Prior to the debate Dr. Krauss had expressed his concern over this idea of 'segregated' seating, where Muslim women would be seated in the back of the Auditorium. This is made clear by the two tweets from Dr. Krauss:
I have asked the organizers of Islam debate to allow me to choose from among the questions submitted, and also to remove gender separation.— Lawrence Krauss (@LKrauss1) March 8, 2013
News update: Have now been informed that the event in London will NOT be gender segregated.— Lawrence Krauss (@LKrauss1) March 8, 2013
So, on the assurances that the "event in London will NOT be gender segregated" Dr. Krauss showed up to the debate as scheduled.
However, prior to the start of the debate it became evident that several people had not been allowed to sit where they wished and they complained and Dr. Krauss took the action to remove himself from the debate (video on facebook post) unless the issue was remedied and he began to leave. They then again assured him no forced segregation was allowed and the issues that had come up were resolved and he returned to the debate.
On review, the UCL staff is considering not allowing IERA hosted events in the future:
It now appears that, despite our clear instructions, attempts were made to enforce segregation at the meeting. We are still investigating
but, given IERA’s original intentions for a segregated audience we have concluded that their interests are contrary to UCL’s ethos and that we should not allow any further events involving them to take place on UCL premises
I wholly support Dr. Krauss' actions both prior to the debate to ensure a free and open forum and his courage to stand up for his principles when previously discussed requirements were not being met.
I find the forced segregation of women to be antipodal to the goals of open and free scientific inquiry.
The respect for religious freedom has boundaries, even if we try to err on the side of caution we no longer allow religions to practice human sacrifice. I do not and will not respect a religious dictate that women must sit in the rear of anything, not buses and not public auditoriums. They are free to practice this at their home or at their place of worship (and I am free to speak out against it) - but please keep your religious nonsense out of the public sphere.
Everyone should have been told this was an OPEN and FREE forum and as such, they would be free to sit in any arrangement they wished but OTHERS WOULD BE FREE TO DO THE SAME. If that would be unacceptable to anyone, they should have refrained from attending.
If I went to a Mosque I would follow their rules, despite the objections I might have to them. They did not act in kind, the representatives of the IERA violated UCL's terms and conditions and purposefully took inappropriate actions to break them. Shame on them.
This was not an apartheid, the sky is not falling, it was a minor incident, and while it tainted the august proceedings, it was quickly resolved mostly to satisfaction.
Islam is hardly the sole source of prejudice or oppression against women. Christianity is rife with it as well and even our secular Western societies are far from free of it. It is a problem unto itself. So speak out against it to be sure, but do so equally in all measures.
See also: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/03/10/segregated-seating-row-at-ucl-debate_n_2848326.html