A homophobic preacher who is the subject of a petition to ban him from speaking at a London university has accused the LGBT community of attempting to “shut down” his “dialogue”.
The University of Westminster’s Islamic Society has booked Sheikh Haitham Al Haddad, who has in the past written articles including one called “Standing up against Homosexuality”, to speak at an event called “Who is Muhammed”.
Al Haddad sits on the board of the Islamic Shariah Council, and in “Standing up against Homosexuality”, he wrote on the “the scourge of homosexuality”, calling it a “criminal act”.
He responded to calls for him to be banned from speaking at the University of Westminster, saying: “This is a completely misplaced campaign. The event has nothing to do with Islam’s position on homosexuality yet this is the focus of their complaint. There is a clear attempt being made to almost criminalise certain aspects of being a Muslim. In the religion of Islam it is clear-cut that homosexual acts are a sin and are unlawful in the Shariah. Trying to censor lawful speech does not change this fact.”
“I do not believe the views I hold are much different to those of orthodox Christian or Jewish religious leaders. I have only ever engaged in lawful speech and have never been prosecuted for hate speech or inciting hatred. I would remind those who initiated this campaign that this country is supposed to be based on freedom of religious belief and expression. I am a strong believer in dialogue, regrettably the LGBTI society wants to shut it down.”
A petition has been started, and has gathered over two thousand signatures, calling on the University of Westminster Students Union to ban him from speaking at the university.
In a statement the University of Westminster last week said: “The University is committed to maintaining freedom of speech and a diversity of views as set out in the Education Act 1986.
“As a diverse community of local and international students of many faiths, respect and tolerance is our foremost concern and we will be monitoring the event carefully and any student concerns.”
As well as remarks about gay people, the sheikh has made comments about Jewish people, and is a strong supporter of female genital mutilation.