The society embroiled in a scandal over a speaker accused of homophobia has shut down following national condemnation.
After the story gained national attention, the Students’ Union suspended Global Aspirations pending an investigation and the society have since voluntarily shut down.
But the original statement offered by the Students’ Union was heavily criticised and two updated statements were subsequently released as the day’s events unfolded.
It originally read, “We are deeply concerned with the covert filming of a student event within the Union. We are also deeply concerned by the suggestion that comments of a homophobic nature have been made.”
The statement provoked an angry reaction on Twitter and drew analysis from national news websites. Douglas Murray wrote sarcastically for The Spectator: “You see. Wrong done on both sides. If everybody only admitted that then perhaps we could all just get along. Can’t we?”
The Students’ Union prevented The Mancunion from releasing the video recording online for legal reasons, but it was widely shown by other news websites and has since been watched over 11,000 times at the time of writing.
Some students initially took to Facebook to defend Global Aspirations and accuse The Mancunion of sensationalism. Sahar Rauf accused The Mancunion of “shoddy journalism” and added, “The mi5 and CTU are criticised for similar under hand [sic] tactics where they have framed British Muslims, taken recordings out of context, infiltrated communities and created mistrust and paranoia.”
But as the story spread to The Telegraph, Huffington Post and PinkNews, defenders of the society were drowned out by angry students and blog posts calling for action.
Gay Muslim advocate Omar Kuddus said: “It is totally unacceptable that such extremist views advocating violence, and hatred towards homosexuals are allowed or even exist in modern Britain. Especially when it is falsely made in the name of my religion, Islam, which in its true form, as expressed in the Koran, promotes peace and acceptance.
“Have the Global Aspirations of Women members and chair actually read the Koran? Their comments are un-Islamic and have no foundation in my religion.”
Kevin Peel, a Manchester councillor and member of the LGBT Labour National Executive, told The Mancunion: “I was surprised, I have to say, that people in a city as proud of its diversity as Manchester would hold these views.
“We should absolutely support freedom of speech, but people don’t have a right to say things when those comments infringe on the freedom of others.”
On Wednesday, BBC North West visited the Students’ Union to cover the events. Colin Cortbus, the 1st year student who took the recording, told the BBC: “I don’t think this type of incitement has any place in a 21st century democratic society. We want equality for all and liberty for all.”
Nick Pringle, General Secretary of the Students’ Union, said: “When this was brought to light, the Students’ Union took the decision to suspend the society pending investigation, and following that they took the decision to completely disband, which we welcome.”
BBC North West Political Editor Arif Ansari concluded, “This case raises wider questions about radicalisation on campus and how it’s monitored.
“It’s only through the initiative of one student, not the union or the university, which has led to Global Aspirations being exposed.”
Khadijah Afzal, chair of now-closed Global Aspirations and speaking on behalf of the society, told The Mancunion: “It was a hypothetical discussion in which people were open to discuss their views, which or may not have necessarily been that of the society.
“The fact that you have pin pointed only the discussion on the punishment system in Islam shows that you are ignorant of Islam as a political system, and hence decided to play the media rhetoric of Islam equates to harsh punishments and lack of humanity.”
Ms Afzal refused to respond to requests to identify the speaker.
Greater Manchester Police confirmed a complaint had been made on Wednesday 20th February regarding comments made in the video, and that “enquiries were ongoing.”
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