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LSE investigates its Islamic Society as men and women are segregated at annual ball

The Islamic society of the London School of Economics has been criticised by a leading Muslim women's group after hosting an event which segregated men from women.

Credit: Facebook

Divided by a 7ft high screen, attendees were given separate phone numbers to dial to buy male or female tickets.

The annual event was held on Sunday evening at the Grand Connaught Rooms, near the university in Holborn.

I approached the Islamic Society for comment, they referred me to the General Secretary of the LSE who attended the dinner herself.

Everyone felt comfortable, I am disappointed that this event has been misconstrued by the media as something that was oppressive to women. I defend the right of religious societies to organise themselves in the way that they wish.

– Nona Buckley-Irvine, General Sec, LSE Students Union

A viewpoint backed up by Perdita Blinkhorn, who runs LGBT+ Alliance at the LSE:

The women asked for it to be segregated so that they can feel comfortable, not all of them want to have their hair tied up and hidden - they don't want to be exposed to the men. That's a choice they have made.

– Perdita Blinkhorn, LGBT+ Alliance at LSE
Credit: Facebook

But did this event break the law? Currently, gender segregation is 'not permissible' in the UK under equality law. Unless it's in a building permanently or temporarily used for religious practices.

The LSE says it follows the EHRC guidance on this matter, and regards gender segregation at events on campus or organised by LSE or the LSE community as contrary to the law, except for certain exceptions such as occasions of religious worship or where segregation is entirely voluntary. The School says it's now investigating.

Some organisations are now asking serious questions of the Islamic Society. Should segregated events have a part to play in UK Universities?

Haydar Zaki from the Quilliam Foundation told me segregation alienates Muslims too.

Many of those attending the event said they felt intimidated by the segregation that took place and it should have respected the plethora of different views in Islamic faith. Many of those viewpoints agree that the Islamic faith has no contradiction with absolute women's equality.

– Haydar Zaki, Quilliam Foundation

It's absurd, because these men and women would be seeing each other coming in and out of the building, yet they're artificially segregated and the next day they're going to be interacting with each other during the day. It's just ridiculous.

– Shaista Gohir - Muslim Women's Network UK