The last time I had cause to comment on the activities of Birmingham University’s Guild of Students, I’m afraid it wasn’t for any positive reasons, see:-
You get the picture – the bigwigs at the Guild had got a hard-on for banning religious groups whose beliefs it deems to be discriminatory – and, to be fair, the Christian Union does patently discriminate against homosexuals in its doctrinal views.
But, in this case, so what! If you were/are gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc. and a Christian, would you want to go and worship the big ol’ sky fairy with that bunch of tossers? Of course you wouldn’t, so where’s the problem?
Still, the exact events of two years ago are somewhat less important than the fact that we’ve established a precedent for the Guild having a real downer on fringe religious organisations with discriminatory beliefs.
Or so I thought, until I received this e-mail, which is currently doing the rounds – i.e. being liberally spammed to students at the University:
From: Yasmin PatelSent: Thu 5/8/2008 10:25
Subject: Public Debate: Is Secularism Right? – With Prof John Holmwood
Dear XXXXXX and XXXXXX,
Attached is a flyer for a very interesting Public Debate.
To ensure we keep the students engaged with the current debates around the concepts studied throughout the course, can you kindly forward this to students from POLISIS and Sociology.
Black and Minority Ethnic Students’ Officer Elect 08/09
University of Birmingham Guild of Students
Before getting on to the debate, let’s introduce Yasmin Patel.
Yasmin is, as the e-mail states, the Guild’s BME Officer Elect for the upcoming academic year, having been elected a couple of months ago.
Yasmin stood for election on what was, shall we say, an interesting platform of policies, as you can see from her election flyer (pdf):
If you vote for me I will:
Raise awareness on issues affecting Black students at a local and national level
Challenge the racism that excludes Black people from positions of responsibility and opportunity
Work to improve community cohesion and the full implementation of the Race Relations Amendment Act and other equality legislation
All pretty standard, so far, but then we get to how she plans to do all this:
How will I practically make the change?
Lobby for anonymous marking and equal treatment by staff of all students, especially ethnics
Work to provide appropriate services and facilities which allow inclusion of all minority groups, especially in union events and representative bodies
Oppose the current racism and Islamaphobia affecting students by encouraging healthy debates and discussions
Oppose those who isolate and scapegoate student communities in the quest to fight violent extremism
Promote the need for a more responsible world – free from illegal occupations, wars and invasions
You should all know the adage that ‘if it looks like a duck, and quacks likes a duck…’, well this certainly looks like a Trot to me, and a quick root around the fringes of political life suggests that Yasmin is part of a group calling itself ‘Student Broad Left‘, which is pretty much the usual ragbag collective of Trots and hard-left fringers; Respect/SWP, Alliance for Worker’s Liberty, Socialist Action, etc.
Further checks show that Patel ran, officially, as a candidate of the University’s Islamic Society, and was ‘elected’ by default, as there were no other candidates for the role.
On the face of it, a debate on the question of whether secularism is right with a professor of sociology, John Holmwood, from a leading redbrick university sound like pretty reasonable intellectual fayre, if you’re into that sort of thing – it’s certainly a contemporary enough issue and not without its appeal here at the Ministry, so maybe its worth taking a look at the flyer…
Err… what’s that in the bottom right corner?
So, this debate is hosted AND organised by Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and Prof Holmwood’s opponent in the debate, Shareef Hafizi, is billed as a member of the Komedy Kaliphate.
Remembering that the discriminatory content of BUECU’s constitution were central to the Guild’s arguments in favour of shafting the group, perhaps we should be reminding ourselves of some of the content of HuT’s constitution, like:
The State implements the aHkaam shar’iyyah on all citizens who hold citizenship of the Islamic State, whether Muslims or not, in the following manner:
… c. Those who are guilty of apostasy (murtadd) from Islam are to be executed according to the rule of apostasy, provided they have by themselves renounced Islam. If they are born as non-Muslims, i.e., if they are the sons of apostates, then they are treated as non-Muslims according to their status as being either polytheists (mushriks) or People of the Book.
Segregation of the sexes is fundamental, they should not meet together except for a need that the shar’ allows or for a purpose the shar’ allows men and women to meet for, such as trading or pilgrimage (Hajj).
I’d be interest to know what the Guild’s Women’s Officer makes of that last clause… but lets take one more clause for good measure:
The state’s relations with other states are built upon four considerations. These are:
… 4. With states that are actually belligerent states, like Israel, a state of war must be taken as the basis for all measures and dealings with them. They must be dealt with as if a real war existed between us – whether an armistice exists or not – and all their subjects are prevented from entering the State.
As I understand the situation, Birmingham University has one of the largest Jewish student populations of any University in the UK – clearly they won’t be happy to find one of the University’s professors taking the platform at an event hosted by an organisation that considers itself to be in a ‘state of war’ with Israel.
As for HuT’s view of homosexuality… although not mentioned explicitly in its constitution, I think we can safely say that their brand of discrimination runs to something a little more physical than simple not admitting them to membership of the group. Is it stoning or beheading- I never can quite remember which?
In view of its efforts to screw over BUECU, the stench of double standards here is pretty overwhelming.
That said, there are bloggers better placed to provide the background to HuT that I am, so can I also recommend you check out this article by Sunny Hundal at Pickled Politics and this archive of material at the newly redesigned Harry’s Place, both of whom will, I expect, have something to say on this ‘debate’ in due course.
Student politics has come a long way since I was at university, 20 years ago – most of it downhill – but back then, the one thing you could be sure of was that a lecturer who chose to take the platform at an event organised by an extremist organisation could be sure of spending the rest of the academic year staring at an empty lecture theatre.
Today, it seems, we have Student Union officers – and Patel is also a delegate to the NUS – actively promoting debates with Islamic extremists as means of ensuring that ‘we keep the students engaged with the current debates around the concepts studied throughout the course’ – what concepts are these, exactly?
(It’s worth noting that Hizb-ut-Tahrir is currently subject to the NUS’s ‘no platform’ policy).
And what does any of this has to do with representing the interests of BME students at the University?
Not much that I can see, and certainly nothing that would support the interests of the University’s Jewish students.
It is with some regret that I note, while researching this piece, that the position of BME officer at the University’s Labour Students group is presently vacant, which perhaps explains why BME students are to be represented, for the next year, by a young woman who actively promotes engagement with Islamic extremists.
Come on, BULS, sort yourselves out and get recruiting… and don’t forget to table the motion of no-confidence in Patel.