A Zimbabwean cleric, who has compared gay people to animals and gay sex to rape, has cancelled a visit to Oxford.
Mufti Ismail Menk was scheduled to undertake a series of lectures across universities in the UK with the East London Islamic organisation, the Tayyibun Institute.
He has made several remarks seen as homophobic, including claiming that “even pigs and dogs do not engage with this homosexuality”.
On Thursday, November 7th, the Institute announced that the tour was “cancelled until further notice”.
In a flyer that has now been removed from their website, the Tayyibun Institute advertised that Menk would be preaching at “University of Oxford- Wellington Square” on Thursday of 5th week.
Prior to cancellation, Menk’s visit attracted some strong opposition from Oxford students. On the Oxford Feminist Network’s Facebook page, an anti-Menk demonstration was called for.
Menk, however, hit back with a post on the Tayyibun Institute’s Facebook page. He said: “I am very disturbed by being labeled a hate preacher etc by gay rights activists. The truth is that I have never promoted hatred, violence or intolerance against gays or any others for that matter.”
He continued: “Coming from Zimbabwe, I had not been exposed to gays [but now] I have had a chance to meet with some of them and even share a few jokes and discuss their point of view.”
Menk argued that his problem was not with homosexuality per se, but rather “with those who say Islam allows gay behavior”.
The President of LGBTQ Society, Ashley Francis-Roy, took a conciliatory attitude to the news, commenting: “It is important to recognise that some people who you might describe as ‘homophobic’ are driven by reasonable concerns, rather than just homophobia. I believe that you do not advance arguments by accusing your opponents of bad motives or bad faith. Working effectively with its disagreement is a way the LGBTQ community can secure change”.
“On the other hand, abusive communication should not be given a platform. The Society can help by leading strong opposition against such behaviour, whist also offering support to those affected.”
Many Oxford students have condemned the comments of the controversial cleric. Toby Gill, a first year historian, described Menk as “a nasty man” with “shocking views”.
Carola Binney, a fresher at Magdalen, found Menk’s comments “horrifying” and condemned Menk as “simultaneously boring and offensive”.
Freddie Shuffrey, a second year at Wadham and a member of LGBTQ Society, however, defended Menk’s right to freedom of speech. He said: “Short of people advocating death and violence, everyone should be free to express their opinions, execrable as they are, in an academic environment of free expression and exchange of ideas.”
The University has denied ever inviting Menk to speak. Speaking to Pink News, a spokesperson said: “The University of Oxford has not extended an official invitation to Mufti Ismail Menk and we have so far been unable to confirm even whether such an event is actually scheduled to take place in Oxford”.
The University of Liverpool, however, did extend Menk an official invitation, calling on him to lecture no “what young people can gain from a University experience”.
The University of Liverpool University stated: “It is our duty to promote peace and tolerance, equality and justice, acknowledging the presence of the diverse faiths and inclinations in our midst. As we travel and develop we learn more about the cultures and ways of others and respect their right to follow what they wish to and vice versa.”
Menk boasts almost 200,000 followers on Twitter and 660,000 likes on Facebook. He regularly undertakes lecture tours in the Middle East.