Morning Star condemns Birkbeck decision to cancel IHRC conference

The Morning Star has condemned the decision by Birkbeck College management to cancel a conference against Islamophobia in response to threats from the far right.

Wrong Call By Birkbeck

Birkbeck College has let itself down badly in surrendering to threats by Britain First racist boneheads against this weekend’s Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) conference on Islamophobia.

The IHRC has succeeded in finding a new venue, which is positive, but this does not absolve the University of London of the charge of knuckling under to far-right Islamophobic demands with menaces.

The college took its decision without any discussion with either staff or students, as Birkbeck Unison joint branch secretary Steven Ellis confirmed.

His commitment to write a protest letter to college management is welcome.

Birkbeck officials should have publicised the Britain First threat and emphasised their refusal to be intimidated.

They ought to have discussed the situation with IHRC and made joint arrangements to ensure the security of people attending the conference.

If they were intent on involving outside elements, they could have informed the Metropolitan Police that there was a danger from hate-filled bigots disrupting a lawful event on their premises.

It is questionable how many “demonstrators” would have been attracted by the Britain First fringe group, especially since their English Defence League allies are notoriously unable to function without at least three hours in the pub.

Rather than working with IHRC, Birkbeck chose to involve the government’s dodgy Prevent organisation.

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Prevent is detailed to work within Britain’s Muslim communities to counter “radicalisation” but is more preoccupied with pointing the finger at the supposed failure of these communities to keep a lid on the anger many Muslims feel about imperialist states’ casual resort to invasion or aerial bombardment of Muslim countries.

Involvement of Prevent in what should be a simple matter of ensuring that a lawful and peaceful event can take place is extremely worrying.

It indicates that the author of this decision has switched the blame for possible difficulties from violent bigots to people who are guilty only of organising an academic conference.

The college decision to pull the plug on the IHRC event, which is supported by both Muslim and non-Muslim bodies, is worrying in itself.

However, the subsequent actions that effectively impute the motives of an organisation that has a track record of working with a broad array of forces to break down barriers of ignorance suggest a more sinister agenda.

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Community relations have come under huge strain in recent decades, but their prime sources have not been within Muslim communities.

A combination of aggressive wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere, combined with official backing for Israel’s murderous assaults on the Palestinian people, together with strident and factually inaccurate media campaigns against Islam and its adherents, has caused growing instability.

Pseudo-religious pronouncements by venal politicians intent on dividing people into “good” Muslims and “bad” Muslims have increased fears.

They reflect a political elite’s refusal to accept that its piratical overseas wars were indeed criminal and that the undeniable community anger directed at their mass slaughter is fully justified.

Despite the implications of the government’s “anti-terrorism” legislation, only a tiny minority of Britain’s Muslim communities have taken their resentment to the extent of joining extremist jihadi forces.

The readiness of IHRC to play a leading role in facilitating discussions about the problems that we all face as a society should serve as an example to government.

Smearing and stigmatising entire communities as a means of whitewashing government crimes should be unacceptable to everyone.