It has emerged the University of York’s Islamic Society failed to submit the appropriate approval forms required by the University in time, before hosting Yusuf Chambers last Wednesday.
The University requires that societies fill out an EMF (Events Management Form) three weeks in advance of external speakers coming to campus. This is to ensure events can be checked and monitored.
An EMF was submitted for this event in May, but after Chambers postponed, no further form was completed. Ellis revealed: “We have taken action to ensure that until we have spoken to the Islamic society about following the proper process for events, they cannot book any more.
“However, the University felt that in this instance it was ok for the event to go ahead after ensuring that the chair and speaker were fully briefed on what is, and isn’t, acceptable.”
Isoc told Nouse: “Yusuf Chambers had already received clearance when committee members filed an Event Management Form last term.”
David Duncan, the University Academic Registrar, commented: “Mr Chambers was permitted to speak on the campus, in accordance with our commitment to the principles of free speech.
“The speaker was reminded in advance that he must remain within the law and avoid offending other groups. The speaker abided by the letter to the terms we had set out. The event was well chaired by the Society President.”
Chambers is a member of the Islamic Education and Research Academy, an organisation associated with preachers banned from the UK, such as Bilal Philips and Dr Zakir Naik.
The hosting of Chambers was criticised by Stand for Peace, one of Britain’s leading Jewish-Muslim interfaith organisations, who say that Chambers has in the past, “expressed the desire for homosexuals to be killed and has denied that homosexuality has any natural or genetic origins.”
The Islamic Society told Nouse they strive to provide a range of events which cater to both Muslims and non-Muslims, with the aim of spreading knowledge and stimulating discussion on Islam.
“The criticism against our event entitled ‘Patience, Perseverance and the Final Exam’ did not take issue with the topic which is completely uncontroversial.
“We did not invite Chambers to talk about homosexuality, indeed we do not know the views he holds on homosexuality. We accept that there are a variety of views on homosexuality within the Islamic community as in any other.
“We are a student-led society and not a professional organisation and do not have the resources to exhaustively search the internet for any possibly controversial statements.
“Our speaker’s views do not necessarily represent those of the committee or Muslim students at York but we do not condone and will never provide a platform for ANY hate speech against any group.”
During the event’s Q and A session, the audience was solely permitted to ask questions on the subject of the talk. James Armstrong, who did tackle Chambers privately afterwards, had his question regarding Chambers views on homosexuality, refused.
Armstrong presented a transcript from an interview between Cambers and Dr. Zakir in which he argues that the penalty for adultery is death by stoning. Chambers responded: “May Allah allow us to bring back that punishment to protect all humanity, InshaAllah (God Willing).”
Jane Grenville, Deputy Vice Chancellor, had reassured Armstrong before the event: “In this case, on a university campus famed for its free-thinking, I am reasonably content that an untenable position would be dismantled in question time and I would rather give these people a platform than have them be able to argue conspiracy and victimisation and gain underground followers that way.
“I think we must be constantly alert, constantly challenging and constantly allowing edgy debate, so long as it stops short of criminal incitement.”
After the event, Grenvillle told Nouse: “I understand that the Registrar asked that questions be solely targeted to the subject of the lecture.
Personally, I would not describe that as censorship, but rather precautionary, given the anxieties that had been raised with us over public order.
“As for censoring Chambers himself, we made it very clear to him that we would not tolerate him breaking the law on our premises by any incitement to violence or hatred on grounds of gender, sexuality, race or any other protected characteristic.”
Sam Westrop, from the Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy, complained to the University, who consequently checked Yusuf Chambers’ record for inflammatory statements, and asked an Equalities Officer to attend the lecture to monitor.
On Tuesday 12 June, ISoc removed links from their website which linked directly to material intolerant of homosexuality.
One article entitled The Organised Homosexual Movement: Its Methods And Its Goals, states: “Because homosexuals can’t breed they must recruit in order to perpetuate their perversion, and the younger their victims are caught the better.”
Chambers’ visit led to YUSU removing their twitter feed from their site. Ellis stated: “Insults and abuse have no place on the YUSU homepage and unfortunately, such things were showing up.”
A small protest gathered outside before the event, and whilst the community police arrived to oversee the students, it remained peaceful.
Ben Dilks, YUSU’s Campaigns Officer commented: “Whilst it’s important not to falsely vilify any individuals or inadvertently stir up Islamophobic sentiment, students must feel able to express the view that there’s no place for hate on our campus.”