Anger as "extremist" Islamic speaker visits university

©Nick Duquemin

Students have spoken of their anger after a speaker with links to fundamentalist Muslim groups was allowed to address the University of York's Islamic Society.

The society invited Yusuf Chambers, a trustee of the London-based Islamic Research and Education Academy (IREA), to speak to students on “patience and perseverance” on June 13.

But several people objected after he was quoted endorsing practices including the stoning of adulterers.

A small contingent of students held a demonstration outside the event, held at Alcuin College on campus, in protest at Chambers’s visit.

Third year PPE student Zoe Lederman said: “I felt it's quite important to show that we don't agree with such speakers. We should not be inviting him - not as a matter of free speech, but as a matter of decency.”

It is understood that Chambers did not present any inflammatory views last night.

But former YUSU LGBT Officer Emma Brownbill, who was also at the protest, told the Yorker that allowing the event served to legitimise his presence.

The university and YUSU were “passively supporting” his other activities by providing him with a platform, she added.

Ruling on Tuesday that the talk should go ahead, university registrar David Duncan said: “Our default position is to uphold the principle of freedom of speech and expression. I have not seen any information that would justify preventing this individual from speaking.”

Chambers made the offending remarks in a conversation with radical Islamic figure Zakir Naik – also a member of the IREA - which was transcribed for an Islamic website.

After Dr Naik called for the stoning of adulterers in line with radical Islamic doctrine, Chambers said: “May Allah allow us to bring back that punishment to protect all humanity.”

Sam Westrop, a former York student who now works for Muslim-Jewish interfaith group Stand for Peace, called Duncan’s decision a “whitewash".

He said: "We have provided him with evidence that irrefutably suggests that Yusuf Chambers is a rather vile man with vile views towards women and homosexuals.

“When Yusuf Chambers and the IERA tried to speak in Canada, the Canadian Muslim community was outraged and immediately put a stop to it. If they can recognise that the IERA and Yusuf Chambers are a threat, so can Mr Duncan.”

University of York security guards were in attendance at last night’s event, and The Yorker understands that the police were made aware of Chambers’s visit.

The Islamic society provoked similar controversy last year after it invited hardline scholar Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari to speak to students.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor Jane Grenville said that “censorship” would be counterproductive.

“I would much rather trust students to hear a speech that is unmediated by media commentary, and to challenge it directly,” she said.

YUSU President Tim Ellis said he supported the university’s stance.

He said in a statement: “The Islamic Society has invited a speaker onto campus to talk about 'Patience, Perseverance and the Final Exam'. They have not brought him onto campus to talk about homosexuality and have expressly invited all students to attend the event and said that students' views can be aired in the Question and Answer section. I would urge students to make their voices heard.”

Both Mr Chambers and the Islamic Society were contacted by The Yorker, but made no comment.

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