No Platform for the far-right: An open letter to the organisers of ‘Does Islam clash with British values?’

8 06 2015
golding-yaxley-waters

Golding, Waters and Yaxley-Lennon

This letter is in response to an organisation called the Islamic Research and Education Academy, which has organised a discussion on Friday 12th June under the title ‘Does Islam clash with British values?’ So far, so normal. However, as part of this debate they have chosen to invite Paul Golding, leader of Britain First, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (AKA ‘Tommy Robinson’, ex-leader of the EDL) and Anne Marie Waters of UKIP, ‘Sharia Watch’ and founder with Yaxley-Lennon of the Islamophobic ‘Victims of Islamic Cultural Extremism’.

We believe this invitation extended to some of the most well-known names in the Islamophobic far-right is dangerous and that at best the organisers could be accused of naivety. It is also not clear that any of the speakers from the ‘Islam’ side of the debate represent a significant number of British Muslims.

Fascists and racists on the extreme right thrive on respectability. For this reason there is a long tradition of not giving them a platform to spread their views.

The way this debate is presented frames the poles of the argument and what the ‘issue’ is. The far-right are being presented as one side of a legitimate argument worth having.

Through extending this invitation, the IERA are making the far-right appear as the representatives of ‘British values’ – something they have done nothing to earn. They are being presented as if they speak for a constituency. Who exactly are Golding, Yaxley-Lennon and Waters supposed to be speaking for? The only people they represent are the tiny number of deluded racist bigots who follow them.

This invitation is an unhelpful contribution, adding to the media construction of a ‘debate’ in which the ‘white working class’ is represented by UKIP or the EDL. Politicians like Liz Kendall then fall into this trap adding to a sham argument which can only serve to increase racism.

We ask the IERA not to make the same mistake as the foolish Tory hopeful Afzal Amin who seemed to think he could use Yaxley-Lennon and the EDL, and that they represented a constituency he could access through them.

We say Britain First, the EDL and the rest of the far-right are incompatible with any ‘values’ that we’d want any part of.

We call upon the organisers of this conference to withdraw their invitation to Golding, Yaxley-Lennon and Waters.

We await a response from the IERA.

Anti-Fascist Network

 

If anyone else wishes to contact IERA to express their concerns they may be contacted at: info@iera.org | 0203 020 0031 | facebook.com/iERAorg | @iERAorg


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4 responses

12 06 2015
profreedan

Not sure if those on the islam side represent most muslims…

Erm surely if they are Muslim and they think Islam does not clash with British values then they represent most Muslims.

15 06 2015
antifascistnetwork

From looking at the organisation hosting the event and the speakers invited we were not entirely sure how representative their opinions were or indeed if they were all arguing that ‘British values’ (whatever they are) and Islam were compatible.

12 06 2015
concretemilkshake

Why is it you believe you can arbitrate upon the views and opinions ordinary members of the public are allow to expose themselves to? Your apparent contempt for the concept of free speech doesn’t only infringe upon the rights of the speaker, it infringes upon the rights of the listener. If you don’t want to hear the arguments put forward in this debate – don’t go. But do not claim the right to tell other people whether they can hear these arguments or not.

That a group which refers to itself as “Anti-Fascist” should seek to silence any arguments they disagree with is so ironic as to be almost comical.

15 06 2015
antifascistnetwork

All of these figures on the far-right have freedom of speech and exercise it constantly – hence we are well aware of their unpleasant views. There is a difference between denying someone’s freedom of speech (e.g. making it illegal to criticise the government) and not giving them a platform.
We called upon the organisers to withdraw their invitation, denying fascists a platform. This would not end their freedom of speech. It would deny them the kudos and recognition of being included in a ‘respectable’ forum.

The position of ‘no platform’ for fascists has been an established part of the anti-fascist tradition for decades. If you think that objecting to fascists being given the prestige of a conference gig is ‘the same thing as’ or ‘just as bad as’ fascism then you are a fool. I think objecting to people speaking at conferences is not what the last century’s fascist regimes will be primarily remembered for.

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