V-c 'alcohol ban' comments could prompt attacks on Muslim students, London Met Islamic groups claim

Two Islamic societies at London Metropolitan University have launched a scathing attack on “undemocratic, ill devised and misleading remarks” by the vice-chancellor, who proposed banning alcohol from parts of the campus in case it offended Muslims.

April 25, 2012

In a joint letter to Malcolm Gillies, the Islamic Society and Shia Muslim Society said that his “divisive and irresponsible” plan has led to confrontations on campus and could lead to Muslim students being attacked.

“There has never been a demand for an alcohol ban on campus from Muslim or non-Muslim students,” the letter says.

“We, as Muslim students, value democracy and respect diversity and multiculturalism and we also acknowledge that we are able to practice our faith more freely here in the UK than in many Muslim countries around the world.”

“We find your recent comments regarding banning alcohol on university premises being based on religious grounds, as an attack not only on the values we hold, but also on the values of the wider non-Muslim community,” it continues.

Professor Gillies’ comments, first reported by Times Higher Education, were picked up by a number of news outlets and generated a largely negative response online.

The letter says that Professor Gillies’ “unreasonable proposal” had demonised Muslims and had been picked up by far-Right groups such as the English Defence League.

It claims that the comments, made at a conference of the Association of University Administrators on 3 April, have "initiated the process of polarisation of the student body and creating resentments towards Muslim students. For example, there has already been anti-Muslim remarks appearing on various social media websites and there have also been actual incidences of student confrontations which have been reported to the Student Union, and it is only a matter of time before a Muslim student is physically assaulted."

“We did not expect such an intellectually dishonest stance from a person of such calibre,” the letter continues, and calls for a retraction of the comments and an unreserved apology.

Professor Gillies has previously defended his comments by arguing that the prohibition against alcohol in Islam is “quite clear”.

“It’s indisputably clear because it’s immoral [in Islam],” he told THE two weeks ago. “If you speak to virtually any Muslim student they will tell you what their teaching is.”

The letter follows a call yesterday for the governors of London Metropolitan to intervene in the university’s direction after a union poll found that 91 per cent of staff respondents had no confidence in Professor Gillies.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

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