Brits too afraid of 'aggressive' Muslims, says US academic

Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss shocked by men and women being segregated at London uni debate

LAST UPDATED AT 12:28 ON Fri 15 Mar 2013

ATHEIST Richard Dawkins has accused a leading British university of "sexual apartheid" after men and women were forced to sit separately at a debate hosted on its premises by an Islamic group. 

Dawkins said the "segregation" of the audience at the University College London debate entitled: Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense? was intolerable and “heads should roll".

One of the speakers at last Saturday's debate, the high-profile American physicist and atheist, Professor Lawrence Krauss (pictured above with Dawkins a year ago), threatened to walk out over the issue. A video clip (see below) posted online shows him saying "quit the segregation or I'm out of here" after security staff tried to throw out three men who had gone to sit in the women's section of the audience.

Krauss’s angry demands that men and women be allowed to sit together were met, but he was "astonished to find himself being accused of intolerance by angry members of the audience", the Daily Telegraph reports.

Krauss told the paper the incident highlights a wider problem: many British people are too afraid to challenge "a vocal and aggressive" section of the Muslim community. The former advisor to President Obama said Britons were often "cowed" by those eager to protest whenever they felt "their cultural norms are not being met".

He told the Telegraph: "People are not only afraid to offend, but afraid to offend a vocal and aggressive group of people. There is a segment of the Islamic community that is very vocal about this."

Authorities at UCL are investigating the event at which the audience was asked to sit in sections reserved for men, women and couples. The women's section was at the back of the auditorium.

The university says the group that organised the event, the Islamic Education and Research Academy, has been banned from holding events on the UCL campus.

Writing in The Times, David Aaronovitch, says the word 'segregation' has "horrid" associations. "My immediate and visceral reaction to the UCL story was to wonder what people would say if we instituted blacks-only, Jews-only, gingers-only, Catholics-only, Liberal Democrats-only seating and entrances for public events," he writes.

Aaronovitch believes Islamophobia is a "genuine problem", but "bending over too far to show that they [those who attack Islam] are wrong, however, presents its own dangers. There are lines that we cannot allow ourselves to cross. A small meeting in a London college tells us where one of the most important of those lines is to be found."


Disqus - noscript

Over three-quarters of the room was available for both genders to sit together in a mixed arrangement. This catered for both Muslims AND non-Muslims, whether male or female. I was at the event since 6.15pm and sat at the front alongside people of all faiths and both genders.

At the back of the room, there was a special provision for conservative Muslim females to sit together away from other males, in line with their beliefs. The organisers responded to the needs of EVERYONE, and ensured that everyone could sit in a manner that was comfortable and appropriate. Instead certain non-Muslim male members of the audience deliberately ignored the mixed-area provided in the middle/front of the room, and chose to sit among the Muslim females at the back. They were asked by the organisers to move, and they objected which resulted in much unnecessary drama and attention. WHY were they deliberately looking for confrontation when there was absolutely no need? The sisters at the back asked for special consideration for their beliefs, in the same way that Jews and Muslims have dietary requirements and who can expect, in this modern society to have their beliefs respected.

Now I’m willing to accept that there will always be a group of idiots in any given sample of the human population, but what really disappointed me was when Professor Lawrence Krauss (someone who I actually admire for his work in the scientific field and have read his books) decided that he would throw a tantrum like a 3 year old, and demanded to leave unless his intolerant demands for absolute non-segregation were met. He’s walking out of a hugely anticipated event for which many people have travelled great distances in order to debate and learn, and here he is – the grand Professor refusing to even discuss the issue with Hamza Andreas Tzortzis and come to a compromise (a compromise that was already achieved by the seating arrangement already in place).

A debate is meant to be about learning and understanding between two groups of people. The Quran encourages such interaction, which is why iERA organises these debates.

What Krauss demonstrated on Saturday was a flagrant violation of his liberal values, and an arrogant imposition of his opinion upon those who do not subscribe to it. Somewhat hypocritical and contradictory for someone who claims that there are no absolute / objective moral truths!

Instead of debating and discussing the problem, he chose to force his view as the fundamentalist that he is. The sheer force and arrogance with which Krauss imposed his opinion, you'd think it was a moral value as certain/objective as saving a life, which it isn't.

Absolutely disappointed with Krauss, moreso than the atheist looms that caused the problem.

There is clear precedence in many cultures for gender segregation, including the West. You need to realise that segregated seating is not done on the basis of prejudice, discrimination or to place the said-gender at a disadvantage. If it was so, then the Muslim females in this example would not have been ok with it (at the end of the Q&A session, one of the Muslim females from the back actually read out a statement to Krauss on behalf of them defending their preferred seating at the rear and that he should not have forced his atheistic rule on them).

The fact that Islam prefers segregation of the genders is because of a value that you simply don't understand.Try and understand the premise, the values and beliefs that underpin the segregation before you start to disagree with me. People seem to appreciate the obvious reasons behind gender segregation in sport, toilets, prisons and some western schools. So how about you try and understand what seems “obvious” to Muslims at these events?

Muslims recognise the innate nature of both males and females to feel attracted to the opposite sex, and prefer to prevent scenarios where premarital/extramarital relationships may develop. No ones accusing the opposite gender of “pouncing” or lacking self discipline entirely. But humans have time and time again, through what is only a natural and innate instinct, found themselves attracted to / indulging in what is considered to be a sin. High school, college and university romances are not new, so let’s not pretend it doesn’t happen. The only difference between the non-Muslim and Muslim view about this is that Muslims consider such relationships/indulgences to be a sin, hence a measure of prevention is considered necessary.

Muslims have no problem with males and females interacting where necessary; teacher-student, salesman-customer, employer-employee, doctor-patient, etc. There are some grey areas too, but mixed seating between opposite genders is seen as unnecessary. In any case, this event did NOT enforce segregation, it merely provided a section for those who wanted to reserve their own area while allowing everyone else to sit in a mixed arrangement.

Please, lets stop with the Fox News narrative about all things concerning Islam and Muslims. Disagree with the segregation all you want, but you can’t call it prejudice, discrimination or a deliberate attempt to place anyone at a disadvantage.

At last someone has woken up and shamefully for the U.K. it had to be an American. We need to develop a backbone when these attempts to introduce concepts alien to academic culture are slipped in under the radar.

There is nothing un-Islamic here. This is simply the tribalism of a tiny minority, highly organised and motivated for certain, but minority for all that, wishing to install now and onwards the notion that segregation of the sexes is a bona fide 'right' and sanctified by bogus and self serving appeals wider 'custom'. It is in fact objectively reactionary, a giant backward step for women in this culture, all of them, not simply conservative Islamists. It took a very long time and the overcoming of rampant misogyny for women to take degrees at British Universities last century and that struggle is too soon forgot. This nasty and malign manoeuvre should be faced down whenever and wherever it raises its head in public.

They are in England end of, no segregation

There is no such thing as "going to far" when it comes to opposing Islam. It should be opposed at all times by all liberal societies. And physically or via war if necessary. Or you will become its subjects.


Read my other post which explain how gender segregation has always existed in England (and in the West all over) and continues to be enforced in various different ways.

Absolute non-segregation is a myth.

If Islam had any real power in the UK, like in Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, would you be willing enough (or free enough) then to include a mixed seating arrangement for unmarried people who want to sit together (to meet the 'needs of everyone' as your organizers were so pleased to do at UCL?) Looking for confrontation when there was no need? Are you crazy? The Wast has paid a heavy price to achieve these great values of equality and non-segregation. They are intolerant for not compromising on those rationally justifiable values? And what are you Muslims when you can burn a whole Christian locality just because one of the community members was 'accused' of blasphemy (A recent news from my country Pakistan). And why this death penalty? And even worse, why this death penalty for cursing only Muhammad, and not for cursing Buddha, Christ Zoroaster, Krishna? And can you even dare to hold such debate in a country like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, or any Muslim majority country? Yet you are doing all this in the UK, because it's a liberal, secular country..a better system. A system you are eager to take full advantage of, but seem to despise in favor of the totalitarian Islamic laws Also tell me can you have a Christian research center giving way Bibles in Saudi or Iranian cultures? Can you distribute Quran in the West Yes. Reason, they are much more civilized than you are. But you are not willing to respect the same civilization you are thriving in. Open your eyes to reality. I'm a Pakistani cultural Muslim, but I'll side with the truth and reason. UK has rights for everyone including gays, lesbians, and transgenders . Can you even begin to think like this kind of civilization being achievable through Islam? Time for religion is over in the civilized societies my friends.Your views are obsolete.

You are a confused guy. You seem to demand the freedom of expression for Muslim women into this humiliating seating arrangement (that they are indoctrinated by nature to accept as 'respectful' to them), while on the to the other hand you are unwilling to extend the same freedom of expression to non-Muslims and non-religious people living under Islamic totalitarianisms. Why can't I legally date in many Islamic countries. Why can't I choose to express my values of debating against Islam in Saudi Arabia or even India if you are able to debate against atheism or Christian yin UCL? Why can't I drink in many Muslim countries? Just because a 1400 years old moralist says so? Specially who also happens to sanction death-by-stoning for adulterers and cutting of hands of thieves? And you challenge UK's hard eanrded reason based values against segregation? Going in their country, enjoying amazing rights, and then condemning the same cultures? You need to really put your biases aside and appreciate what you can't even imagine in an Islamic culture. Pure equality for all.

Reasoning of Muslims: I am in the right, and you are in the wrong. When you are the stronger, you ought to tolerate me; for it is your duty to tolerate truth. But when I am the stronger, I shall persecute you; for it is my duty to persecute error. My advice to UK. Rise up against a new dark age after the Renaissance.

Krauss was absolutely right. People whose minds are stuck with neolitic age practices can not benefit from such a high level debate anyway!

The misapplication of Islam in "Muslim" countries is irrelevant to the discussion about Islam itself. If you wish to continue the Fox News narrative, then you have the freedom to remain stupid.

The reason why you can't date (fornicate) legally in Muslim countries is the same reason why you can't drink-drive in non-Muslim countries: because its considered a social evil and is illegal.

Muslims have always been happy to engage in debate (as long as insults and abuse are not thrown around) and criticism, and history shows this. The infamous debates between atheists and the likes of Imam Abu Hanifa as well as the countless dialogue documented between Muslim scholars and non-Muslims, bears testimony to this.

What happens in (western-backed) dictatorships like Saudi Arabia is an instance of sheer misapplication of the Shariah, and says nothing about the Muslim people who live under these unelected unguided rulers.

I was born in Britain, work full time and pay my taxes. Its' not "their" country, it's MY country and I have every right to praise or criticise it.

Always existed? It has been confronted and overcome in my life time. Please find time to learn something of the social history of this country beginning with the Chartists, moving on to the Suffragettes and successor campaigns for gender and sexual orientation equality that continue to this day.

So you're telling me that there are no gender-segregated schools in the UK?

Not only does enforced gender segregation exist in Western prisons, toilets and sports, but there is also clear gender segregation of the sexes in education too. Here are a few examples of UK segregation of gender in private schools: St Paul’s School – London, Westminster School – London, Eton College and many more! And there are plenty of UK public schools enforcing gender segregation too. One local school in my hometown: Challney High School, enforces segregation of the sexes – one section is all-boys and the other is all-girls.

Don't expouse this unrealistic absolute idea of "equality" and then practice something which is not consistent with it. Absolute non-segregation is a myth.

In the United States, the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of single-sex public education in the 1996 case of United States v. Virginia. This ruling, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg concluded that single-sex education in the public sector is constitutional only if comparable courses, services, and facilities are made available to both sexes. Neither sexes are disadvantaged in the setup employed by Muslim organisations by iERA, and in fact the genders are offered a choice as to whether they want to sit in a mixed or segregated section. CHOICE.

Any one who challenges you to justify your statements is 'stupid'; this is unhelpful but characteristic.

Paying taxes represents no kind of allegiance to any state; yours is clearly elsewhere and you appear not to have understood the country into which you were born. It is not your fault. For too long the national trait has been to shie away from defining 'Britishness'; it seems too difficult or arbitrary or both and no general agreement is to be had. Here is you and yours opportunity. Into this vacuum you insert the tribal traditions inherited from your predecessors. Myself, I think it easier and overdue to express openly and with clarity exactly what Britishness is not; segregating people along any lines - racial kinds, sexual, or sexual orientation is unacceptable and profoundly anti-, modern, British.

Brits give in too much to this kind of human rights abuse. Krauss was absolutely correct to walkout.

The reason because people shy away from defining "Britishness" is because it's a culture. Culture is defined by the sum of the people that live in that society, not by some abstract idea or attempt to try and codify exactly what it means to be "British" and then impose it on the masses.

"segregating people along any lines"

Really? Do you mean that absolutely? So no segregation along wealth, like in Canada where until recently they used to bar private medical healthcare on the basis that it was unfair? How about gender segregation in toilets, prisons or sports? Oh of course, now you're going to come out with all sorts of exceptions and excuses no doubt in an attempt to fill in the patches in your argument.

There is a solid reason when a government doesn't allow you to drink and drive. This is based on the harm principle of John Stuart Mill. You can do whatever you want as long as you're not harming others. That's why in civilized countries driniking is allowed, drinking and driving is not. Sex between consenting adults is allowed, rape is not. How dare you equate these two cases (dating and ''drinking and driving'') as only the resut of being ''considered evil'' and ''illegal'' in a particular society? And one other thing, your vocabulary (i.e fornicate) is as obsolete now as this idea of sex-phobia itself. Totalitarian religions like Islam want to have control on every aspect of people's lives, being interested in barring people from having freedom to do even the things that are of the most personal nature, like masturbation and sex between consenting aduts, and homosexual relationships etc. A civilized state has minimum authority over its peope, and that too just to make sure nobody infringes on other people's rights. This 1400 year old evil fascist system has no place in the new world.

''The reason because people shy away from defining "Britishness" is because it's a culture. Culture is defined by the sum of the people that live in that society, not by some abstract idea or attempt to try and codify exactly what it means to be "British" and then impose it on the masses''. That point explains the ridiculousness of organized religions, especially Islam. You're trying to impose laws and ways of life codified 1400 years ago by a member of a dessert tribe. And you think these laws are absolute. And only following Islam is what defines ''goodness'', not only within a particular culture, but universally, in all times. There have been instances of irrational laws in the West, and some laws even now might not be perfect, but Westerrn civilization is constantly evolving by changing the laws to make them better, as human intellect evolves and smart people argue agaInst the bad laws. In you old-school system of Islam, the penalty for criticizing any law based on Quran would be death penalty, because this old fairy-tale book is 'absolute' and divine''. Have you ever thought what kind of non-sense you are talking?

''But humans have time and time again, through what is only a natural and innate instinct, found themselves attracted to / indulging in what is considered to be a sin''. Considered to be a sin by whom? Only by people who are still living in stone ages. Sex is a natural human instinct, and two consenting adults have every right to engage in sex. And adequate sex education in a civilized society is an effective way to prevent against unwanted pregnancies and STDs. You can't sell this sex-phobic sanctimoniousness to 21st century rational people. And don't waste the only life you've got for 72 eternal virgins in the 'next life'. That's a ridiculous mind-controling myth. Have some fun while you can buddy. Muhammad was sleeping with 9 year-olds when he was 45!

"Considered to be a sin by whom?"

By Muslims. This was an event organised by an Muslim organisation iERA, with an audience largely comprising of Muslims. Therefore it makes sense that the rules surrounding this event are governed by the moral compass of the organisers and that of the audience too, where possible. iERA accommodated for everyone. Nothing that took place at this event was illegal.

How would you respond to my posts regarding the gender segregation that exists widely throughout western institutions?

"Sex is a natural human instinct, and two consenting adults have every right to engage in sex."

Incest is also sex, and often exists between consenting adults. And like your Lord, Krauss, you would probably condone it as long as the couple practiced contraception.

" adequate sex education in a civilized society is an effective way to prevent against unwanted pregnancies and STDs."

And the statistics in the Western world with high teenage pregnancies, rates of promiscuity and divorce are a clear supporting proof of this, right?

"The West has paid a heavy price to achieve these great values of equality and non-segregation. "

Lies. The West continues to segregate along gender, and I've made this point perfectly clear on my other posts which describe how gender segregation is widespread in western societies, which you fail to address.

Segregation as an abstract concept altogether, is relative anyway. To a communist/socialist, the segregation along wealth and class is considered to be a social evil, which capitalist societies on the other hand would embrace.

"UK has rights for everyone including gays, lesbians, and transgenders" and "this kind of civilization"


"And can you even dare to hold such debate in a country like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, or any Muslim majority country?"

Unfortunately no, I can't. But how are these countries relevant to a discussion about Islam? These countries are not Islamic, but they are perfectly dictatorial and oppressive regimes who are supported by your "moral" friends in the West - in return for massive oil and energy revenues in order to support the luxuries they enjoy.

"You're trying to impose laws and ways of life codified 1400 years ago by a member of a dessert tribe."

Except iERA didn't impose these rules on anyone. You're missing the point again Khurram. I think you need to wipe away the red mist in your eyes.

iERA provided segregation to those who wanted it, and provided mixed seating to those who wanted it. In other words, iERA offered CHOICE. The Atheists demanded subservience to their arrogant beliefs on segregation, which the Muslim females didn't believe in. This was a Muslim run event, yet the Atheists insisted on imposing a false belief.

"And you think these laws are absolute."

On the contrary, it's you atheists who think that values such as segregation are absolute. They are NOT. Segregation is a relative concept. To a communist/socialist, the segregation along wealth and class is considered to be a social evil, which capitalist societies on the other hand would embrace.

"Westerrn civilization is constantly evolving by changing the laws to make them better, as human intellect evolves and smart people argue agaInst the bad laws."

Even within the Islamic framework, there are both liberal and literal scholars. Those who adopt a more interpretive and flexible stance, and those who don't. It's similar to any other spectrum such as the various economic and political left-right arguments we have.

To try and bundle every Islamic edict or fatwa as being one and the same is to take a very narrow minded view of the faith.

This is comparing chalk with cheese. In any case, this 'segregation' is historic and not in any sense universal. Mixed schools and public meetings are the norm. Men only institutions have been required in recent decades to change membership and dividing the armed forces along gender lines ended a the same time.

The United Kingdom is a progressive polity; it has changed in this regard dramatically and permanaently in my life time (60 plus years) and I among many both wanted and support this as a step towards civilised values. Forcing people to sit at the back of the bus or accept second class status has ended.

This is the United Kingdom. Try to understand where you are and how matters are as they are today and existing now. Fantasies about turning this society on its head are nonsensical in that perspective. However, much harm will come from this effort; unnecessary and pointless fundamentalism.

Sheer sophistry. The difference between 'culture' and 'society' (if one is not a fundamentalist) is arbitary. This is not philosophy but a branch of the Red Queen's Logic: things are as I say they are. Purposely confusing and laying false trails is your forte.

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.