Islamic festival at ExCel Centre accused of ‘promoting hatred’
PUBLISHED: 14:25 20 November 2013 | UPDATED: 16:26 20 November 2013
An Islamic conference set for the ExCel centre in Newham this weekend has been accused of inviting speakers who “promote hatred” with one group expressing its fears to the head of Newham police.
Campaigners say some speakers booked for the Global Peace and Unity Festival (GPU) on November 23 and 24 have made homophobic and bigoted statements in the past.
Gay rights group Rainbow Hamlets said it would write to the police borough commander for Newham to raise its concerns.
Jack Gilbert, co-chair of the group, said: “We support freedom of religious expression, but we are concerned about the presence of some speakers whose previous comments promote hatred and dehumanise sections of the population.”
A spokesman for Quilliam, a Muslim think tank, said the GPU’s speaker choices, while better than previous years, “does a disservice to community relations.”
He said: “This year’s line-up still includes a few dubious speakers who have made unacceptable statements in the past, including open homophobia, challenging gender equality and promoting bizarre conspiracy theories.”
Ali al-Razi of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, a group for non-religious people of Muslim backgrounds, said: “As ex-Muslims, the sight of a conference that includes speakers who say we deserve to be murdered fills us with fear and outrage.”
A spokesman for the GPU said: “The festival’s aims have always been to spread greater peace and foster unity between like-minded representatives of various communities in the UK and throughout the world.”
He said speakers must adhere to guidelines during the festival and noted that comments attributed to the speakers were not made at previous festivals.
The spokesman added that the GPU had sought clarification from all speakers and been told the quotes were “taken out of context”. He said: “In the event that we are not satisfied with explanations provided by selected speakers or that we feel the views espoused do not fit in with the ethos of the event, we are unequivocal that the platform for speaking will not be provided.”
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