Protest at NUS: Urge reform of no-platform & safe space policies
Challenge all bigotry and hate but also defend free expression
On 17 March 2016, there will be a protest organised by Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and Right2Debate at the National Union of Students HQ in London to urge reform of its safe space and no-platform policies, which restrict freedom of expression. This comes as 16 students from various universities have highlighted 20 different case studies of censorship.
Speakers at the rally include Alexa Robertson, Secretary of National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies; Asher Fainman, President of Goldsmiths Atheist Society; Centre for Secular Space Director Gita Sahgal; Gray Sargeant of Student Rights; Activist Imad Iddine Habib; Feminist Julie Bindel; Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain Spokesperson Maryam Namazie; Human Rights Campaigner Peter Tatchell; Right2Debate and Quilliam Foundation’s Haydar Zaki; Kurdish Women’s Rights Campaigner Houzan Mahmoud; Madelaine Hanson of UCL Quilliam University Society; Melody Patry, Senior Advocacy officer at Index on Censorship; Nari Diganta Activist Rumana Hashem; Right2Debate campaigner and president of STAR Exeter Sarah Schneider and Sophie Majoribanks of UCL Quilliam University Society. MCs for the protest will be Warwick University Atheist Society President and Right2Debate Editor Benjamin David and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain Spokesperson Rayhana Sultan.
Thursday 17 March 5-6pm
Macadam House, 275 Gray’s Inn Road, London, WC1X 8QB
Nearest tube: Kings Cross MAP
Some of the many prominent supporters calling for reform of NUS policies include Philosopher AC Grayling, Comedian Kate Smurthwaite, Marieme Helie Lucas of Secularism is a Woman’s Issue, Scientist Richard Dawkins and Author Salman Rushdie. The call for reform is also supported by Atheist Alliance International, Center for Inquiry, Feminism in London, Index on Censorship, National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies, National Secular Society, One Law for All and Spiked, amongst others.
The statement and full list of signatories can be seen here.
Alexa Robertson, Secretary of UNASH at Nottingham and Campaigns Officer for the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies said:
“The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies (AHS) stands in defiance of the NUS safe space and no platform policies which continue to regress and destabilise AHS societies through their attack on freedom of expression.”
Centre for Secular Space Director Gita Sahgal said:
“It would be funny if it were not tragic to see activists who are older than students having to challenge the NUS on their policies. When we were students our struggles against apartheid, racism and for feminist liberation set the pace for public debate and transformation for decades to come. What example do NUS policies set – except to encourage regression?”
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said:
“Free speech does not mean allowing bigotry to pass unchallenged. It should always be refuted and protested. The most effective way to do this is by defeating bigoted ideas in open debate and thereby winning the public to oppose bigotry. No-platforms, bans and censorship suppress bigotry but fail to expose and counter it. We are urging the NUS to revise – not scrap – its no-platform and safe space policies to make them consistent with free speech. As the German communist, Rosa Luxemburg argued: freedom of speech means nothing if it doesn’t exist for the person who thinks differently.”
Council of Ex-Muslim of Britain’s Spokesperson Maryam Namazie said:
“Ideas must be open to discussion and debate – that’s the best way to challenge bad ideas and promote good ones. More than anywhere else, university campuses should be hotbeds of dissent. Instead, NUS policies have made them centres of censorship, shutting down much needed minority voices like those of ex-Muslim and Muslim dissenters and instead encouraging Islamism and regression.”
Haydar Zaki of Right2Debate and Quilliam Foundation said:
“We cannot rely on censorship to counter intolerant views that do not break the law, but undermine the human rights of others. These views can make student communities feel unsafe and they must be challenged. This must be done through debate not censorship.”
Feminist Julie Bindel said:
“Students are silencing radical thinkers and activists that have contributed to fighting oppression of marginalised groups. In the meantime they are supporting the right to speak of religious bigots and misogynist pornographers. It is time to challenge their support of a deeply conservative agenda and return to truly radical and challenging politics.”
Benjamin David, President of Warwick Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society said:
“Contravening free speech through excessive no-platforming is chafing our universities – having the dire consequence of narrative-sanitisation. We implore all those defenders of pluralism and human rights to stand with us, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, and pressure the NUS to reform their excessively oppressive no-platforming policies.”
What you can do:
I call on @nusuk to revise its safe space & no-platform policies to facilitate, not restrict, free expression & thought.
Take part in the thunderclap campaign.
“We are deeply concerned by the increasing attempts by the National Union of Students (NUS) and its affiliated Student Unions to silence dissenters – including feminists, apostates, LGBTI rights campaigners, anti-racists, anti-fascists and anti-Islamists – through its use of No-Platform and Safe Space policies.
“We stand against all prejudice and discrimination. We agree that free speech does not mean giving bigots a free pass. A defence of free speech includes the right and moral imperative to challenge, oppose and protest bigoted views.
“Educational institutions must be a place for the exchange and criticism of all ideas – even those deemed unpalatable by some – providing they don’t incite violence against peoples or communities. Bigoted ideas are most effectively defeated by open debate, backed up by ethics, reason and evidence.
“The student body is not homogeneous; there will be differences of opinion among students. The NUS’s restrictive policies infringe upon the right of students to hear and challenge dissenting and opposing views.
“We, therefore, call on the NUS to revise its No-Platform and Safe Space policies to facilitate freedom of expression and thought, rather than restrict it.”