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Another blow to free speech on campus: Warwick University Student Union bans atheist human rights activist from speaking at AHS event

Maryam Namazie, who was prevented from speaking at a student event

Maryam Namazie, who was prevented from speaking at a student event

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has reacted with alarm at news that a non-religious human rights activist, Maryam Namazie, has been denied the opportunity to speak at a student society event, seemingly because she is an advocate of secularism who is critical of religious extremism.

Namazie was due to speak at an event hosted by the Warwick Atheists, Secularists, and Humanists, which is part of the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist, and Secular Student Societies (The AHS), a section of the BHA. However, student union officials released a statement saying that Namazie’s talk could not go forward following a ‘risk assessment’.

Explaining their decision, Warwick SU claimed that having ‘researched’ Namazie and her organisation, they found her to be ‘highly inflammatory’, claiming she ‘could incite hatred on campus’.

The BHA and AHS have both condemned the decision from Warwick SU, and requested that it be reversed.

Richard Acton, President of the AHS, commented:

‘In previous years our member societies have had their posters taken down, their clothing censored, and even threatened with having their stalls removed from freshers’ fairs. To suggest what our members are doing “could incite hatred” is to fundamentally misunderstand the distinction between challenging someone’s ideas, which is an act of respect, and challenging someone’s personhood, which is an act of bigotry. We hope as with every other student union to make this mistake, Warwick SU will soon reconsider.’

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘This is yet another example of a student union reacting hastily to censor non-religious students and their invited guests. To think that anyone would ban Maryam Namazie from speaking on the grounds that she is a threat to students’ safety or wellbeing is simply surreal. The student union would do well to issue a short apology and put this whole issue behind them.’

Notes

For further comment or information contact BHA Director of Public Affairs and Campaigns Pavan Dhaliwal at pavan@humanism.org.uk or on 0773 843 5059.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion of belief.

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