Ever heard of Maryam Namazie? If not, I hope I am doing you a favour by saying something about her. Maryam is a secular activist who escaped from Iran after the revolution. She had been invited by Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists (WASH) group to speak about secularism to Warwick University’s Student Union on 28 October. However, she has now been banned from attending by the Student Union.
The union said Maryam’s presence could be regarded as “highly inflammatory” and “incite hatred on campus.” Isaac Leigh, president of Warwick Student Union said: “The initial decision was made for the right of Muslim students not to feel intimidated or discriminated against on their university campus rather than in the interest of suppressing free speech.”
Her speech was likely to have addressed the subjects of apostasy, blasphemy and nudity in the age of Isis. Now pardon me but to most people these are not the most pressing or controversial issues confronting students, or the vast majority of the rest of the population. By an act of straightforward censorship – and make no mistake that’s what it is – the Student Union has said that people should not be able to discuss or criticise islamism or islamic fascism and terrorism because it might be “highly inflammatory” and “could incite hatred”.
The point about living in a so-called free country – and you do wonder about that sometimes – is that nothing should be off limits. There is no reason why any kind of religion cannot be questioned, criticised and even ridiculed, least of all not islam from which all manner of strands of thought have originated.
So, why then have the Warwick Student taken such a crass decision? They are worried about upsetting some people – well, that’s really just too bad. Maryam Namazie would not be allowed to be remotely critical if she still lived in Iran where apostasy and blasphemy are punishable by death but we don’t live in such a backward thinking country.
The Student Union has to change its decision and allow Ms Namazie to speak. It is not for them to make judgements about what or what isn’t inflammatory. In fact, their duty is to uphold and promote free speech not to stifle it.