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Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Investigation launched after segregated seating row at UCL

University College London has launched an investigation after organizers of a campus debate on Islam tried to segregate the audience.

An academic invited to participate in the debate - titled 'Islam or Atheism?  Which Makes More Sense?' - threatened to walk out of the event after women were asked to sit at the back of the auditorium and men and couples were invited to the front by organizers the Islamic Education and Research Academy.  

Professor Lawrence Krauss, one of the world's leading atheists, was lined up to debate against Islamic lecturer Hamza Andreas Tzortzis at the event, held on Saturday.

Krauss refused to participate in the debate until the organizers changed their minds.

He tweeted: "Almost walked out of debate as it ended up segregated + saw 3 kids being ejected for sitting in wrong place. I packed up and they caved in."

One participant also posted a video of Professor Krauss' action on her Facebook page.

Organizer Zayd Tutton of the iERA however, disputed Krauss' account of events.

Speaking to the Huffington Post UK, he said: "There were three sections as agreed with UCL prior to the debate. This was agreed clearly with UCL representatives.

"Muslim women choosing to adhere to orthodox Islamic principles in sitting in their own area had their own section.

"As for those who wanted to sit together, male or female, they had their own section where they freely mixed and sat together from the beginning."

University College London on Monday said it will ban IERA from holding any events on the University's premises in future.

In a statement on its website, UCL said it had been notified of the organizer's intention to segregate the audience at the event but had instructed IERA that that would be against University policy.

UCL is also reported to have deployed additional security staff to ensure that segregation didn't take place.

The statement added: "Despite our clear instructions, attempts were made (by organizers) to enforce segregation at the meeting. We are still investigating what actually happened but, given IERA’s original intentions for a segregated audience we have concluded that their interests are contrary to UCL’s ethos and that we should not allow any further events involving them to take place on UCL premises."


- Staff Reporter

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