Uni ‘postpones’ visit by anti-gay cleric hours after Jihadi John revelation

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The University of Westminster has “postponed” a planned visit by a cleric who branded homosexuality “a scourge”.

Sheikh Haitham Al Haddad was due to speak with students at the University of Westminster’s Islamic Society this evening.

The decision to invite Haddad had caused uproar with members of the university’s LGBT society who petitioned for the cleric to be banned from attending.

Hundreds of students from across the country are expected to attend Student Pride at the university this weekend.

In response to calls for a ban, Haddad said: “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.”

Haddad previously described homosexuality as “a scourge” that is “evil” and “a criminal act”.

On Thursday evening, the University of Westminster announced that it had “postponed” Al Haddad’s visit due to “increased sensitivity and security concerns”.

The university has been “shocked” by revelations that the masked Islamic State militant known as ‘Jihadi John’, who has been pictured in the videos of the beheadings of Western hostages, has been named as Mohammed Emwazi, a former student of the university.

The university said on its website: “Alumnus Mohammed Emwazi, who left the University six years ago, is alleged to be involved in terrorist activities.

“If the allegations of terrorist activity are true, we are shocked and sickened by the news. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families.

“We have students from 150 countries and their safety is of paramount concern.

“With other universities in London, we are working to implement the government’s Prevent strategy to tackle extremism.

“We have set up a dedicated pastoral team to provide advice and support to our students.”

Referring to Haitham Al Haddad’s visit – which has been “postponed” not cancelled – a spokesperson said: “The University of Westminster is committed to maintaining freedom of speech and a range 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.

“The University has a strict speaker policy which means that all speakers are required to give their agreement to abide by a code of practice. Speakers who do not comply with this policy while on campus will not be permitted to speak at the University in the future.”

A cleric who previously was accused of linking homosexuality with the “sexual abuse of children, polyandry and cannibalism” gave a speech at the Islamic society of Goldsmiths, University of London, on Thursday evening.