A human rights activist is to complain to police over an alleged death threat made against him during a controversial talk disrupted by Islamic protesters.
Reza Moradi claims a member of the Goldsmiths Islamic Society threatened his life by miming the action of firing a gun to his head while he attended a talk by anti-Muslim extremist campaigner Maryam Namazie on Monday night.
Students repeatedly disrupted Namazie, who had been invited by the university’s Atheist Secularist and Humanist Society and she claimed they “intimidated” and “heckled” her as she tried to discuss free speech in the age of ISIS.
Moradi said: “Activists broke into the meeting and were very intimidating right from the beginning. After we called security, they pulled out two of the activists and on the way out one of them passed very close to me, put his head close to me and went ‘boom’.”
“Later he came back and sat with his friend in the front row. I looked at him and told him with a hand gesture to shut up. The guy discretely looked right into my eyes and made his hand like a gun and touched the middle of his forehead looking into my eyes. At that moment I was really worried.”
“The way he looked at me and what he did, I felt genuinely threatened and I am going to the police and I would love this case to be heard in front of a court.”
“I have been an activist in the UK fighting Islamism for the past 15 years. I have had many threats, and I have never been to the police. But this one, I really felt he really meant it.”
Moradi claims Islamic Society members attended to “intimidate, sabotage and to shut people up. I don’t think this should have any place in an educational institution. They are trying to put an end to critical thinking, to put an end to debate.”
A statement from the Islamic Society published on Facebook claims the group attended the event in protest at the decision to invite “notorious Islamophobe” Maryam Namazie to speak at the event and its members were the ones being harassed.
The statement read: “Islamophobic views like those propagated by Namazie create a climate of hatred and bigotry towards Muslim students. Muslim students who attended the event were shocked and horrified by statements made by Namazie, and peacefully expressed their dissent to the disrespectful cartoons shown of the Prophet Muhammad.” The statement makes clear that they deny the death threat allegations.
The statement makes clear that they deny the death threat allegations.
“We would like to make it very clear that Muslim students did NOT make any alleged ‘death threats’. This is a fabrication made by supporters of the ASH and Namazie in an attempt to distort the truth and further marginalise Muslim students for expressing dissent at offensive statements and images.”
English PEN, an organisation which promotes freedom of expression, deemed the actions to be “an extremely childish” form of protest.
Robert Sharp, Head of Campaigns & Communications at PEN, said: “It is pleasing that so many members of the Islamic Society chose to attend Ms Namazie’s presentation, and engage constructively with the content of her speech.”
“Equally, it is a shame that other students chose to disrupt the debate – they not only impeded Maryam Namazie’s right to free speech, but the right of the other members of the audience, both Muslim and non-Muslim, to contribute to the event. Free speech includes the right to protest. But there are ways to do this without silencing another speaker.”
A video of the event shows a member of the Islamic Society turning off the projector during Namazie’s speech while another is seen making an aggressive gesture towards Moradi.
Funny how @GoldISOC member shut my projector and heckled me till I kicked him out. I hope I taught you some manners? Doubt it though.
— Maryam Namazie (@MaryamNamazie) November 30, 2015
The Goldsmiths Feminist Society supported the Islamic Society, labeling Namazie an “Islamophobe” in a statement on their website. “We support [Goldsmiths Islamic Society] in condemning the actions of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society and agree that hosting known Islamophobes at our university creates a climate of hatred.”
Earlier in the year, Namazie was banned from speaking at a similar event organised by the University of Warwick after it was thought she could promote “hatred”. A student union official in Warwick said: “There a number of articles written both by the speaker and by others about the speaker that indicate that she is highly inflammatory, and could incite hatred on campus.” At the time, Richard Dawkins tweeted his support for the activist:
Their decision was later reversed as an “egregious and highly regrettable error”.
Benjamin David, the President of the Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists Society, said of the events at Goldsmiths: “The fact that a group of people are willing to intimidate Maryam and extirpate her speech is indicative of a growing trend of narrative sanitisation here in the UK and a growing disregard of human rights.”
By Doug Pyper and Alex Jackson
Follow Doug Pyper on Twitter: @douglaspyper
Follow Alex Jackson on Twitter: @ajacko26