By Alina Ryzhonkova, Deputy News Editor
As the LSE Islamic Society’s (ISOC) annual dinner, which saw men and women seated in different areas of the venue and separated by a curtain, continues to dominate headlines, the Student Union has finally issued an official statement on the matter. The statement, signed by the Sabbatical team, asserts that gender segregation at the dinner was wholly voluntary and in line with the ‘European Commission on Human Rights guidance’* on gender equality. The Sabbs express their support for Islamic Society in their statement and highlight the successes of the society, while accusing critics of the dinner of trying to portray seating arrangements as a sign of Islamic extremism, thus encouraging Islamophobic attitudes.
Unsurprisingly the statement has already sparked debate as some point out the apparent double standards of allowing gender segregation at society dinners while condemning, for example, gender segregated golf clubs. As the voluntary nature of the segregation is brought up in defence of the dinner, many have pointed out the subjectivity of measuring just how voluntary the segregation was. There are some attempts to shift the attention away from the dinner itself to the wider issue of Muslim women’s rights, however, the general opinion remains quite sceptic of the gender segregation at LSESU’s Islamic Society’s dinner, with criticisms currently seeming more common than support, if comments on Facebook and Tumblr are an accurate barometer.
Coming more than 24 hours after the initial story in Mail Online, the SU statement was issued some two hours after a statement by ISoc. The society statement strongly condemned the irresponsible reporting of Mail Online, which they say threatened the safety and welfare of its members, as well as criticising the LSE directly, who they say ‘ultimately failed us [ISOC], 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.’
Editor’s Note: The European Commission of/on Human Rights is a now defunct tribunal rendered obsolete in 1998. Whilst it can be safely assumed that this tribunal is not what the SU statement intended to refer to, and whilst it can be reasonably inferred what the SU statement did intend to refer to, it is not The Beaver’s place to make this distinction.
The story continues to develop and we hope to be able to provide clarity on this particular matter, as well as news, comment and analysis on the wider issue, as soon as possible.