Banning Haddad: universities are doing the Home Office’s bidding
A controversial Islamic preacher has been banned from speaking at the University of Kent, less than two months after the university was ranked among the worst in the country for freedom of speech. Last week, Haitham al-Haddad, criticised for his homophobic beliefs and defence of domestic violence, was due to speak as part of Kent Islamic Society’s ‘Discover Islam’ week. However, at the last minute, the university prevented him from doing so.
Banning speakers such as Haddad from campus is an insult to free speech. Free speech is not something that can only be extended to those who we, as a society, deem to be right – to place conditions on free speech is to undermine it entirely. The fact that the Islamic Society even considered inviting this man to speak raises some serious questions about the organisers. But banning people him outright only buries students’ heads in the sand, and stops them from taking on his arguments in the open.
Universities are supposed to be places of higher learning and thinking; places where views are explored and challenged. While the UK home secretary Theresa May recently abandoned her proposal to oblige universities to ban extremist speakers, the banning of Haddad – both at Kent, and, before that, at Westminster – shows that universities are already more than willing to do the Home Office’s patronising censorship on its behalf.
Students are intelligent enough to be able to engage with such people in open debate; it is time universities stopped treating us like children. The case of Haddad shows that students’ right to free speech is being eroded from within, and that universities are displaying an intolerance to rival that of the man himself.
Nic Weatherill is a writer and student at the University of Kent.
Read the University of Kent’s profile on spiked’s Free Speech University Rankings.