A Muslim background believer who is an ordinand for the Church of England (CofE) and is hoping to attain a curacy later this year on completion of his
studies, has been silenced from asking critical questions about Islam in one of the UK's most recognized educational establishments.
A trainee Church of England priest at Oxford University has accused it of discrimination and bias after he says he was told he could not ask a lecturer
critical questions about Islam.
The student has filed a formal complaint to the university’s proctors’ office in which he claims the lecturer pointed at him in a seminar and said:
“Everybody can ask a question except you.”
The student, Shahriar Ashrafkhorasani, 33, is an Iranian-born convert from Islam who is set to become a Church of England priest in July, while the
lecturer, Minlib Dallh, is a research fellow at Regent’s Park College in Oxford on a project about love in religion part-sponsored by the King of Jordan.
Ashrafkhorasani, a master’s student in applied theology at Wycliffe Hall, claims the lecturer refused to let him ask critical questions about his description
of Islam as a religion of peace and love, after Dallh discovered in a coffee break that he was a convert from Islam who had been persecuted in Iran.
Three fellow students wrote to the proctors to confirm his version of events.
Ashrafkhorasani said: “The lecture was at best a very poor Islamic apologetic, and at worst academically dishonest and misleading. While the government
is rightly concerned about Islamophobia, there is no concern whatsoever for Christianophobia.”
Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester and until last year a senior fellow at Wycliffe Hall, said: “There is an atmosphere of wanting to be
politically correct. It is very widespread in the university as a whole.
“If people are taking money from these sources, that can limit the critical approach to the study of Islam and Muslim civilisation generally.”
Robert Ellis, the principal of Regent’s Park College, said: “The college strongly rejects any assertion that donors have any influence over the quality
of scholarship and direction of research at the centre, or that philanthropic funding in any way compromises academic discussion and argument.”
Oxford University said: “All complaints made to the proctors’ office are treated with the utmost seriousness and with the interests of the student
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:
"We have been advised that Mr Dallh, after expounding his lecture prohibited only Shahriar from speaking during a Q&A. Shahriar though upset complied
with this request for the benefit of Oxford University.
"At the end of the session to highlight his chagrin and share his opinion. Shahriar asked for an opportunity to speak but was interrupted several times.
"This is despite Shahriar having very obvious personal and emotive experiences regarding the topic of discussion, having quit Islam because of the hate, and as Shahriar puts it 'kaffirophobic' ideology he found within it.
"If anything as a Muslim background believer his contribution to the discussion will have been very thought provoking and relevant.
"If the speaker had such fragile sensibilities then was it appropriate for him to speak on a topic that can ignite passions in such a way.
"The reaction by Mr Dallh was simply an act of religious censorship.
"Any limitation on free speech should only be made when it incites violence or unequivocally provokes direct and harmful discrimination against a vulnerable minority.
"From the accounts shared by Shahriar and other students this did not occur.
"Oxford university has now begun to investigate the matter and must review the significant pastoral damage to Shahriar. I hope that their final verdict will not be influenced by deeper immoral designs based on funding from the King of Jordan.
"The university cannot ignore the need to condemn religious prejudice, which kills and blights the lives of millions. "Universities should be places for open debate without restraint, this produces confident students who can handle any argument instead of creating a new wave of conformists."
Shahriar Ashrafkhorasani commented:
My intention has been to shed some light on widespread Christianophobia and not to undermine particular institutions such as Oxford University. It
is not my calling to get involved in politics, rather to love all as a minister of the Gospel.
"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."