Saturday, May 14, 2005

UK university cancels talk by lesbian feminist Muslim

From the website of the left-wing British-based Alliance for Workers Liberty

Leicester University has cancelled a talk by Muslim lesbian feminist Irshad Manji because of fears of hostile reaction from right-wing local Muslims.

Compare Haifa. Ilan Pappe, a lecturer at Haifa University, is a vehement anti-Zionist, as unpopular with right-wing and conservative opinion in Israel as Irshad Manji is with right-wing and conservative Muslims.

Pappe has had trouble at the university, and some professors there are very hostile to him, but he is still in his job, still lecturing.

The pro-boycotters in the Association of University Teachers persuaded the AUT conference on 22 April to declare an academic boycott of Haifa because of Pappe's hard times.

If so, why not a boycott of Leicester University? The Manji incident shows up the pro-boycotters' double standards.

Irshad Manji spoke in London today, 12 May. She is, as far as I can judge, no sort of socialist or social radical, but she is an advocate of universal human rights, an opponent of cultural relativism, an advocate of what she calls a "reformation" in Islam.

According to Irshad Manji, Leicester University gave two reasons for cancelling.

First, that they feared hostile reactions from some local Muslims so severe that they could not guarantee the security of a lecture by Irshad Manji.

Secondly, the scheduled date of the lecture being soon after the General Election, they feared pressure during the election campaign on local politicians to come out against Manji speaking.

Manji is in the midst of a speaking tour of Britain. According to the Outrage news service

Ms Manji describes the main purpose of her visit as being to speak on various dimensions of Islam and human rights - from the perspective of a faithful yet struggling Muslim. "My core message is that no community, no ethnicity, no culture and no religion ought to be immune from respecting the universality of human rights. This, of course, is a controversial message in an age of cultural relativism. Mine is a positive message of pluralism. I truly believe that we can be pluralists without becoming relativists. That's especially important for the lesbian and gay movement to understand, given the bigotry we so often face from ethnic and religious groups."

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