (in the classic sense) sensibilities. Does that count as ‘mental harm’? Ought they then to be proscribed? If not, why not?

              • Ben Cobley

                Confusing facts and values? You don’t know what you’re talking about.

                • laurence

                  Ah, I’m afraid I do. Firstly, I wasn’t talking, I was writing. Secondly, the differentiation of facts and values is a relatively basic ethical concept that has its origins in Hume’s claim that one cannot derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’. Your ‘argument’ attempts to do just that: Muslims practice segregation (fact); therefore we ought to permit its continuance (value). Clear enough?

                  Best not to bring a spoon to a gun fight.

                • Ben Cobley

                  I am completely aware of Hume and his argument, and indeed agree with it. My issue was with your application of it, but I’d now add your petty, snobbish and ignorant attitude.

                • laurence

                  Ah, no. You claimed that I ‘didn’t know what I was talking about’. I clearly do. Secondly, knowing about something and being able to apply that something are two different abilities. You might possess the former. Lastly, ‘petty’, if by that you mean fastidious, then yes, guilty as charged. ‘Snobbish’?: sometimes, perhaps overly so. ‘Ignorant’. Nah.

            • Richard Sanderson

              But gender segregation is normal within Muslim communities.

              Actually, many Muslims reject gender segregation. Also, “normal” DOES NOT mean “right”.

              Do they not count as real ‘society’, unless they conform to your views?

              The view that everybody is equal, and that gender segregation is wrong, is not “my view” or “his view”, it is a universal human right. Some people, of course, disagree with basic universal human rights. Those people are WRONG, and should be opposed.

              I think we’ve got to be very careful here and stick to principles, including that of tolerance unless there is clear harm being done.

              Again, you would not tolerate racial segregation, and in the past, there were instances when the group discriminated against (for example black people in South Africa), would AGREE to racial segregation because it was seen as “normal”. As for harm, there are many Muslims who are forced to keep quiet and accept the status quo when these types of segregation is forced upon them. This “force” does not have to be explicit, it can simply be conditioning via centuries of social, political, religious, and cultural pressure. If they are forced to cede their basic rights, that is harmful.

          • FrenchNewsonlin

            Its more than a “public space”, its an academic institution supposedly dedicated to teaching, learning and academic freedom. Surely it is ludicrous even to consider allowing apartheid-style segregation in such a space?

            • Penny

              Yes – I take your point and agree, but some have argued that a university has to be open to all points of view and, retrograde though it is, some seem to see segregation as just another point of view that must be tolerated. The point they’re missing (aside from the rationale for this segregation) is that once you open up public space and allow organisations to impose the terms and conditions of debate/attendance, you’ve set foot on a slippery slope. It may begin with attendance at a talk but where will it go next? And how, having been permitted in a public space once, can it be argued against? And then which group will next make a case for its norms to be accepted and adjusted to by wider society? And while it may all seem a bit “what if”, it’s often the case that although societies can change as a result of a sudden, outside impact, they may also slide their way slowly into negative change.

              • FrenchNewsonlin

                These ‘some’ referred to that are keen to “see segregation as just another point of view that must be tolerated” were notably absent from campuses and mainstream media when segregation under the thankfully defunct Apartheid system was the great hate of the UK liberal establishment!

                There should surely be no place for segregating anyone in academic pursuit (and that includes clubs and societies) on a university campus unless one is sacrificing all the principles on which a university is grounded. Suggesting otherwise is surely just pandering to the cultural relativism and political correctness of the Left.

    • Richard Sanderson

      Ben, really? The issue is about segregation in a public meeting place, not in toilets, changing rooms, sports teams or any of the other fallacious reasons you came up with.

      As for “stepping over the line” and “targeting a group’s practices”, I bet you would NOT support other forms of segregation, even if it was part of THEIR practice. By saying this, you are privileging religion. I suspect you would not support gender segregation for political reasons, or racial segregation for political reasons, but when it comes to religious reasons (and those reasons come from extremists such as the iERA), you suddenly start dancing.

      Your point about it being “hypocrisy” for banning it seems odd. Racial segregation is banned, is it not? Is that hypocritical? It seems like you have got yourself confused in a pit of dodgy cultural and religious relativism. On this issue, you have sided with right-wing extremists.

      • Ben Cobley

        I don’t *support* this at all RIchard. I *tolerate* it. Unfortunately this idea seems to have become lost amidst all the heavy-breathing.

        • Richard Sanderson

          That’s the catch. Why “tolerate” this form of segregation, when your attitude would be (I suspect) much different if it was racial segregation.

          When looking at these cases, you have to delve into the history of why these forms of segregation occur. The “religious excuses” we have heard, are no more valid than the racial excuses we used to get. Both forms of segregation developed because of the view than one group is inferior.

          • Ben Cobley

            But it’s voluntary Richard. That is actually the catch. If a bunch of white people and black people decide to go to a lecture which is advertised as segregated, without any antagonism to each other, who am I to say they are wrong? I could even imagine interesting things happening in such a context. Your argument and many of the others who have attacked and engaged with me on this board revert to something other than the actual point at issue – to the ‘history of why these forms occur’ and ‘religious excuses’ in your view, and to what Islamism is all about in others’. No one that I have seen has given a decent argument against basic separation occurring without associating it with *other* practices that they don’t like.

            My whole point is that we make a mistake by attacking practices not for the practices themselves, but for *who* is making them, and our assumptions about their beliefs and ideologies. So gender separation is associated with the inferiority of women, which isn’t necessarily the case at all. I say ban and stop people doing things when they clearly express views such as the inferiority of women. Having a room in which men and women are sitting in separate places isn’t that.

            • Richard Sanderson

              But it’s voluntary Richard. That is actually the catch. If a bunch of
              white people and black people decide to go to a lecture which is
              advertised as segregated, without any antagonism to each other, who am I
              to say they are wrong?

              I’ve explained this before. This did actually occur under Apartheid, and it is NOT voluntary. It is borne out of decades (centuries in terms of religious gender segregation) of conforming people to the view that groups of people are inferior and need to be separate. As a result, there does not need to be an explicit pressure to segregate, as segregation is seen itself as the default because of decades and centuries of society, religion, and culture telling people this. I repeat, under Apartheid, many black people “volunteered” and even supported segregation – because they were conditioned to think that was the norm. I don’t need to explain any further on why this is STILL wrong.

              Further, if you need any evidence that the choice of segregation is NOT voluntary, ask an ex-Muslim.

              No one that I have seen has given a decent argument against basic separation occurring without associating it with *other practices that they don’t like.

              I obviously disagree completely, and I’ve seen a number of arguments pointing out how wrong your reasoning is. Also, the problem you have with comparisons to other practices is down to the fact you privilege religion ABOVE all other beliefs and practices. The fact that you think religious-based segregation should be given more leeway than racial segregation, demonstrates perfectly your privileging of religion.

              My whole point is that we make a mistake by attacking practices not for the practices themselves, but for *who* is making them, and our assumptions about their beliefs and ideologies.

              Yet again, Ben, you WOULD NOT come out with the same whataboutery if it was practices involving racial segregation. This is your central problem – you privilege religion so that it can justify segregation when you would not support those justifications for non-religious reasons. Also, is people decide to agree to segregation, then assumptions can and should be made about why. As far as the organisers of that conference are concerned (iERA), we know why, and the reasons are very dodgy indeed.

              So gender separation is associated with the inferiority of women, which isn’t necessarily the case at all.

              You don’t have any experience of this form of gender segregation. Studying the history, examining the output of iERA, asking Muslims who oppose gender segregation, and asking ex-Muslims their opinion, will lead you directly to the FACT it is down to seeing women as inferior, as demonstrated by the practice of seating women at the back. That is something the iERA would do if they were brazen enough to think they could get away with it.

              Having a room in which men and women are sitting in separate places isn’t that.

              Context, context, Ben. If the room is a public space funded by the public, that changed everything. Also, this is not a question to be asked in isolation – you have to know the reasons why gender segregation is being requested. Those reasons have been illustrated by me and many others.

            • Penny

              Ben – how can it be wholly voluntary if gender-segregation is a condition of attendance? Where does that leave those who want to question / challenge the speaker but whose values abhor the notion of segregation? As this is public space we’re talking about, it then becomes a matter of competing rights: the speaker’s right to adhere to his *genuinely held* belief and another’s *genuinely held* belief that gender segregation is demeaning to women.

              The argument of “if you don’t agree, don’t go” doesn’t stack up because we aren’t talking about private venues but events held in the public square. No one should be prevented from attending because of an uncommon rule imposed by one group. No one should be exempt from dissent.

              Ben – all types of religious practices are accepted in the UK, but I’m not sure society can be expected to continually adjust to “add-ons” – that is, any faith continually adding new and orthodox practices that impact on the public square and/or place a section of the community under different laws and rules to the majority.

              If gender segregation in this instance – a tax-payer funded university – is allowed then it may well be requested in other, public spaces. And if it is allowed for one group, then what is to stop another group making other demands? And then another? And then you end up with the social structure trying to cope with competing demands – all of which are *genuinely held*. Where the public space is concerned you need to be very aware of precedents.

              You maintain that it is an assumption that gender segregation is associated with the inferiority of women. What reasons do you think lie beneath this requirement if they are not in some way gender related?

            • sarah_13

              You say the objection is not segregation but “who” is asking for it. That is simply not the case, the practice of segregation for the reasons given by those advocating this segregation is the issue. It not about who wants this, it is the fact of it and the reasons for it. You are not simply “tolerating” gender segregation you are impeding the debate on segregation by assigning motives and arguments which have not and aren’t being put forward. This is about segregation and the reasons for it, if the reasons are part of a broader text or ideology, that is irrelevant, it is incidental to the fact of the misogyny. However misogyny presents itself it must be criticised and debated. Liberalism simply cannot coexist with misogynistic segregation, it cannot be tolerated, no liberalism can incorporate it and still be liberal.

    • Alexandrovich

      Because wedges have two ends and you can’t recognise either.

  • Rtd Colonel

    Ah the great game of PC top trumps where it appears that Islam trumps all other cards. Perhaps Owen Jones would like to come on and help me by explaining the current rankings – how does male homosexuality square against transgender; lesbian vs bi sexual; how do they rank vs womens rights vs african vs afrocarribean vs pakistani vs bangladeshi vs roma etc etc, sikkhism vs christianity vs buddhism.
    I would be genuinely grateful as modern day life is such a tightrope walk

    • edlancey

      Well unless and until the rest of the contenders start cutting heads off I know who my money is on.

    • Cyril Sneer

      You could try the Victim Value Index in the New Media Journal. An interesting article that explains why liberals place Muslims ahead in victim status of say other Asians etc etc.

    • JoshuaCzajkowski

      Well as a young homosexual man, who is also on the centre-right, all i want is full equality before the law and i resent my homosexuality being used by members of the left in the game of top trumps. I believe in true equality, which means i want to be treated just like a heterosexual man would be, i do not need or want the added special treatment that many on the left seem to bestow upon me, that is not true equality, it’s the opposite. And as for Islam, we homosexuals have more to fear from it that most others.

      • jorge espinha

        you are 100% right.

      • IainRMuir

        Well said.

      • Geoffrey & Mika

        Hear hear!

        • DazEng

          Why are you ALL so friggin quiet on it then?
          Why is the only voice in mainstream media we have to suffer is that of Peter Tatchell?

          • Geoffrey & Mika

            We publish a blog in which we discuss various topics from the perspective of a gay couple who are moderate centre-right. We may not be in the mainstream media, but we are putting our thoughts out in the blogosphere. Our blog is called Geoffrey & Mika: musings of a gay couple living in the Great White North.

            • DazEng

              Fair play then

    • Ben Cobley

      Despite all the rampant unpopularity of my comments below (or maybe indeed partly because of them), I’ve written a blogpost in response to Nick and all the outrage on this:

      http://afreeleftblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/gender-segregation-and-clash-of.html

      • Kingstonian

        And I took the time to read it. But I’m afraid it’s just more of the same “who’s rights trumps who’s?” and you are just adding your own rankings to the debate.
        The issue is not about who gets to set the rules; the issue is that UK Universities should never have chosen to elevate religious prejudice to the level of a human right.

        • Ben Cobley

          Not true. You’ve chosen not to understand the argument. Thanks for at least engaging though.

    • pp22pp

      There’s a whole academic field devoted to this. Its called intersectionality. You can take it to masters level in Sweden.

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