English Defence League debate in London cancelled by venue

Abdullah al Andalusi

Abdullah al Andalusi

A planned debate between the leader of the English Defence League and a Muslim activist has been cancelled amid security concerns.

Tommy Robinson and Abdullah al Andalusi were due to discuss “Islam or Islamophobia — which is a threat to Britain?” at an event yesterday (Thursday October 4), organised by the Muslim Debate Initiative, of which Mr al Andalusi is a co-founder.

But the host venue, Conway Hall in central London, pulled out after consulting police.

In a statement, Conway Hall said the decision was due to this month’s riots in Arab countries over the Innocence of Muslims film, and the risk of public disorder.

There would not be disruption from the Muslims

Anti-fascist groups are also thought to have pledged to attend the debate to challenge EDL members and Mr Robinson, and have applauded the cancellation of the event.

The Conway Hall statement said it had a “long and distinguished history as an inclusive and tolerant venue”, and often provided a platform for free speech and organisations and speakers with differing views. But it added that the decision to cancel the MDI event had to be taken on public safety grounds.

MDI said it “regretted” the cancellation, and would rearrange the debate for another date and venue.

In a statement it said: “It should be noted that both the police and Conway Hall agreed that there were no perceived threats of disruption coming from the Muslim community.

“Rather, it is MDI’s experience that the Muslim community overwhelmingly welcomed such debates, and are eager for such open and frank discussions to occur. MDI believe that there should be no limits to what can be sincerely debated, and no restrictions as to what intellectual or political position can be enunciated”.

Mr al Andalusi makes media and educational appearances to discuss Islamic issues.

The MDI features speakers from a range of backgrounds who specialise in theology, philosophy and politics.

    Last updated: 7:45am, October 5 2012