The charity leaders network ACEVO is dismayed by the decision of the Conservative Party Conference to erase a previously agreed event – ‘Faith and British Values: The Muslim Charities Question’ – from the Conservative Party Conference. The event was to be hosted by ACEVO and sponsored by the Muslim Charities Forum (MCF) on Tuesday evening.
The move is being seen as a direct attack on free speech and further evidence of the instinct to demonise rather than engage with the Muslim community.
Conference officials pulled the event after being contacted by Sunday Telegraph journalist Andrew Gilligan who questioned the validity of both the event’s sponsors and a speaker at the event – Othman Moqbel, the CEO of Human Appeal. Other speakers due at the event included Baroness Mobarik CBE, Sir Stephen Bubb and journalist Peter Oborne.
Mr Gilligan’s subsequent article (found here) on the Sunday Telegraph’s website contained allegations which may be tested by legal proceedings.
Conservative Party officials failed to notify either ACEVO or the MCF of the cancellation, leaving both organisations to learn of the decision from the Sunday Telegraph website. ACEVO does not know whether this omission was due to oversight or discourtesy to it and the Muslim community.
ACEVO, MCF and Human Appeal intend to proceed with the event in some form in Manchester during the conference at a venue more willing to host an event that addresses itself to the importance of the integration of the Muslim community and the contribution that its charities make to wider society.
Commenting on the barring of this debate within conference, ACEVO chief executive Sir Stephen Bubb said: “The decision by Conservative Party organisers to cancel an important debate on the role of Muslim charities in our country is astonishing.
“To shut the doors of the nation’s governing party to this discussion is a deeply disturbing development. It alienates rather than involves. The Conservative Party was once the champion of free speech, it appears to have retreated from this proud tradition.
“In the fight against terrorism to ignore any engagement is to fight with one hand tied behind the back. We need to support Muslim charities’ role in community leadership against extremism not reject them.
“Indeed, the speakers scheduled for this event are figures of national consequence.
“Do the inquiries of one journalist lead to a policy of panic that leads to the cancellation of debate without reference to any of the parties concerned? Without doubt this debate raises many difficult issues – but do we walk on by and ignore them or engage with them? Astonishing.”