Islamic society investigated over gender segregation

The University of Leicester has launched an investigation into a public lecture held by its student Islamic society after pictures of signs at the event suggested that men and women were encouraged to sit separately.

More than 100 students attended the sold out event about the existence of God. The talk - which took place in February - was led by Islamic speaker Hamza Tzortzis, who tours and speaks at many universities.

Photographs have appeared on the internet showing the signs at the entrance of the event. Somebody had attached two sheets of A4 paper to a door – one read “Brothers (males)” and the other “Sisters (females)”, with arrows pointing in opposite directions.

On their website, the University of Leicester Islamic Society states: “All our lectures are, as we believe should be, free and open to the public (with segregated seating for brothers and sisters at all co-attended events).”

The university said in a statement it was not aware of people being forced to sit in any particular seats but would “investigate whether entrances to the hall for this event were segregated by the society and will ensure there is no recurrence of this”.

Dan Flatt, academic affairs officer at the University of Leicester Students’ Union said: “The students’ union does not believe in enforced segregation. We trust in our societies’ ability to conduct their events in accordance with the principles of the union.”  

The issue of gender segregation has already come to the forefront after UCL banned the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) from taking part in events on its campus for segregating an audience at a talk last month.

That event - named “Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense?” - had scheduled Mr Tzortzis and Lawrence Krauss, a professor of physics and well-known atheist, as participants. But Professor Krauss refused to take part until the audience could sit where they wished.

iERA said the event had seating which was open for all attendees, male or female, and two sections “to accommodate those that wished to adhere to their deeply held religious beliefs”.

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