A renowned American physicist created a row at University College London last weekend when he stormed out of a debate hosted by an Islamic group because men, women and couples in the audience were segregated.
The physicist, Lawrence Krauss, is a professor at Arizona State University. Krauss is a noted atheist who served on President Barack Obama’s science policy committee during the 2008 presidential campaign.
The debate, sponsored by the Islamic Education and Research Academy, was entitled: “Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense?”
A YouTube clip posted by Stand for Peace, which brands itself as a Jewish-Muslim interfaith organization, reveals the meatiest part of the kerfuffle.
According to The Daily Telegraph, security staffers had attempted to escort three men out of the event after they endeavored to sit with the single women in the audience — far in the very back of the auditorium.
The clip begins with some applause.
“I’m sorry,” the professor then says, gathering up his things as if preparing to leave.
His next several words are not audible.
“Quit the segregation or I’m outta here,” Krauss demands, his voice firmly rising and his hands animated.
After some brief cross talk, Krauss gets up and storms out, to a smattering of applause.
Apparently, Krauss came back at some point after the recorded exchange.
The organizers of the debate eventually acquiesced to Krauss’s ultimatum. However, irate audience members accused him of anti-Muslim bias. One spectator yelled that Krauss was “intolerant” as he left, says The Telegraph.
At some point in the debate, a woman told Krauss that she felt ill at ease sitting among men.
“You are in a public arena and not in a mosque, not in a private event,” Krauss said he told her, according to The Telegraph.
The professor said gender segregation during debates was a first for him.