Islamic Human Rights Commission
21 September 2005
Urgent Alert: Protest Middlesex University’s Clampdown on Freedom of Speech
IHRC urges all campaigners to contact Middlesex University to protest against its decision to suspend Student Union president Keith Shilson and revoke his studentship indefinitely for his refusal to cancel a debate with Hizb ut-Tahrir.
The Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir had been invited by the Student Union of Middlesex University to take part in a Question & Answer meeting next Wednesday 28 September 2005. Last week, the Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Michael Driscoll, ordered the Student Union to cancel the invitation to Hizb ut-Tahrir. The Student Union was told that if it did not cancel the invitation, the meeting would be “banned”. Student Union President Keith Shilson refused to cancel the invitation arguing that it should be allowed on the ground of freedom of speech.
Due to this refusal to cancel the invitation, Mr Shilson was yesterday suspended from the university, had his studentship revoked indefinitely and was escorted from campus by university security. Hizb ut-Tahrir has not been banned by the Government or on campus in Middlesex University and promotes a non-violent approach to political change. It has repeatedly condemned acts of terrorism such as the London bombings as having no justification in Islam.
The Vice Chancellor’s decision to suspend Mr Shilson is a clear sign of the new form of McCarthyism currently at play both on university campuses and in the wider British society. We have reached a stage now where not only Muslims are being persecuted for their beliefs but also members of other communities who may defend Muslims against such persecution or simply seek to understand their beliefs.
2. Suggested Action
a) Contact the Vice-Chancellor of Middlesex University and request that Keith Shilson be reinstated with a full apology. A sample letter may be found below for your convenience.
Professor Michael Driscoll
Tel. 020 8411 5606
b) Send messages of support to Keith Shilson for his courage and bravery in refusing to buckle under tremendous pressure and standing up for fundamental freedoms so precious to us all.
Middlesex University Students\’ Union
Tel: 020 8411 6763
Fax: 020 8440 5944
Professor Michael Driscoll
Dear Professor Driscoll
Re: Suspension of Keith Shilson
I am writing regarding Middlesex University’s decision to suspend and indefinitely revoke the studentship of Student Union president Keith Shilson.
I am very shocked to hear that the reasoning behind the suspension was Mr Shilson’s refusal to cancel an invitation to the Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir to a debate on 28 September.
Hizb ut-Tahrir is a non-violent group which has repeatedly condemned acts of terrorism such as the London bombings as having no justification in Islam. Despite much propaganda, it has not been banned by the Government. Irrespective of whether we agree or disagree with the beliefs and principles held by Hizb ut-Tahrir, to prohibit them from publicly speaking is abhorrent to the precious values of a liberal democracy such as Britain. It is an active effort to clamp down upon freedom of speech and freedom of association.
Furthermore, to punish a student who may neither belong to nor even share the beliefs of Hizb ut-Tahrir is eerily reminiscent of the shameful era of McCarthyism. In attempting to cancel the debate and in suspending Keith Shilson, Middlesex University is stifling freedom of academic thought in university, the very place where ideas must be debated and exchanged.
I urge you to reinstate Mr Shilson immediately with a full apology.
I look forward to hearing from you shortly regarding the action you have taken in this extremely serious matter.