Monday, March 28, 2016

Ex-Guantanamo Bay prisoner Moazzam Begg REFUSES to condemn stoning of women in university talk

An agitator from the organisation that backed Jihadi John has failed to condemn the stoning of women during a controversial lecture at an elite university.

Moazzam Begg, outreach director for CAGE, spoke at the University of Exeter as part a National Union of Students campaign to sabotage government counter-terrorism measures.

It is just the latest in a long line of appearances on campuses by the group, which recently provoked horror after calling the Islamic State killer a 'beautiful young man'.

They are working with members of the NUS to urge a boycott of the Prevent scheme, which requires academics to look out for signs of radicalism.

Yesterday, critics voiced their disquiet that Mr Begg was given an unchallenged platform to preach his views to more than 750 students at Exeter.

A video posted online shows he repeatedly refused to denounce the punishment of stoning for adulteresses when challenged by a student.

Anthony Glees, a terror expert at the University of Buckingham, said: ‘It's sickening that Exeter University has allowed Moazzam Begg onto to its campus to incite students to oppose Prevent.

‘It is high time universities stopped the NUS and Begg from exploiting our tradition of lawful free speech and misleading students about how best to keep Britain safe from Islamist extremists.

‘Opening the door to Begg will close the minds of our students making Britain less safe and less free.’

Mr Begg, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, spoke last Wednesday at the ‘Students Not Suspects’ event, organised by the university Socialist, Feminist and Islamic Societies in partnership with Friends of Palestine.

Also on the four-seat panel was Shelly Asquith, the NUS’s vice-president for welfare, who is a key anti-Prevent campaigner and Jeremy Corbyn activist.

One student questioned Mr Begg over an interview he gave to Julian Assange alongside CAGE research director Asim Qureshi.

In the interview, Mr Qureshi stated that, if all conditions were met, a women could be stoned to death for adultery.

At first, Mr Begg dismissed the question as a ‘red herring’ and denied Qureshi had supported stoning adulteresses.  But after more prompting, he said: ‘The reason why I'm here is because of what was done to me.  ‘I'm here because of Guantanamo.  ‘I'm here because of terrorism and the effects of anti-terror legislation.

‘I’m terms of asking Qureshi’s personal views and so forth you can ask him whenever you get the chance to speak to him.

‘As far as I’m concerned, I’m very clear. I don't know anyone who's been stoned to death in the UK, I don't know anyone who's been tried as adulterers in the UK, I don't know anybody who's applying those rules in the UK, and that's what I’m concerned with.'

Gray Sergeant, of Student Rights, a project run by the Henry Jackson Society think tank, was present at the event and said CAGE was an inappropriate group to invite onto campus.

He said: ‘The NUS "Students Not Suspects" tour has given CAGE an unchallenged platform at universities across the UK despite the group’s history of defending convicted terrorists.  ‘Campuses should be places for robust debate, not for misinformation to be spread without opposition.’

An NUS spokesman said the event was not organised by the NUS and that ‘individual officers’ were attending in a personal capacity.

They added: ‘NUS does not work with CAGE. Individuals associated with CAGE have made comments which contradict NUS’ policies, on anti-Semitism and violence against women.’

Exeter student union vice-president of welfare and diversity, Naomi Armstrong, said CAGE were ‘misguided’ and that the union had played ‘no part’ in inviting them.

However, she said: ‘We have never blocked any event from external speakers in over ten years and free speech and debate are important values to us, even if we don't agree with what people themselves say.’

A University spokesman said: ‘At Exeter we are working hard to comply with the expectations of the statutory Prevent duty within the context of our particular environmental risks, while also rigorously defending academic freedom and the right of students and staff to freedom of speech and other legislation such at the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act.

‘We understand that speakers and events play an integral role in the learning environment and are a valuable contribution to the student experience.

‘We will protect the right to debate openly and freely and will always seek to allow events to go ahead providing they are within the law.’

Responding to the criticism about his appearance at Exeter, Moazzam Begg said yesterday in a statement: ‘I was not asked to condemn stoning (of men or women) - the recording clearly shows this.

‘I was asked to disassociate with the view of my colleague Asim Qureshi regarding his views of someone else and, their view of his view on stoning.

‘This is bizarre because Mr. Qureshi has said: "...from an evidentiary perspective, it [adultery] is almost impossible to establish...the fact that you even have a punishment [stoning of adulterers] taking place means that the rule of law is being abused at some point because its impossible to establish that evidentiary standard."

‘This is a concerted attempt once again to smear those brave voices who challenge the growth of the surveillance State and the government attack on dissent.

‘CAGE is proud of its role in this growing global movement that crosses boundaries that have often been used to divide by the same security State.’


UK: Homosexual  men accused of "oppressive behaviour"

Students say homosexuals are the new source of misogyny
For generations gay men have faced harassment and discrimination for their sexual preferences. And although they are still a target for violent attacks in many places, the National Union of Students (NUS) has passed a motion calling for the abolition of representatives of gay men because “they don’t face oppression”.

Instead, the NUS has accused the traditionally-abused group of displaying “oppressive behaviour”.

The NUS lesbian,gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) conference has passed a resolution that says homosexual men were often the perpetrators of misogyny and other prejudice within gay and lesbian student.

The ban follows a trend in university campus to exclude any views or objects that may offend and the rise of “no-platforming” policies.

The motion, which defended safe spaces and no-platform policies, said: "Misogyny, transphobia, racism and biphobia are often present in LGBT+ societies. This is unfortunately more likely to occur when the society is dominated by white cis gaymen."

“Cis” relates to someone whose identity conforms with their biological gender and it seems to refer to masculine gay men.

The motion adds: “Gay men do not face oppression as gay men within the LGBT+ community and do not need a reserved place on society committees.”

The NUS motion said gay men should no longer be represented in gay and lesbian societies.

Jack Matthews, LGBT gay men's representative at the University of Manchester, slammed the motion for disregarding the struggles that gay men faced and called it "disgusting and extremely disrespectful".

He added: "The only way the LGBT community has been able to achieve their rights is by standing together as a community. We need to take the torch from our elders and carry this on. We shouldn't be starting internal conflicts and segregating ourselves."

Tom Slater, creator of a free speech ranking, said: "Campus sexual identity politics is disappearing up its own backside. We've had feminists banning other feminists for being the wrong kind of feminists.

"We've had gay rights campaigners smeared as racists and transphobes, purely for promoting free speech. Now the NUSLGBT campaign is calling for reps for gaymen to be abolished because they're effectively not oppressed enough."


Computers in class ‘a scandalous waste’: Sydney Grammar head

A top Australian school has banned laptops in class, warning that technology “distracts’’ from old-school quality teaching.

The headmaster of Sydney Grammar School, John Vallance, yesterday described the billions of dollars spent on computers in Australian schools over the past seven years as a “scandalous waste of money’’.

“I’ve seen so many schools with limited budgets spending a disproportionate amount of their money on technology that doesn’t really bring any measurable, or non-measurable, benefits,’’ he said.

“Schools have spent hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars­ on interactive whiteboards, digital projectors, and now they’re all being jettisoned.’’

Sydney Grammar has banned students from bringing laptops to school, even in the senior years, and requires them to handwrite assignments and essays until Year 10. Its old-school policy bucks the prevailing trend in most Aus­tralian high schools, and many primary schools, to require parents­ to purchase laptops for use in the classroom.

Dr Vallance said the Rudd-­Gillard government’s $2.4 billion Digital Education Revolution, which used taxpayer funds to buy laptops for high school students, was money wasted. “It didn’t really do anything except enrich Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard and Apple,’’ he said. “They’ve got very powerful lobby influence in the educational community.’’

Sydney Grammar students have access to computers in the school computer lab, and use laptops at home.

But Dr Vallance regards­ laptops as a distraction in the classroom. “We see teaching as fundamentally a social activity,’’ he said. “It’s about interaction ­between people, about discussion, about conversation.

“We find that having laptops or iPads in the classroom inhibit conversation — it’s distracting.

“If you’re lucky enough to have a good teacher and a motivating group of classmates, it would seem a waste to introduce anything that’s going to be a distraction from the benefits that kind of social context will give you.’’

Academically, Sydney Grammar rates among Australia’s top-performing schools, and is frequented by the sons of Sydney’s business and political elite. Almost one in five of its Year 12 graduates placed in the top 1 per cent of Australian students for Australian Tertiary Admission Rank university entry scores last year.

The school’s alumni includes three prime ministers — Malcolm Turnbull, who attended on a scholarship, Edmund Barton and William McMahon — as well as bush poet Banjo Paterson and business chief David Gonski, the architect of a needs-based funding model to help disadvantaged students.

The private boys’ school, which charges fees of $32,644 a year, routinely tops the league tables in the national literacy and numeracy tests.

Dr Vallance said he preferred to spend on teaching staff than on technology. “In the schools where they have laptops, they get stolen, they get dropped in the playground, they get broken, you have to hire extra staff to fix them, you’ve got to replace them every few years. They end up being massive lines in the budgets of schools which at the same time have leaky toilets and rooves and ramshackle buildings.

“If I had a choice between filling a classroom with laptops or hiring another teacher, I’d take the other teacher every day of the week.’’

Dr Vallance — who will step down as headmaster next year, after 18 years in the job — is a Cambridge scholar, a trustee of the State Library of NSW Foundation and a director of the National Art School.

In 2014 the Coalition government appointed him as a specialist reviewer of the national arts curriculum, which he criticised as “rambling, vague and patronising’’ with “a tendency towards the elimination of rigour’’.

Dr Vallance said yesterday laptops had “introduced a great deal of slackness’’ in teaching. “It’s made it much easier of giving the illusion of having prepared a lesson,’’ he said.

He also criticised as “crazy’’ plans by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority to computerise the National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy tests next year.

“That means generations of students will be doing NAPLAN on computers, they won’t be allowed to write by hand, which I think is crazy,’’ he said. “Allowing children to lose that capacity to express themselves by writing is a very dangerous thing.’’

Dr Vallance said Sydney Grammar had been studying the difference between handwritten and computer-typed tasks among boys in Year 3 and Year 5.

“In creative writing tasks, they find it much easier to write by hand, to put their ideas down on a piece of paper, than they do with a keyboard,’’ he said.

Dr Vallance said he was sure people would call him a “dinosaur’’. “But I’m in no way anti-technology,’’ he said. “I love gadgets. It’s partly because we all love gadgets so much that we have these rules, otherwise we’d all just muck about. Technology is a servant, not a master.

“You can’t end up allowing the tail to wag the dog, which I think it is at the moment.’’

Dr Vallance said computers in the classroom robbed children of the chance to debate and discuss ideas with the teacher.

“One of the most powerful tools in education is conversation,’’ he said.

“The digital delivery of teaching materials across Australia has had a really powerful normative effect.

“It’s making it quite difficult for children to learn how to disagree, how not to toe the party line, because they can’t question things — the possibility of questioning things has been taken away from them.’’

Dr Vallance said it was a “really scandalous situation’’ that Australia was “spending more on education than ever before and the results are gradually getting worse and worse’’. He said it cost $250,000-$500,000 to equip a moderate-sized high school with interactive whiteboards, which are only used at Sydney Grammar if teachers request them. “That’s a huge amount of money in the life of a school, that could translate to quite a few good members of staff,’’ he said.

“I think when people come to write the history of this period in education … this investment in classroom technology is going to be seen as a huge fraud.’’

The OECD has also questioned the growing reliance on technology in schools. In a report last year, it said schools must give students a solid foundation in reading, writing and maths before introducing computers. It found that heavy users of computers in the classroom “do a lot worse in most learning outcomes’’.

“In the end, technology can amplify great teaching, but great technology cannot replace poor teaching,’’ the OECD report concluded.


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