A fundamentalist Muslim sheikh who has slammed gay marriage and homosexuals will speak at a University of Wollongong workshop spruiking its Ramsay Centre degree in Western Civilisation.
Sheikh Jamil El-Biza will speak at the 'Understanding others through narrative practices' event conducted by the new School of Liberal Arts, where the controversial degree will operate.
The event on Friday is the first in a series of Liberal Arts Research Workshop Series and will include a number of speakers, including the man who designed UOW's Western Civilisation degree, Senior Professor Daniel Hutto.
But it is the appearance of Sheikh Jamil El-Biza, the Imam of Masjid Assalaam Berkeley, which has riled some in the community.
It was during the height of the gay-marriage debate in 2017 that the cleric used his own social media page to call gay marriage "evil" and homosexuals as "f- - -ts".
The Mercury understands many staff in the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts will boycott the "shameful workshop".
Staff from many faculties the Mercury has spoken to did not want to be identified as they have been "pressured not to publicly express" their displeasure with the degree.
"This workshop is obviously propaganda to give some legitimacy to the Ramsay degree because of all the criticism it has received," one academic said.
"This [workshop] is obviously to try to counter the critique within the university and outside the university. We are all very upset about the degree and all that has been happening, particularly after the Senate questioned the use of the fast-track approval process.
"Now we have this new school inviting a person who has expressed himself so horrendously against gay people and against same-sex marriage under the title of understanding the other.
"How can an intolerant person be invited to a workshop on tolerance? I think this captures what this degree and what the new school is going to be about."
In a statement UOW said Sheikh Jamil El-Biza was invited because of the position he holds as a local Muslim community leader.
"The University of Wollongong is committed to upholding academic freedom and freedom of speech. UOW refutes any claims that staff have been pressured not to express their views about the new degree.
"UOW similarly condemns any attempts to undermine freedom of speech or academic freedom by attempting to 'silence' or 'de-platform' speakers on ideological grounds at any academic event."
Sheikh Jamil El-Biza and Illawarra People for Peace founding member Judith Hurley have now withdrawn from the event program.
"The academic portion of the activity will proceed as planned. Future events will be scheduled as part of continuing efforts to bring together diverse views and foster respectful discussion and debate," the statement said.