Anti-Islamophobia Conference Update

12 12 2014

There has been some highly suspicious goings-on at Birkbeck University, original venue for the Islamic Human Rights Commission’s conference on Institutional Islamophobia. After a small scale threat by far-right groups Casuals United and Britain First, Birkbeck College have decided not to host the event, necessitating a last minute change of venue. Officials from Birkbeck have cited their inability to organise security for the event, a claim which does not stand up to scrutiny when you consider that in the past, the University of London have hosted some very controversial events, that have led to large protests. In 2011, they hosted Ian Blair, ex-Met Police commissioner. This led to large and rowdy student protests but the talk went ahead. As recently as May this year, they hosted David Willetts, universities minister. The university somehow found enough security to host that talk, despite further rowdy protests. This time, however, it appears the threat of a dozen or so far right misfits has the entire university security apparatus, which has in the past dealt with occupations and demonstrations of several thousand people, utterly stumped.

Apparently, UoL Security can deal with this...

Apparently, UoL Security can deal with this…

...But not with this.

…But not with this.

Things took a slightly more sinister turn when IHRC staff, on a routine visit to the site, were dragged into a impromptu meeting with University Officials and, scarily, a local Council PREVENT officer, who seemed more concerned about the event’s participants and the planned anti-fascist counter protest than the actual, minimal, far-right threat. PREVENT is a counter-terrorism initiative designed to combat extremism, and has repeatedly and disproportionately targeted Muslim communities. This is extremely suspicious, considering the conference was organised in part to criticize PREVENT, and it’s parent project, CONTEST, as inherently Islamophobic. It seems likely that PREVENT had a hand in getting the conference venue pulled, and if that is true, then a conference on institutional Islamophobia has itself become the victim of institutional Islamophobia. The full text of the IHRC press release can be found here. A small note to those planning to attend the conference: it has NOT been cancelled. A new venue has been arranged and emails are being sent out confirming that. Antifascists will still be out on the day, just in case. Contact London Antifascists if you’re interested in being involved.



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