Dutch author and notorious critic of Islam, Benno Barnard, gave a lecture last night titled: “The Islam Debate: Long Live God, Down with Allah!”. It was part of a series of lectures about the Enlightenment, organized by the secularists in Antwerp University. Several radical Muslim organizations called beforehand via websites to come to the hall and disturb the lecture.
When the lecture began at 8pm, forty Muslims were among the public. The organizer of the lecture tried to get them to change their mind, but once Barnard began his speech, the youth stood up and started shouting. “I barely said a few words, and the leader stood up and shouted ‘[you] don’t make fun of Allah’,” says Bernard. “Afterward he and his followers started shouting ‘Allah Akbar’, and stormed the podium. If I hadn’t had bodyguards, I wouldn’t be able to talk to you now.”
Several police-agents in plainclothes were present in the hall and quickly intervened. Twenty rioters were escorted out, but nobody was detained.
Rector Alain Verschoren of the University of Antwerp regrets the incident. “It bothers me greatly that they stopped the lecture after just two minutes. Those youth didn’t even listen what the lecture was about. That can only mean that they were either afraid of the contents or that they didn’t want to hear the contents.”
The website of the radical organization Sharia4belgium took issue particularly with the title of the lecture. “The title is yet another slap in the face of the Muslim community,” it said. Rector Verschoren tones it down: “The lecture indeed had a provoking title, but I think that extreme views should be allowed. As long as there’s a possibility for an answer and discussion something like this is allowed at a pluralist institution like the UA.”
Barnard himself was unhappy about the incident: “Isn’t it appalling that an intellectual wants to give a lecture in the year 2010, and needs police protection? Actually, this is my best lecture ever. This incident shows what I’ve been trying to make clear for years: that the Islam is a completely intolerant system.”