A students’ union has backed down on its ban over a human rights campaigner speaking at a Midland university - after sparking anger by claiming she could offend Muslims.
Iranian-born Maryam Namazie was invited by Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists’ Society to give a talk on October 28 at the University of Warwick.
However, Warwick Students’ Union blocked the move, fearing the former Muslim - known for giving talks which challenge aspects of Islam - could upset followers of the religion.
The move provoked a backlash, with high profile figures including prominent atheist Richard Dawkins and TV scientist Prof Brian Cox condemning the union for failing to allow free speech.
Prof Dawkins said on Twitter: “To ban a speaker you happen to disagree with is a contemptible betrayal of everything a university stands for.
“What do the bleating cowards of Warwick SU think a university is for? If students won’t support free speech who will?
“It’s a patronising insult to Muslim students to assume they’d rather censor than come along and argue with Maryam.
“When the big babies of Warwick SU finally climb down, Maryam Namazie will get a far larger audience. Good.”
Now the students’ union has issued a fresh statement, stating it had agreed to “host” Ms Namazie as “an external speaker” and there had been “no excuse” for the ban.
And it said it was set to issue an “unequivocal apology to Maryam Namazie for this egregious and highly regrettable error”.
“We have a process for assessing any potential risks or legal issues associated with any external speaker, and it is now very clear to us that in this case that process has not been followed,” added the statement.
“Speaker invitations that may involve such issues are routinely considered by the SU president, who will also take advice from senior SU staff.
“This did not happen on this occasion. Neither the SU President, nor senior SU staff, were consulted as they should have been.
“This is a significant error for which there can be no excuse.
“There is a great deal that we now must put right.”
The statement added that the union would now check its policies on assessing requests to host external speakers was communicated properly across the union.
It concluded: “We want to assure everyone of Warwick Students’ Union’s continued commitment to free speech.
“We also want to take this opportunity to apologise to everyone who has expressed concern, or disappointment, or who has been hurt by this significant error.”