CAIRO - Young British Muslims on university campuses have lashed out at claims made in a study by a self-styled campus watchdog accusing them of segregating and denigrating women, rejecting it as a witch hunt aiming at demonizing Muslim students.
Organizations such as Student Rights, supposedly a non-partisan group, have continuously sought to ramp up fears of 'extremism' having a detrimental impact on the welfare of Muslim students, Mohamed Harrath, a student union executive at the London School of Economics, told Huffington Post UK.
[The groups] feed into a pernicious campaign which increasingly demonizes [Muslim Students], contributing to a climate of fear and suspicion of Britain's 100,000 Muslim students who work tirelessly to build more inclusive and respectful campuses.
There is only one voice that is speaking about extremism on campus and is completely distorts everything. Other voices must be heard.
The second year government and economics student was referring to a report by Student Rights group which lists events which have segregated men and women and says they are not isolated incidents' but rather form a part of a wider, discriminatory trend on UK university campuses.
I am distraught that, in the 21st century, British university campuses can be used to segregate and denigrate women, Raheem Kassam, director of Student Rights, told the Times.
The acceptance of segregation on campuses is a far more serious issue than previously thought.
Harrath criticized the report claims that university campuses are hotbeds of Islamic extremism, adding that the pressure group was trying to ramp up the effects of Islamophobia on Muslim students.
Trying to focus all the attention on universities is not right. Muslim students have become defined by extremism and terrorism and it's not fair, Harrath said.
Extremism exists no more in universities than it does elsewhere. This idea that universities are a breeding ground is just not true.
Muslim students are just normal students, he added.
The report claims were rejected by the National Union of Students as a witch hunt' for Muslim students.
We would welcome an open and balanced discussion about gender issues and religion but it's important that contributions aren't hysterical and that the word extremism' isn't thrown around without justification, Pete Mercer, vice-president welfare officer for the National Union of Students, said.
Unfortunately this report appears to conflate events organized for women to meet separately with those where genders are forced to sit separately.
Mercer added the NUS was not aware of any complaints made by students to universities or student unions about gender segregation.
When events are open to the general public or student population forced segregation is entirely unacceptable, however where the event is closed and all those present have agreed to segregate, they should have the freedom to make that choice, he said.
A witch hunt which makes sweeping judgments about student Islamic societies without knowing the details denies the women involved the very equality it claims to wish for them.
Reyhana Patel, a journalist and researcher specializing in Muslim communities, also rejected the accusations.
This latest accusation is just another attempt by Student Rights to bash the Muslim community and create the fear that Islam is not compatible with western society.
As a Muslim woman, I've attended numerous events where there have been the optional segregation seating and where I've chosen to sit in the female-only section and other times where I've chosen to sit in a group of males and females together. Have I ever felt denigrated or discriminated? No, in fact the complete opposite, it is actually empowering to be able to have the choice.
It is also imperative to point out that segregated seating is not only practiced and encouraged in the Islamic faith, but also in various other faiths, such as Judaism, Patel continues.
Student Rights has a long track record of trying to expose' student Islamic societies. It is groups like Student Rights which use every opportunity they can to create fear and anxiety amongst the British public towards Islam and Muslims, she added.
Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.7 million.
There are 400,000 Muslim students in British schools, according to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).
There are nearly 90,000 Muslim students studying in higher education institutions in the European country.
In 2008, a Cambridge University study found that young British Muslims on university campuses represent a generation of well-integrated citizens rather than disaffected extremists.