“You’re so dangerous and it’s so exciting.” (On UUK)

Another stupid, misleading article by Myriam Francois-Cerrah:

Universities UK’s guidance was not about the rights or wrongs of segregating an event by gender, rightfully steering clear of this important discussion in order to allow, as a free society should, the full expression of a range of distasteful, illiberal and even offensive views. It’s a lesson Muslims are regularly lambasted with. This means that although as a Muslim, I oppose the segregation of lectures along gender lines, even side by side, I’m glad British universities have upheld their commitment to securing free speech and promoting debate, which is exactly what university is about. It is now up to Muslims internally to push forward with greater gender equity, increase female representation and challenge sexist views which bend theological interpretations to fit their patriarchal desires. Banning segregated seating will do nothing to resolve the misogyny which at times underpins it.

“Do anything controversial, however bad, and I’ll support it. Because I like disagreeing with things.” And who said careerists were vacuous?

Francois-Cerrah has either not read UUK’s guidance, which she so readily explains to us, or she has so subsumed herself into the inferiority complex of the Muslim community that she feels that she must throw herself behind its most reactionary – and unrepresentative – elements. It’s either ignorant or dishonest.

Firstly, take a look at what UUK actually said:

Ultimately, if imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition to the segregated areas contravenes the genuinely- held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event, or those of the speaker, the institution should be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully.

In other words, for men and women to choose to sit next to one another in a public gathering is an attack on the speaker’s “genuinely-held religious beliefs”; if you do not abandon your rights when you are instructed, you are being an odious, inward-looking and regressive troublemaker. Indeed, Omar Ali appeared on Channel 4 News to celebrate the victory of religious bigotry as being that “we live in a liberal society.”

One has to wonder whether he has completely misunderstood the meaning of liberalism – which, to its credit, were such frivolities as the emancipation of women – or whether the political Islamic pressure groups have finally understood the virtues of their alliance with the far-left.

But to Francois-Cerrah:

It is Universities UK which is calling for bans; here, on the right of individuals to express their beliefs in the physical (not merely “spiritual”) equality of the two sexes. That is an assault on freedom of expression. No one is saying that deluded victims of indoctrination – male or female – may not voluntarily segregate themselves at a mosque or Agatha Christie-esque dinner party. But I will not allow you to force me to sit where I do not wish to sit.

1) Grow up.

2) This is why we need socialism and not this stupid wishy-washy liberal attitude to things.

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Stupid Students 1: The haunting fear someone may be having fun.

What better way to celebrate this week’s Thanksgiving than with a dose of liberating puritanism:

The Sun newspaper has been banned from sale at the Union, following a student vote.

Politics student, Niall MacLaughlin submitted the idea for the Union to support the No More Page 3 campaign by refusing to sell The Sun.

MacLaughlin told LS: “it is my belief, shared by many other students here, that Page 3 is damaging and completely out of place in a newspaper.”

The first year student has since been targeted by internet trolls.

This would be a relevant moment, if somewhat arbitrary in its timing, at which to kick off a new blog series about Stupid Students. Being a student myself, with absolutely no viable ambitions in campus politics, the most I’ll ever contribute is with embittered hissing noises from under the dust of this blog; I might as well make them honest.

So to begin with Leeds. At the risk of some whataboutery, I’m genuinely puzzled by these people’s mindsets:

  1. Replace “internet trolls” with “counter-revolutionary saboteurs”. Feels a tad Stalinist, don’t you think?
  2. The niqab, much like prostitution and Page 3, justifies itself under the illusion – however real – of resulting from a woman’s “choice” when external compulsion is usually a far more powerful cause. Will the veil be banned? I suppose not.
  3. Will it be banning any other potential outlets of women’s objectification? Porn websites? Sexist jokes? Pink aprons? Men with overbearing and over-enchanting charisma?
  4. More tangibly, where is the outrage at UUK’s acquiescence to sexual apartheid?
  5. What will happen if the rules are broken?
  6. And, finally, perspective. The visceral climate of British feminism could do with re-evaluating itself from time to time.


So Students Are “Separate But Equal”

Remember the Laurence Krauss debate at University College London last year? He refused to cooperate with the organisers once he realised that the audience in front of him was segregated by sex. Fortunately, that story concluded with the Islamic group responsible being banned from hosting any further events at UCL; the university staff seem to have come down on the right side.

But apparently it’s much more widespread than we thought:

Student Rights event monitoring programme enables an in-depth analysis of this issue, with 180 events logged in the period March 2012 to March 2013 investigated for evidence of segregation;
46 of these events (25.5%) at 21 separate institutions were found to have either explicitly promoted segregation by gender, or implied that this would be the case, with six of these cancelled before taking place;

So what is this bullshit?

Universities UK (UUK) has issued guidance on external speakers saying that the segregation of the sexes at universities is not discriminatory as long as “both men and women are being treated equally, as they are both being segregated in the same way.”

UUK add that universities should bear in mind that “concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system” and that if “imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition to the segregated areas contravenes the genuinely-held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event, or those of the speaker, the institution should be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully.”

We, the undersigned, condemn the endorsement of gender apartheid by Universities UK. Any form of segregation, whether by race, sex or otherwise is discriminatory. Separate is never equal and segregation is never applied to those who are considered equal. By justifying segregation, Universities UK sides with Islamist values at the expense of the many Muslims and others who oppose sex apartheid and demand equality between women and men.

The guidance must be immediately rescinded and sex segregation at universities must come to an end.

Separate but equal? I mean, wasn’t Rosa Parks just as comfortable at the back of the bus?

Universities UK can’t even be spat out for being a group of poseur anti-establishment lefty sorts allying themselves with the Islamist far right. No, this is a sordid collection of university officials, most of whom old and unelected with a constant urge to remind us continually of both of those facts. It has no actual authority; but its “guidance” makes for a useful template for perturbed managerial staff (the current President is the Vice-Chancellor at Bristol) concerned about their “multicultural” reputation. Never mind the fact that most Muslims wouldn’t approve of this.

Sign the petition!


A Withering Right to Protest

The University of London, one of the only spots of student activism still worth the name, is to lose its Union; and to protest against it is to incur what can only adequately be described as intimidation:

University of London Union (ULU) President Michael Chessum was arrested today shortly after leaving a meeting with University of London management over the forced University takeover of the Union.

It is understood that the arrest is in response to the demonstration organised by ULU yesterday by hundreds of students demanding the Union remain student-led.

The National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts (NCAFC) wishes to reiterate its full support Michael Chessum and the campaign to defend ULU.

NCAFC also demands the immediate release of Michael Chessum, and for all charges against him to be dropped.

The moment that arrests are made, student careerists – who today form the balk of university politics today – will simply walk away; and “radicals” are not, by the implications of that silly word, in strong enough of a position to defend collective rights alone.

It’s a generation-old dictum that students are ordered to live by a paradox: they are ordered to act like adults but denied the rights to do so. If Britain is a democracy then it should not be disagreeable – to any public authority – to act as though it is.

Update:

A protest against the actions of the police has apparently escalated rather quickly:

Also:

It would be so nice if Oxford were a little less dull.


Cherwell: We Can Still Save Syria

I wrote this before Ed Miliband betrayed the Syrian people, so it is a bit out of date/lacking necessary expletives, but here is my article for Cherwell.org:

“Never again,” we like to tell ourselves, again and again. Looking back, we know Thomas Hardy was right to anticipate “all nations striving strong to make red war yet redder”; the so-called “war to end all wars”, beginning in 1914 with Gavrilo Princip’s bullet of the century, would not really end until 1991. Outlived as he was by the old men who sent him to die, Wilfred Owen’s glib submission “dulce et decorum est” should represent more than anything else the grim legacy our generation inherited from the 20th century. Our heroes showcase a grand hatred of war.

Except we see the world beyond through different spectacles. The student voice, which in the 1960s called on Britain to take a moral lead in the world, drops dead with apathy or sinks into “post-colonialist” hysteria whenever faced with foreign conflicts; the Labour Party has been mellowed by a populist sickness that chases after old Tory slogans; and Barack Obama, with his innocuous charm and Nobel Prize to think of, would rather pretend there is no war than bring it to an end.

Read the rest here!


On Only Living Once

When the believer argues with the atheist his fiercest weapon – soft though it remains – sprouts from defying innate morality. How will we know right from wrong without the non-negotiable directorship of the divine? There are some important – and brilliantly swift – answers to this.

But! Not a lot swells the arrogance of the scriptural literalist more than the impenetrable wave of hedonism that many of us seem to enjoy justifying. I am of course talking about “YOLO”.

It’s something of a necessary staple of secular humanism that we only live once. No after-life. Nothing. As Hitchens romanticised limping through stage-four esophageal cancer:

The offer of certainty, the offer of complete security, the offer of an impermeable faith that can’t give way, is an offer of something not worth having. I want to live my life taking the risk all the time that I don’t know anything like enough yet; that I haven’t understood enough; that I can’t know enough; that I’m always hungrily operating on the margins of a potentially great harvest of future knowledge and wisdom. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And here it is: carpe diem. Filled with the immediacy of mortality the individual is revitalised. He becomes a skydiver without a security of a parachute, dropping, falling; his death getting bigger and bigger until – splat.

Urgency should electrify the individual into progress, not trip him – in both literal and metaphorical senses. It’s not good. What YOLO legitimises for its frivolity it abandons in scope. Yeah, I know: hedonism can be useful. But without a hangover the only result is moral decay.

The hypocritical irony, of course, is that I’m slumped over a laptop with a tab open for BBC Four programme on ruins. Seizing the fucking day.


The Moral Collapse of Paper (and Radicalism)

I love farting in the Pope’s face. Go on, give in to temptation.

Remember the days of the printing press? When Gutenberg put together his model for printing in 1439 he was giving ordinary (literate) people a common voice. Radical ideas born in Germany were read in Bristol or as far as Portugal; a common network built on ideas led to mass support for reforming ideas across the continent. It was cheap. It was simple. And yet it spawned the greatest intellectual transformation Europe had ever seen.

During the 60s and 70s, the low price of paper onto which radical notes were printed met very successfully with student frugality. Excited pamphleteers stood on every busy street corner forcing sheets and booklets on the unsuspecting. The cheap words were electrified by their content, by their rather genuine idealism.

And then, there’s today. Sometimes you’ll still be harassed by a quirky socialist street vendor, but it’s rare. Usually the “radicals” can be found blogging behind their laptop screens or reading out long party manifestos at their Central Committee or regurgitating the depressing tedium of socioeconomic theories of the military-industrial complex. Or some such tack. I took a visit to the Oxford Radical Forum a few weeks ago, and there I picked up a very glossy Oxford Left Review (mimicking the New Left Review of Perry Anderson’s postwar generation without even a touch of irony), its articles as superficial as the paper on which they were printed. The trouble is that, as the likes of The Revolution Will Be Televised reminds us, subversion is now a trend, a fashion.

Am I extrapolating too much from this? Possibly. But it’s all definitely part of a wider decline in the sincerity of popular radicalism.