Islamophobia and the Media: Moazzam Begg’s Visit to Southampton

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“I genuinely felt afraid. I have spoken in hundreds of universities, and I have never seen anything like it before. I always think of students as being so open minded.”

This coming from a man who, only minutes earlier, had told a large audience of Southampton students that he no longer feared having a loaded gun held to his head.

Tonight the University played host to a lecture by Moazzam Begg on Islamophobia in the media under somewhat ironic circumstances.  An article had been written on sotontab.co.uk asking the University not to allow Begg to attend and give the talk. To do so, the article claimed, would give him a platform to spread his “vile, pro-jihadist message.”

As it turned out, the talk contained not a single reference to Jihad. Instead Begg gave a timely and important lecture on media driven Islamophobia to a large crowd in Building 46. He began with a history lesson, emphasising the role the media played in the build up of anti-semitic feeling in Europe in the first half of the twentieth century.

While, as he said, there is no need to exagerate the comparisons, there are similarities between the media then and the media today. Muslims throughout Europe feel demonised and alienated by their portrayal in the media. Once again we are seeing far-right groups become more vocal throughout Europe, only this time, as compared to the general anti-immigrant prejudices expressed in the 1970s and 80s, they single out one group.

Begg also talked of his own experience as a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay, which remains open, with over 100 detainees despite President Obama’s election promise to close the facility. He talked of how he was beaten, how loaded guns were held to his head, how he was told the screams of a woman in an adjacent room were the sounds of his wife being beaten, and how he witnessed the murder to two detainees at the hands of American forces.

Despite being  subjected to all this, Begg managed to form bonds with his captors, even providing marital advice to a soldier through the flap in his cell. To this day he remains in contact with some of his former captors, who have visited him and stayed at his home.

What came across most strongly from his talk was his plea for tolerance, and a recognition of common humanity. He has experienced first hand the consequences that de-humanising a person can have.

He explained the fear that ordinary Muslims feel when constantly attacked by the press. As he said, less than a decade ago stories about Muslims were rare or non-existent. Now you can barely open a newspaper or watch a news bulletin without a story somewhere about the ever present threat of Islamic terror (despite, as Begg pointed out, one attack occuring on the British mainland in the 10 years since September 11th).

And, more recently, the press coverage has gone further. It is no longer just a fear of terrorism, but Islamism. Muslims are painted as people who don’t respect the rights of women, who refuse to integrate into British society, who demand Sharia law. The bombardment of this image of Islam and Muslims is almost constant, and the effect it has on psyche of the people who digest the news is becoming more apparent too.

And into this context came the article referred to above. It claimed (later retracted) that the Islamic Society had advertised the talk with a poster written in Arabic containing a crossed gun and sword. It then claimed that this poster was used by Begg’s campaigning group Cageprisoners to advertise the talk. So far neither the editor, nor the author of this piece have been able to provide a link to back this point up. Yes the image has been used on cageprisoners website, but the talk at Southampton is not even mentioned. Even so much as a cursory look at the topic of the talk, or contact with the Islamic society to check how they had advertised it could have avoided this mistake.

The article went on to state that “maybe Southampton will be the next university to breed terrorism, who knows?” Again, neither the editor or the author has been able to give a single piece of evidence to demonstrate what this claim was based upon.

For the author of the piece, John King, however, the article was justified because of the threat posed by Begg: “There’s a reason that the anti-extremist pressure groups and thinktanks, containing many ex-Islamist Muslims, recognise that Begg is a dangerous individual. So if my comments against Begg upset a few people then as devotees of the principles of tolerance and liberty we know that we are doing our job. We cannot legally stop people such as Begg from spouting their rhetoric of hate, but we do have the indisputable right to stand up and denounce him and the illiberal views that he espouses”

However, his article carries all the hallmarks of traditional press Islamophobia. It focused on fear and exagerated threats. Quite how a talk on the media portrayal of Islam aimed, as Begg himself pointed out, at non-muslims, was likely to create future terrorists is not comprehensible. But the article didn’t trouble itself with making logical conclusions. Rather it stirred up fear and leapt straight to the worst possible outcome, however unlikely.

In speaking at 100 universities across the country, Moazzam Begg states that he has never experienced this type of reception before. Is this a condemnation of Southampton or a sign of the times? Either way it should leave us with cause for concern.

The message of Begg’s talk was quite simply about promoting tolerance in place of de-humanisation and fear. There is a lesson there, not just for the media in general, but for the student media here at Southampton.

Update: Soton Tab have issued an apology for publishing the article which can be viewed here

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Discussion70 Comments

  1. avatar

    The event was supposed to be for non-Muslims to raise awareness of Islam in the media, yet the Islamic Society and Muslims were the majority and brought their families and asked for autographs. To top it off, males and females had to enter through specific doors to the lecture theatre.

    Debra Humphries began by stating that the university must provide a platform for freedom of speech. Fair enough. Why then, when a Muslim man asked a question regarding Mr Begg’s views on Sharia Law, was he ignored and the focus directed to someone else by Mrs Humphries?

    Then why did the chair of the Islamic Society announce that there will be no such questions?

    Freedom of speech? No, double standards.

    Paul
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    I’m Sorry anon, sounds like you went along to deliberately bait this man, grow up learn some tolerance, understand that your fear of the unknown manifests itself as latent islamaphobia.

    I say this as a British born, Catholic who detests those who misinterpret Islam as a means by which to persecute others.

    Sounds like an engaging event.

    Stop being bitter that this didn’t end up in a riot and that you cannot say “i told you so”.

    The event was not aimed at pleasing YOU personally, you self indulgent ignorant racist.

    It RAISED awareness of issues affecting ISLAM, sounds like a success to me.

    Anon
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    Paul, I’ve noticed you are very quick at pointing the finger and calling people racists. I have not misinterpreted Islam, nor did I have any fear and I certainly did not go to bait him. Please provide evidence before you sprout such nonsense.

    I merely stated that there were double standards at the event. I’ve noticed you called someone else a racist here too. Since when was being a Muslim a race? Islam is an ideology, not a race. If someone indeed misinterprets Muslims or Islam, that does not make them a racist, does it?

    I never said that the event should have been to please me personally, again, I merely stated that I observed double standards like others did. This does not make me self-indulgent. Please read my other comments to see that all I wanted was for everyone to be granted freedom of speech so we could learn from one another and learn about Begg.

    Please be careful with what you say because you are just as bad as those who misinterpret Islam and Muslims by responding with anger and rude insults. Would you say such things to someone in person?

    Aaron Bali
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    I feel obliged to comment on this one too.

    Firstly: Islam Soc can’t be held responsible for the turnout of the crowd.

    Secondly: Begg answered the question on Sharia law. He said that he has his own opinions, which he keeps to himself, but that he obeys by the laws and rules of this country. He made that clear.

    Anon
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    Basically dodged the question, he was asked for his opinions. If he is going to tour the country speaking of how Islam is peaceful and how he was a victim, yet he supports Sharia Law, I find that quite contradictory.

    Aaron Bali
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    Right, so bear with me:

    Begg is at fault if he gives a solid answer which exposes him to have any kind of extremist views. Begg is also at fault for dodging the question and attempting to not say anything incendiary.

    What is it that you want from him? An admission of terrorism to prove that everyone who was scared of his visit was right to do so? I don’t think the speech he delivered today merited any of the vitriol that it got beforehand.

    BS
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    Yes, his is. Begg should have answered questions honestly so people could make a proper judgement of who his is. It was clear that he dodged the questions to maintain the “holier than thou” façade and keep the audience on board. You’re the very worst type of person, Aaron. You make sweeping claims about freedom of speech and almost in the same breath, condone the censorship allowed by the Pro-VC due to so called time constraints. It was her job to make sure freedom of speech was observed and yet she said nothing when the pres of Isoc prescribed what comment and question was ‘acceptable’. Get some principles, it is clear that being controversial is like oxygen for you.

    Aaron Bali
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    ‘The worst type of person’? Get some perspective. ‘Being controversial is like oxygen’ for me? Yeah, right. Now, ad hominem arguments aside…

    The Pro-VC wasn’t censoring meaningfully. At no point did she say that he wouldn’t be answering particular questions, and the fact that she took questions from the floor is testament to that.

    Furthermore the President of ISoc did not say what comments and questions were acceptable, he simply asked that the questions were not phrased as personal attacks, after an audience member ended a comment with ‘and if you believe in that, I don’t like you’. (Funny how that kind of statement is testament to the idea that there was no censorship, isn’t it?)

    If you were there, then you’re grossly distorting the actual events that occurred.

    Anon
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    Aaron, I’d like to add that I am not anti-Islam, nor did I want an admission of terrorism. I simply wanted to hear HIS side of the story, his views and for both groups to be granted freedom of speech. It is a rare opportunity to meet such an individual and it is expected that people will have a broad range of questions.

    His speech was good, I commend him for it. Though some people may not believe him to be a good role model based on publications. He had this chance to defend himself and his views, that’s what a lot of people wanted to see. If he has extremist views, he had the freedom to explain why without necessarily inciting hatred or trying to impose his views upon the audience, simply to educate them.

    Awareness of Islam and respect for Muslims would increase if people could listen to an extremist (if he is one) first hand rather than hear fabricated stories through media outlets. It would provide an understanding into how they think, why they have violent motives and how we could perhaps sympathise with them. I am in no way stating that acts of terrorism are acceptable but we need to be educated properly before we can label them as evil, sub-humans. We should allow them to explain their reasoning and we’ll learn from each other what we want for the world, as one racee. I’m sure most Muslims in the theatre would not share the views anyway, proving that not all Muslims are extremists like many ignorant people believe.

    When I’m tired I become idealistic.

    David
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    I was at the talk, sitting at the front and just wanted to clarify that many different people (not just muslims) came up and asked for Mr Begg’s book, I was one of them.
    How can you censor an open floor of questions? Many people came and saw the speaker at the front to ask any remaining questions they had.
    I believe the Islamic society chair asked people to ask questions on topic and refrain from making personal attacks on anyone; quite reasonable in my opinion.
    Regardless of what could have been discussed in the talk; The take home message was “understanding” through tolerance and dialogue. I drove 40 miles and came to the talk myself to hear first hand what was being said rather than have selective parts of articles and discussion regurgitated back to me, in support of a biased argument.
    I am very happy that the talk went ahead despite the hostility created by the poorly researched, and quite frankly islamophobic opinion posts beforehand. Well done to those involved.
    We should never label any human being as sub-human, the diversity of our ideas and differences distinguishes us from wild animals. If we have reason to believe somebody is dangerous then we should take measures. As was mentioned in the talk, Mr Begg has been interrogated over 300 times in extreme conditions and released without charge, surely if they had anything on him those responsible would have kept him from giving the talk themselves?
    I think the extremists are those who violate people’s basic human rights, try to gag people and create conflict between different nations and communities.

    Name
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    The person you refer to was incoherent and his words simplistic. But regardless of this as I recall it Moazzam did indeed respond.

    So your statement is somewhat unjustified.

    Anon
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    The person asked a fair question and was rightfully enraged by things happening in his homeland. He asked for Begg’s view which he did not give. I recorded the speech, thank you.

    Name
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    enraged by what exactly?
    Moazzam did answer, he said to affect of, ‘if muslims live under countries governed by different laws then they should obey them’

    TR
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    The question was “do you agree with Sharia Law?”, therefore he did not directly answer the question. He answered, but that doesn’t mean he answered the QUESTION. That was his choice, maybe because his answer would have been controversial or put him in a bad light. That is what people are saying.

    Jean F
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    “enraged by what exactly?”?!

    You know, there’s this thing called Sharia Law and some of the acts carried out in the name of religion are barbaric? The man wanted to know if Moazzam personally agreed with those acts happening in his home country. Saying “if Muslims live under countries governed by different laws then they should obey them” is not good enough, does that mean he agrees with the laws or not?

    No human being should be subject to some of those laws, but that’s my opinion.

    Jo
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    The person who asked the first question came down at the end of the talk and had a conversation with Begg in front of me, so he was not ignored and got his right to be answered.

    Alex
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    Actually, I spoke to him outside the physics building and he was still annoyed at the fact he didn’t get a direct answer from Begg.

    Anon
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    Also, what difference does it make if someone is incoherent or his words simplistic?! His mother tongue may not have been English or he may have been nervous. Get off your high horse.

    Name
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    it does matter because he was giving a mixture of many opinions and questions…
    meaning that the reply can be either be selected or an overview.

    Ridwan
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    I’d like to add that the chair of the Islamic Society said questions are fine, but that there will be no personal attacks on individuals, in response to the poser of the question finishing off with “…and if you agree with them, then I don’t like you.”.

    Please clarify and state your points accurately; I don’t mean this in a patronising manner, and apologise if it comes across as such, but all details, both great and small, need to be given due attention, whatever the issue being discussed is.

    Name
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    Yes, but after he said this nobody dared ask anything unrelated because it was clear that controversial issues were not to be discussed.

    David – People had many questions regarding Beggs past and connections, would you have asked him one-to-one?!

    Please see comment by Vincent below.

  2. avatar

    I have to say, very tolerant article. It was very embarrassing, as a student at Southampton university, to know that the guy has been in many universities across the country and never faced such circumstances, while when he came to Southampton, we offered him a designated event by the university officials and he was welcomed with an article from Soton Tab with very poor research that mislead many people. Sad!

  3. avatar

    Anon, I urge you to write to the VC, as I have regarding those double standards. My thoughts exactly. Peter, are you still quoting me?

    Paul
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    John you are a right wing islamaphobe.

    Just what exactly to you hope to accomplish by writing to the VC, other than wasting his time having to reply to you and your self centred misguided racism.

    John King
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    If you were at the event you would have observed the double standards. Free speech for Begg and yet questions about his past were prohibited. So tired of having to respond to claims of me being an Islamaphobe, even if you bothered to look on Wikipedia you’d know that this man is not the angel you and people like you are painting him to be- get real and do some research before you condemn me as an islamaphobe. Rest assured this will be the last comment I reply to about this on either Tab or WS.

    Aaron Bali
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    1. Begg stayed around afterwards to chat to people and answer questions, you could have easily asked him any questions you had to about him then. I appreciate that you wouldn’t have been able to expose him to the audience, if that were your intention, but nonetheless, the ability to ask questions was there. Debra Humphris, as I understand it, was hurrying the questions due to time constraints, not deliberately censoring questions. After all, if there was a real concern about freedom of speech, she wouldn’t have taken uncensored questions from the floor.

    2. While I’m sure many University students have used Wikipedia for information, I don’t think it constitutes a proper character reference on this person. I’m not coming out in his defence, as I don’t know anything about him, but are there other sources to validate the claims that were made about him?

    Anon
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    I’m not surprised that few had the courage to ask him such questions one-to-one!

    Questions WERE deliberately censored, Begg DID dodge the Sharia Law question and Debra did come to his aid. After the announcement from the ISoc chair, non-muslims mostly kept quiet even though some were there because they wanted to challenge his views or hear his explanations to the controversy surrounding this event.

    Wikipedia has a references section.

    Ridwan
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    I thought there was pretty much an even split in who asked questions, in terms of Muslims and non-Muslim. As I recall (and please do correct me if I’m wrong, I’m as fallible as the next person), there were, in no order, four questions from apparent Muslims, and four or five questions from apparent non-Muslims.

    Jo
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    John, you should be ashamed of your article in Soton Tab and the false claims of the lecture being in Arabic, and the allegations that clearly were fabricated. The good thing is almost everyone attended the lecture came out with a message of promoting tolerance, which I am sad you didn’t get yet, clearly from your comment above. I hope the Politics and International Relations school at the university would help you develop more tolerant reaction towards others.

    Name
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    This is a blatant lie, Moazzam did answer questions about himself including the final question.

    There was a massive amount of ignorance in the room from many people. Highlighted by the fact that less than a handful had seen the excellent documentary referenced and i bet even less had read his book or actually had any wider appreciation of the situation.

    RS
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    Paul – HOW is it Islamophobic, self-centred or RACIST to voice your opinion stating you would rather an alleged al-Qaeda member didn’t attend your university? YOU are the misguided one.

    Paul
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    RS – “alleged”

    Welcome to the United Kingdom where the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. Unless of course you attend Southampton University our own little autocratic stronghold where all it takes is a quick google search and a look at wikipedia and we can “allege” anyone is an al-qaeda member and all of sudden they are best buddies with Osama Bin Laden.

    RS – I’m proud of my country, proud that we are a tolerant, multi-cultural liberal nation.

    You my friend could benefit from a few more hours in the library and less time writing vitriol on the comments section of the Wessex Scene website

    RS
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    Do you want to sound any more patronising and pretentious? Everyone is entitled to an opinion, everyone is entitled to believe the things they read about this man.

    Nowhere did anyone say that he is best buddies with Osama Bin Laden (?!). If you spent a few more hours researching Begg you will find there ARE questionable things about his past. It’s understandable that people had concerns in the beginning.

    Also, I wrote one comment. On this article. I don’t know if someone else uses the username “RS” but my comment was hardly vitriol. You were the one who personally attacked John King with no basis for those insults. I was simply asking how it was Islamophobic, self-centred or racist for him to have concerns about this man.

    Paul
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    If by trying to educate you, so that you don’t go into the world as ignorant as you entered Southampton University, I come across as patronising and pretentious. Well that is a small price to pay to try and allay your fears, calm your prejudice and show you the benefit of tolerance and understanding.

    RS – “opinion stating you(sic) would rather an alleged al-Qaeda member didn’t attend your university?”

    As mentioned in countless comments above, this gentleman did not preach hate, or militant jihad but rather, somewhat ironically given the furore, how islam has been negative portrayed in the media and a greater message of tolerance given his experiences.

    To bandy around the term “alleged al-qaeda member” what exactly did you hope to accomplish? I just hope that your prejudice has not made anybody who went along to any of the events that were organised this week by iSoc feel threatened, undermined or fearful or expressing their own beliefs because of your complete over reaction.

    Name
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    I am aware that he did not preach hate or jihad, I was there. Some people did jump to conclusions and some had concerns. I simply asked you the question: how is it Islamophobic, self centred or racist for John King to have voiced his concerns? I repeated what I have read, Begg is an alleged al-Qaeda member, that does not mean *I* believe it, I used that term to justify why some people had concerns.

  4. avatar

    Absolutely smashed it on the article Pete.

    I’m not going to comment on Begg, I don’t know enough facts about his past to do so.

    But what I will say is that the man spoke very informatively about the issue of Islam’s portrayal in the mainstream media, and an attempt to stop the talk that he delivered based on the rhetoric and fear that was peddled beforehand seems completely disproportionate.

    He didn’t come and try to convert us, or to try and stir up a culture of terrorism. He didn’t extol the virtues of an armed jihad, or deliver the lecture in Arabic, or any of the other fears that many had.

    I think the fact that we allowed this man to speak, and the fact that he defied these pre-concieved notions on what an Islamic speaker of his background would say demonstrates a resounding victory for freedom of speech.

    Aaron Bali
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    Cripes, forgot to log in. That last comment was me.

  5. avatar

    The event wasn’t meant purely for non-Muslims, it was open to everyone. The speaker himself said the isoc shouldn’t use separate doors.
    The talk was “Islam under fire” – he was there to discuss the way in which the media is portraying Muslims, not his personal views.
    As with every talk or lecture conducted by the isoc, the audience is asked to stay on topic for the sake of giving as many people as possible the chance to ask questions.
    As far as I can see, there were no double standards here.
    Thanks Pete, this article was fair, reasoned and well written.

    Anon
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    Why did Isoc invite such a controversial speaker if they did not want a controversial debate?! People attended for the controversy, they must have known that.

    If he was there to discuss how Muslims are portrayed in the media and not his personal views, why did he talk about his personal experiences and views about Guantanamo?

    We know Muslims are wrongly portrayed in the media sometimes. Was it necessary to invite him to tell us that? Not really. If Isoc invited him to promote awareness about Islam, why did they apply their door rules? Why did they bring so many of their friends and family? It was more like an opportunity for Muslims to meet and worship him and all agree together that the West have got it all wrong.

    Aaron Bali
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    Prior to the Soton Tab article, was there any controversy? I didn’t hear of any. Just because that article has manufactured controversy does not mean it was the intention of ISoc. And let’s make it clear here. I’m an atheist, not a member of ISoc. I’m not peddling some other agenda. I just feel like they need defending here as a lot is being attributed to them which certainly doesn’t sound like what they intended.

    Why did he speak about his experience in Guantanamo? Because he makes a living out of it, and it’s a pretty unique experience that he’d want to share, perhaps? It tied in quite well with his speech on the media – his point was that if he had the compassion to become friends with his captors and torturers, perhaps we (and our media institutions) could do the same.

    As for why ISoc chose to bring their friends and family, and the speculation that it was a chance for them to meet and worship him…seems like a touch of crass stereotyping there. Particularly the claim that the West have got it all wrong.

    That wasn’t expressly said by anyone, as I recall. And you know what? Comments like that are exactly why we need people to tell us when groups are wrongly portrayed in the media, because if nobody challenges it, it becomes the norm.

    Anon
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    By “the West have got it all wrong” I meant the way in which the West portray Muslims in the media. I’m saying it seemed more of an event for Muslims to all agree on this together rather than promote awareness of Islam. That’s my opinion based on how I felt at the speech.

    It’s not crass stereotyping – people did bring their young children and people did ask for his autograph, they idolised him, that’s fine. Some people do not like the man based on what they have read, that’s also fine.

    There wasn’t controversy before the Tab article because no-one knew about it. I’m not sure if as many curious non-Muslims would have attended had it not been for the article.

    That’s all I shall say on this topic. Nice to debate with you.

    An observer
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    Until now, I have not posted any official messages on this topic on either the wessex scene or soton tab, although have followed both quite intently. After attending the lecture today and yet still continuing to see such angry and in many ways disrespectful messages, I’ve decided to voice some opinions.
    As already pointed out by Aaron, it seems that Begg can literally do no right. Before the lecture there were worries that he would be spreading hatred. After the lecture, throughout which he spoke of nothing but acceptance, people say that the only reason he did this was because of the previous controversy, If he hadn’t come I presume at least one individual would cheer but say that he was hiding from facing the truth, and yet in the lecture many of the people who seemed to have an issue with his attendance did not try to engage him.
    The reason certain questions were not answered fully has already been pointed out but seems blindingly obvious! Anything he said regarding his religious beliefs (which in any religion, frequently results in hot-headedness) would be interpreted wrongly by those who wished to do so. Not even that, but the talk was specifically about the media not the direct beliefs of Muslims on war and peace. Perhaps people who wanted to know more about jihad should have attended a different lecture throughout Islam awareness week, or as Begg suggested, simply ask a Muslim.
    As for the attendance of many Muslims… did it particularly look like the room was overcrowded with non-Muslims? There was more than enough space for all of us. Yes the point was to spread awareness, but if people don’t want to be aware you cannot force them to attend just so that people who do want to cannot.
    I do not oppose the original article directly, indeed it was the first I had heard of the speech, but it’s tone and the tone of the following comments is completely out of order. Fair enough, disagree with a topic but there is no reason to be rude. He is an interesting man, with interesting experiences, regardless of his beliefs or your own who, like every human being, deserves respect.
    A well written article, it was nice to see something that was not subjective.

  6. avatar

    It seems to me that Moazzam Begg’s history indicates a flirtation with radical Islam rather too substantial to be so quickly dismissed. Even if he’s outgrown some of the personal beliefs that led him to those Jihadi training camps, it hardly seems he should be celebrated as if he’s some Mandela like figure; at the end of the day, he has been in some very questionable circumstances, with some very questionable characters.

    That being said, he should be allowed to speak. Silencing those who disagree with us is the start of a road which ends up in a very dark place. By the same token, I don’t think John King should be smeared for raising some perfectly legitimate concerns about the choice of speaker. If you don’t agree with him, can’t it just be left at that?

    And before anyone gets started I’m not on the far right. I’m on the political left and always have been.

  7. avatar

    I was sick after this talk. And I’m even more after reading this article. I saw you, Peter, in this lecture theatre and I just can’t understand how you can make such a biased report…

    I felt bad from the start when I was asked by a girl to use the other door because I was a boy, I felt even more bad when they were pretending it was a misunderstanding after being told not to do this for obvious reasons (the first one being that it is forbidden by the law to segregate people like this, the second one being that it is forbidden by union rules), and I felt worse when they put the “brothers” and “sisters” signs on the doors again once all the non muslims were entered. Finally the lecture theatre was split in:
    -muslim boys one side (on purpose)
    -muslim girls on the other (on purpose)
    -non muslim people spread here and there because ISOC people didn’t dare to push their segregationist rules, perfectly knowing that they would have been unlawful doing so. How do we tolerate this on our campus?

    Don’t tell me you didn’t notice it Peter, because it was obvious. Veils on one side, beards on the other, and the rest spread here and there.

    But the hypocrisy was just beginning…

    How can you possibly find the comparison between jews in Germany before 1940 and muslims in western countries appropriate? Mr. Begg spent 15 minutes making this comparison, concluding by a shy statement on the fact that it was a bit worse for the jews. How can you look at yourself in a mirror and support this? Do muslims have to wear a distinctive sign of recognition in the UK these days? Are muslims forced to live in specific areas of the town these days? Are muslims not protected by anti-discrimination laws these days? Are muslims banned by the law from doing some jobs these days? Have muslim got different rights than other British citizen these days? No. Obviously NO.

    The rest of the talk went as I expected, Begg preaching tolerance, and forgiveness, whereas on his website he actively promotes armed jihad (and no, I’m not referring to Wikipedia, just to Mr. Begg’s own words).

    I feel ashamed by people like you. How will you feel when on the campus you will meet this Pakistani student who raised concerns about Mr. Begg coming because he might support (and indeed dodged the question about this) people who have been bringing war and violence to his country? Will you tell him “hey, freedom of speech mate”? Will you seriously dare to do that? What message are we sending to students like him?

    What about our Union President, who when I asked him if he had a good taste of fundamentalism in his university by seeing boys and girls segregated like this and told him he perfectly knew that this was not allowed just looked at his shoes?

    What about the people who asked Mr. Begg about some of his controversial point of views and were denied this famous freedom of speech you keep talking about? I thought that controversial speakers were allowed here since people could confront them… It is a bit easy to invite dodgy people on our campus on the pretext that those who are not happy with their ideas can challenge them, and then prevent this from happening because questions are not about the subject. In the end, people after the talk told me they wanted to ask questions but just didn’t dare by seeing how it turned…

    The fear is not on the side of those who say they are scared by a few students raising concerns about their venue. The fear is on the side of students who see how hypocritical our institutions, our medias, our elected representatives are acting as if everything was going fine on this subject.

    But some people like me Mr. Apps, are not feared. Some people like me won’t tolerate this, will keep fighting, and will keep people informed. And no, I’m not far right, I’m not Islamophobic, I’m not racist. But I can spot a coward when I see one and when he just doesn’t dare to face the truth to keep his little utopic dreams alive.

    Jeremy
    avatar

    Vincent do you have any comments on the fact the SU allowed Geert Wilders short film fitna to be screened 2 years ago…

    I don’t know if you were around in 2009 but I remember at the time that there was a similar level of controversy over this event.

    I would find it hard to call the SU hypocritical given they have facilitated two events with two completely oppossing view points.

    http://nationalstudent.oncampus.net/pages/uk_news/atheists_hit_with_death_threats.html

    But keep fighting the good fight young man, however misguided your intentions and poorly researched your opinions are. Free debate of your intransigent views only serves to highlight your prejudice and thereby thankfully expose that most of the rest of the student population are thankfully tolerant and open minded individuals.

    Great Article Peter Apps!

    Vincent
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    Well if you ask me, Fitna tries to spread the message that all muslims are indeed violent terrorists. I haven’t seen the movie, but from what I’ve read, there isn’t any point for reflection or moderation in it. And no, I don’t find it really smart (to say the least) to show it at a university.

    Who do you think I am seriously? Do you think I don’t have any muslim friends? That I hate them all? No.

    But my muslim friends believe in gender equality, think that supporting fundamentalism is not a good thing and don’t think pulling the guns out everytime something bad happens to a muslim is the way to live, don’t even bother when I invite them for a meal whether the meat is hallal or not, and sometimes even don’t mind having a glass of wine.

    Yes, people like that do exist, although they probably don’t match YOUR prejudices towards muslims. And they’re a bit tired of people like you who keep defending fundamentalism in their religion under the pretext that “it’s in their culture/religion” and who wouldn’t allow half of it for other religions.

    But fair enough, if a majority of people think like you, I won’t say anything anymore.

    Vincent
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    Sorry, meant “Fitna indeed tries to spread the message”.

    Paul
    avatar

    I’m happy you have liberal muslim friends.

    I also have strict Christian friends and while they don’t believe in abortion, contraception, sex before marriage and that homosexuality is against the will of god. I manage to have a very meaningful, close and tolerant relationship with them as much as with my more agnostic, liberal friends.

    I suppose we could both sit here and attempt to claim the moral high ground. Point is Vincent I respect our differences, not because i’m seeking to defend fundamentalism but because I think that they are all capable of listening to one man stand up in a room, give his opinion, research and understand the entire subject and then come to their own point of view.

    I stand by my statement that insisting on naming Moazamm Begg as an “alleged member of Al-Qaeda” is islamaphobic. No matter what your liberal muslim buddies think

    Em
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    Surely the point is that yes they separated muslim boys and girls because that is their religious belief, but that they didn’t try and impose that on other non-muslims and allowed them the freedom to sit together? They followed their own teachings but didn’t force others to do so?

    Tim
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    I’m sorry but that’s not how it works in the west. If they want to live by Muslim rules they should live in a Muslim society. If a Western person tried to implement Christian rules in a Muslim country they would be killed. I know it makes our country the better place but there’s a line to be drawn. The UK gets walked all over under the banner of “freedom of speech” and “religious views”.

    Should women be allowed to wear the burka in places of high security such as airports? Yet others have to have their faces fully visible?

    Should Muslims be allowed to call British troops murders, whilst standing on British soil, when they arrive home with fallen comrades?!

    Should Western people have to be told which door to enter or be made to feel uncomfortable at an event in Western society due to Muslim rules? No.

    When in Rome, do as the Romans do. As a Brit, when I went to a Middle Eastern country I respected their rules, culture and religion despite MY religious beliefs. Muslims should do the same but they don’t. They know they can do what they like here, hence the negative opinion Western people have of them.

    Name
    avatar

    Tim your ignorance is astounding;

    You talk about ‘they’ as if ‘they’ are a single entity; utter rubbish and in this context Islamophobic, and by that I mean racist.

    As an extension of this there are plenty of Christians and Jewish people living countries where Muslim exist in greater number. This is not so problematic, except in your head.

    The UK gets ‘walked all over’, I think you’ll find the Butcher’s Apron has done far more ‘walking over’.

    The bit about the Burka is not even worth commenting on, should an ignorant person be allowed to comment on things they simply do not understand?

    Is it only Muslisms that call British troops murderers, and if it is not should we remove all dissenters from ‘British soil’?

    Who cares about a door, you speak drivel.

    It sounds like you didn’t “respect” very much if you had you would have learned about the great differences within Islam.

    LSFG
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    Islamophobia is also a wrong word to use is this context. The root of the word ‘phobia,’ means an irrational fear. I think anybody who opens their eyes knows that there is no phobia when you look upon Islam, just a rational fear, one of an undemocratic, bigoted, sexist and violent religion which is undermining our western liberal societies.

    Vincent
    avatar

    a)They tried to impose it
    b)They clumsily tried to hide it after it failed
    c)It’s not allowed (this is a public lecture, not a prayer)
    d)Where does it stops? What about a black and white entrance next time?

    Paul
    avatar

    a) It’s a cultural/religious norm – much like taking off your shoes as you enter a gudhwharra
    b) They realised that there were people who were uncomfortable and tried to alter the procedure to be more inclusive
    c) Says who? If we asked u/gs to walk in one door and staff another would that be a problem
    d) STOP LOOKING FOR EVERY REASON under the sun to be a belligerent ignoramus.

    Spin it however you choose, you are an intolerant bigot.

    Tim
    avatar

    No, they actually stopped the procedure until all the non-muslims had entered, then put “Sisters” and “Brothers” signs on the door and carried on.

    c) If u/gs and staff were told to walk in separate doors it would be for reasons other than religious beliefs so I don’t understand your comparison.

    People are entitled to an opinion and you don’t have to personally attack every commenter!

    Vincent
    avatar

    Oh I don’t mind the attack… I’ve heard funny things during this week, but being treated of intolerant biggot by somebody advertising gender segregation in a public lecture is just priceless I must say…

    Paul
    avatar

    Of course saying things like

    “I was sick after this talk.”

    Is not in anyway a hyperbolic over reaction to the content of what was a fairly informative and balanced speech.

    Just cos Moazamm didn’t whop out his AK-47 and spray bullets all over the non brother and sister section, doesn’t entitle you to nitpick at the tiniest of details to find anyway of unjustifiably sullying this man’s character.

    You came expecting balaclavas, an advocation of suicide bombers, a desire for global jihad and what you got was a decent man who has been through a terrible ordeal, who has kept his faith in humanity, preach to a room of people about religious tolerance and understanding.

    Shame you can’t see that for the massive log in your eye

    LSFG
    avatar

    Its also funny that the word in Arabic (the language of Islam) for a black man is ‘Abd’ and is also the word for slave.

    Ridwan
    avatar

    To all:
    Please research your statements/arguments critically/logically before you make them, regardless of who you are and what you believe in.

    “Abd” means “slave”.
    “Aswad” means “black”.
    If you’d like to verify this, ask a native Arab speaker, and if that option fails, Google Translate.

    Also, the “Brothers” and “Sisters” signs weren’t deliberately put up after all non-Muslims had entered and sat down; the signs are generally put up before any talk organised by the ISoc starts in order to respect the wishes of the Muslims presents. Although the talk was part of IAW, and primarily meant for non-Muslims, it was still hosted by the ISoc at our university, and so the practice of Islamic traditions i.e. the segregation of an audience, is to be expected, and, out of respect, probably observed, though, as Mr Begg pointed out, should not be enforced, so this sets up four possible scenarious:

    1) If you happened to walk in through the entrance that mostly women seemed to be walking through by accident and somebody informed you that that particular doorway was meant for women and asked that you use the other entrance, but didn’t enforce it, then I’d say you weren’t to know, so you weren’t being disrespectful, and neither was the person who asked you to use the other doorway without enforcing it.

    2) If you deliberately walked in through the entrance that most women seemed to be using, aware of Islamic beliefs and practices on segregating men and women in a public audience, then I’d say that would be disrespectful and provocative behaviour, regardless of what the other person may have said, though, imo, they should still inform and ask you to use the other door, without enforcing it.

    3) If you accidentally walk in, as described in scenario 1, but this time, the person at the door tells you that you *can’t* enter via that entrance, then I’d say that shouldn’t have happened, since one should never be forced, be it by words or by hand.

    4) You deliberately walk in, as described in scenario 2, and again, the person tells you that you *can’t* enter via that entrance, then again, same as I stated at the end of scenario 3.

    From what I recall, you, Vincent (though I don’t mean that “you” in a hostile accusatory manner!), said you were told that you “can’t” enter via the door being used primarily by women, and for that, although I can’t apologise on behalf of the person who said it to you because a) I don’t know who it is, and b) even if I did, I’d need their permission before I did anything on their behalf, I can apologise for my own part, or lack thereof, in not making all parties involved prior to this event (the entrance thing) aware of both sides’ beliefs and practices (and whilst people may say it’s practically impossible to do that, with regards to anything, I still believe we should try to be our best, but that’s another story, I guess). Regardless of whether you walked in through the side being used by mainly women accidentally or not (I only say this as I have to consider both possibilities), I don’t think you, or anybody, for that matter, should be forced to do anything, even if it’s actually what they want (I mean that in a more general context), and even if it was a deliberate action, I guess others should be humble about it and deal with it in the way that is most peaceful to both sides (I would elaborate more but I’ve gone on for too long I think, and I have a lot of other stuff to do still =/).

    I’d just like to clearly state that all of what I have written here is my opinion and my interpretation of events and whatnot, so I do apologise for any mistakes that I may have made, as well as for waffling on and stuff.

    Thank you.

  8. avatar

    Just a few notes/questions
    .The question he “didn’t answer” was this the guy that said he read he believed in an opposition and said before he even had a chance to answer anything that he did not like him in a pretty hostile way? Also there was some fact he got wrong? Islam is so confusing and so many branches in itself so I honestly can’t remember what the word was…something about whenobies (anyone who can correct me?) And on top of that Sharia Law is also severely argued in Islam…
    I was recently taught Sharia Banking laws a few weeks ago..and they really aren’t different to the west with the idea of interest…its just different wording pretty much…. but same outcomes
    As for him answering a question on that, its not a yes or no answer because I’m sure he believes in nuances. (Don’t feel like I know enough about his views to discuss yet..just wondering…if you have looked in to the crazy complexities their scriptures provide just like all others)
    And if he is able to be friends with people who threatened him loads of times….really…how likely is it that he secretly trying to create some sort of war…
    West is obsessed with individual rights…but everyone seems to forget that also includes respecting other peoples beliefs and rights..not just doing whatever the hell you want….is it really that painful to respect a woman vs man door if its important to them…?
    People need to stop getting so darn agitated and angry the minute someone doesn’t agree with them…

    Dani Ceder
    avatar

    another note from me…. what he has done in the past…and being present at miltant camps and etc…doesnt mean he still believes in all of that…maybe he understands their argument…it pretty common to go back and forth and trying to figure out what rights..
    for example… dont you find yourself questioning if you should force countries to become democratic or to let them get there themselves?

  9. avatar

    Hi Pete, great article. Couple of points:

    – “So far neither the editor, nor the author of this piece have been able to provide a link to back this point up.”
    I have been informed that the poster WAS used on their website, but is now no longer. Pretty difficult to find a link when that happens. I’ve been assured there IS evidence it was used.

    – It’s generally good practice to link back to an article you’re referring to, although in this case I’d imagine all readers have already seen ours, so no biggy.

  10. avatar

    The same people outraged at the Uni allowing him to speak are the same ones who defend stuff like the Mohammed cartoon on the grounds of “free speech”. Pick a side hypocrites.

  11. avatar

    For goodness sake guys, there are just 3 or 4 of you who keeps nagging on the whole thing, you claimed many false things against the speaker, and now when he appeared not as you thought you started picking on the doors signs although the speaker said he didn’t agree with that, and even you criticized Mrs Humphries!! Just get a life and be open minded.. Gosh!

    Mark
    avatar

    People want fairness and equality, not much to ask. Stop nagging them, they have a right to their opinion.

    Jo
    avatar

    I agree that people have the right to express their opinions. The problem is in keep drifting the argument to pick on anything they could possibly pick on just to show that we are different. It would be nicer to look at the things that bring us together rather than looking at the differences between us. All of us has certain things that might differ from one another, so lets just leave these things aside and look at the common things that bring everyone to harmony.

  12. avatar

    When up at campus a Muslim, a Muslim man came up to my group of friends and asked our opinions of Islam, on telling him that i had read the Koran, he exclaimed, ‘great, its your first step on your path to conversion to Islam.’ Was it Islamic education week, or potential converts to Islam week?

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