On the 15th of March, The Daily Mail released what can only be described as a vitriolic article, in which it publicly criticised the LSESU Islamic Society (ISoc) for our flagship Annual Dinner hosted on Sunday. This decade-old event commends ISoc students’ achievements throughout the year, and celebrates the contributions of its members towards the wider LSE community. Attendees also take this opportunity to engage in different forms of religious worship and cultural practices.
The report in The Daily Mail spoke against the seating arrangement by suggesting that it may be in violation of the university’s policy on gender equality. As a society, we reject any suggestion that our Annual Dinner contravened the LSE’s Equality Policy. The guidelines explicitly state that segregation is permissible both in the event of religious ceremonies and when it is voluntarily chosen. The curtain was in fact set up at the request of our members and the layout of the room was necessary for the facilitation of three prayers, a spiritual sermon, and Quran recitation. Furthermore, the seating arrangement at the event was not mandatory, as there were numerous spaces around the venue that allowed men and women to mix freely. It is important to note that the coverage of the event was entirely false and written with an islamophobic agenda.
Beyond these baseless accusations, and perhaps more seriously, in their framing of the article, the Daily Mail directly threatened the safety and welfare of a number of our members. When the article was initially released, private pictures of those who attended were blurred out. However, throughout the course of the day, the Mail Online removed the blur on the personal pictures. Not only is the exposure of individuals present at our event a gross invasion of privacy, but this also outrageously and falsely implicates these individuals with extremism and terrorism to eleven million daily readers worldwide. This perpetuates a dangerously racist rhetoric against Muslim students. This is of increasing concern to our members, and as a society we will not stand for any form of racism, discrimination or hatred.
More worrying than the false accusation of policy infringement and the demonisation of some of our members, were the malicious insinuations that followed in the article. Falsely linking our Annual Dinner to extremism, radicalisation and terrorism, The Mail Online’s islamophobic report not only directly perpetuated Islamophobia and hateful bigotry nationally, but has instigated the presence of other media outlets that have been involved in the intimidation of some of our students on campus. The rhetoric used throughout this piece exemplifies the extent to which Islamophobia has become normalised in the mainstream media and society as a whole. This ugly hate speech and rhetoric has manifested itself in a plethora of islamophobic hate crime, verbal abuse and physical assaults on Muslim students throughout university campuses in the UK. Such lazy reporting and gutter journalism contributes to the growing climate of fear and division, which has significant repercussions for the wellbeing of already vulnerable and marginalised students.
The LSE has ultimately failed us, in refusing to protect and stand up for its Muslim students’ welfare and failing to safeguard our freedom of expression, in spite of continuing attacks on personal members as well as the society as a whole. We strongly urge the university to stand up for our rights and place the welfare of students above their reputational interests.
Despite the media frenzy, we will continue doing what we do best. Having won best LSESU Society of the year 2015 out of 220 nominees, and raising over £30,000 for charity in November alone, the LSESU Islamic Society is an integral part of the fabric that makes up LSE’s student body. We’ve hosted interfaith events with our brothers and sisters in the Jewish Society, and reached out and facilitated open minded dialogue through our Discover Islam Week project. Moreover, we are committed to actively challenging the toxic rhetoric that attempts to conflate Islam with radical terrorism. We are proud to be one of the most progressive and successful Islamic societies in the country. We urge all members of the LSE community to stand with us in challenging all forms of hatred and bigotry in our community.
The LSESU Islamic Society will continue to forever build bridges, not barriers. We look forward to seeing you at next year’s Annual Dinner!
LSESU Islamic Society