LSESU denies ex-Muslims a safe space
Society statement 29-10-2012
On Friday October 26th, the LSE Students Union denied the request of the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society to change their name to the LSESU Atheist, Secularist, Humanist and Ex-Muslim Society. The SU justified their answer in the following way: "We decided not to grant the name change because given the email that you sent us as why you would like to change the name, we feel that by adding ‘ex-Muslim’ to the society name it will no longer become a safe space for ex-Muslims; in the sense that it may be an indication as to where ex-Muslims can affiliate to."
On behalf of the society, the committee of the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society responded to the SU:
"In your email you stated that "by adding 'ex-Muslim' to the society name it will no longer become a safe space for ex-Muslims; in the sense that it may be an indication as to where ex-Muslims can affiliate to".
We are glad that you acknowledge that the situation of ex-Muslim students is precarious and deserving of special attention, and that they are in need of a "safe space." On a less enthusiastic note, we are saddened by the fact that you did apparently not consult with ex-Muslims before taking your decision, as Imtiaz had proposed.
We also appreciate your concern about the safety of ex-Muslims, but disagree with your contention that adding "ex-Muslim" to our name would in fact create an unsafe space for ex-Muslim students, in the sense that they would be marked out. The risk of danger that ex-Muslims face in many places does not exist on our safe, quite secure and liberal campus. If we were to follow this line of thought, we should also do away with the LGBT Society and LGBT events, since they also face danger from extremists in this very country - their events have suffered attacks from bigots in the past.
On a related note, we would like to point out that the situation of LGBT people in many countries is quite similar to that of ex-Muslims, in that they also face persecution and lack support options, and we seek a safe space for ex-Muslims for similar reasons.
This safe space must be as accessible as possible. Like any minority group, ex-Muslims will benefit greatly from a kindred community where they can expect support, representation and a wealth of analogous experience. The credibility and stature of such a fellowship in an ex-Muslim student's eyes would gain immensely from a permanent, emphatic statement of commitment to their interests, which is precisely what our change seeks to establish. As such, it is important that we specifically include "ex-Muslims" in our name. Our idea has already received the endorsement of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and the London Ex-Muslim Collaboration, whose calls for greater attention to the ex-Muslim plight are corroborated by reams of empirical and anecdotal evidence that document the unrivalled alienation, estrangement and despair that define the ex-Muslim experience.
With regard to your proposal to change our name to substitute this change for "ex-religious", we feel that this would defy the purpose of the name change, as explained in our initial statement and above. Our name already implies ex-religious, and the case for ex-Muslims is a separate one entirely. We are in agreement that ex-Muslims are a specific group with different needs to other ex-religious people due to their unique situation, and consequently they are in have a more pressing need for representation and a safe space than other ex-religious groups. The reports of many of our ex-Muslim members and friends testify to this need for special attention.
At this point, we would also like to point out that the SU constitution or bye-laws do not mention any provision for the name change of a society. Indeed, according to bye-law 4 of the LSESU, the purpose of the SU Activities Committee is:
"27.1 Consider proposals for new Societies, Clubs or Media Group Societies
27.2 Consider applications for Associate Memberships
27.3 Act as a focus group reporting to the Activities and Development Officer to discuss and comment on specific Society, Media Group Athletic Union and Club budgets before they are sent to the Activities Assembly."
Therefore, contrary to your response, we feel that it is not within the remit of the SU or of the SU Activities Committee to approve name changes of existing LSESU societies, as long as they are not harmful.
Additionally, article 7 of bye-law 4 states that the core objectives of the SU will not be "interpreted so as to preclude the establishment of political, religious or ethnically based societies". Ex-Muslims fall into more than one of those categories. Giving a forum and safe space for ex-Muslims would also be in line with the mission of the LSESU to fight for the rights of students and be at the forefront of social progress.
On our part, we feel that following the free vote of our members at our AGM, we have fulfilled all the necessary requirements for the approval of our amended. If you disagree with our position please point us to the relevant bye-laws. Should we not receive a reply by by Friday November 2nd, we will assume that the SU does indeed accept our position."
For questions related to our name change please contact Imtiaz, our spokesperson for Ex-Muslim affairs: firstname.lastname@example.org