Ex-Muslim-turned-atheist, Armin Navabi has his MRU event canceled following New Zealand terrorist attack
By Nathan Woolridge, News Editor
Ex-Muslim-turned-atheist, Armin Navabi, was recently confused when his event at MRU was cancelled.
In a statement, MRU cites that the event was cancelled because “Last week, a terrible act of terrorism occurred in Christchurch, New Zealand. Many students and employees especially Muslim students and employees — are suffering as a result.
“To start the healing, a vigil was held last Thursday on campus, with more than 150 in attendance.”
The university says that the presentation was to take place on Thursday, which fell on the same day as the scheduled vigil.
“As an atheist, Navabi speaks of tolerance for those who share a lack of belief in gods,” says MRU.
Reaction to the event’s cancellation
Navabi was not impressed with the university’s decision to cancel his talk.
“What do they want? Do you want to have less conversation? Isn’t less conversation exactly what leads to people having extreme radical positions?” says Navabi.
The website, Friendly Atheist, wrote a column stating that the decision to cancel the event was “bizarre.”
The author of the piece, Hemant Mehta writes, “Navabi may be controversial, but there’s no reason to think his talk would have been disrespectful or insensitive toward the victims of the attack. There’s a difference between criticizing religion and going after religious people.”
Navabi’s talk is centered around his struggle with growing up with his Islamic faith. He has openly talked about attempting suicide at the age of 12.
As a result, he eventually left his Islamic faith behind and became an atheist. He shares his story through these talks and in his podcast and book.
Did the university make a mistake?
Once Navabi’s event was cancelled on campus, the university was made aware that they had made a mistake.
“It was the wrong decision for a university, where values of freedom of expression and academic freedom are paramount,” says a statement from MRU.
In the statement, President David Docherty mentions that he soon won’t be the university’s president. He reflects by saying, “Sometimes decisions made within a particular unit seem right from one perspective and while they may be right for some members of our community, they are not right for others. This dichotomy can exist within individuals as well; as humans, we are complex and multi-faceted and a part of us may feel one way about an issue, while another part of us feels differently. This is what it means to be human.
“We experienced this dichotomy on our campus this week as a result of such a decision.”
Lesley Brown, Provost and Vice-President, Academic also weighed in on the importance of the conversation in the statement.
“When a speaker is invited to campus, we must always consider that we are providing an opportunity to engage in scholarly dialogue and when we provide a speaker a platform, we must be mindful that we have a responsibility to give that person an opportunity to speak.”
“When we cancel or postpone an invited speaker, we remove the ability to engage in that dialogue. For faculty, this is a compromise to academic freedom,” says Brown.