College ‘didn’t know’ it was backing controversial Muslim group’s event

East London-based Nelson College confirmed it covered the £1,600 fee for the event run by the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK - but says it thought it was 'a social event'


A privately-run higher education college said it had no idea it was paying to hire a venue for a “Palestine fun day” run by a Muslim lobby group that has been accused of antisemitism. 

An invoice shows east London-based Nelson College covered the £1,600 fee for the event run by the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK (MPACUK), which was criticised in the House of Commons in 2006 for publicising anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. 

The college, which runs degree courses validated by the London Metropolitan University at campuses in Ilford, Gants Hill, and Broadstairs, Kent, this week confirmed it had paid the bill for the event but claimed it had no idea MPACUK was involved. 

The invoice, seen by the JC, shows that it paid a sixth-form college in nearby Walthamstow, Sir George Monoux College, to hire its sports field for the fundraiser at the beginning of this month. It included a bouncy castle, face painting, and a “Palestinian solidarity wall”.

Asked what their relationship was with Nelson College, MPACUK said they had asked many local businesses to fund their event, and the higher education college was "one of many to respond positively".

The lobby group further claimed: “[Nelson College] simply wanted to promote their college and recruit new students, and saw our promotion efforts as a vehicle for doing so.  Their management had no role or say in our team's internal logistics of contacting or booking venues."

An MPACUK online fundraising page and publicity material for the event - described as “supporting campaigns that advocate for Palestinian rights… and to counter the injustices of Zionism” - listed Nelson College as its sponsor. 

However, in a statement, Nelson College Principal Geoffrey Alderman said: “Nelson College played no part in ‘organising’ the Fun Day. It appears to have been organised by third parties.” Asked why Nelson College had paid for the event, he said: “We have no relationship with MPAC.” 

He added: “We thought it was a social event… [at] the George Monoux College premises. We have a relationship with George Monoux as part of our outreach programme.

“We do lots of these types of events. We rented their football fields… We had a stall but did not run the event.” Alderman, a former JC columnist, went on: “Nelson College London had absolutely no foreknowledge of MPAC’s involvement in this event… Our agreement was with Sir George Monoux College.” 

Asked about MPACUK's claim that Nelson College supported the fun day, Alderman said he was "speechless" and that he had launched an internal investigation.

The lobby group, which lists opposing Zionism as one of its core principles, says it campaigns against Islamophobia in the UK. It has previously been banned from college campuses by the National Union of Students for antisemitism and a parliamentary report, in 2006, said the lobby group had “articulated Jewish conspiracy theories” and promoted the idea of a “worldwide Zionist conspiracy”. 

After the event took place, the Board of Deputies wrote to Sir George Monoux College to urge it to reconsider its decision to host an “extremist organisation” with such “disturbing views”. It added: “MPACUK’s behaviour over many years has caused significant concern for the Jewish community.” 

A Sir George Monoux College representative told the JC it had rented its football field to Nelson College, but did not know that MPACUK would have any involvement. They said they now feel “misled” and would be seeking an apology. 

A spokesman for MPACUK said: "MPACUK is an organisation that advocates for Muslim citizens of the UK to express their opinions by engaging in the political systems - a right due to every citizen. 

"As such we reject the Board Of Deputies' label of being 'extremist'. The Board Of Deputies' claim to represent the concerns of the Jewish community about MPACUK - as if they were a homogenous monolith incapable of individual thought - is not only insulting to UK Jewry, but patently false, as we have run multiple campaigns in the past in partnership with British Jewish advocates for Palestine. 

"The accusations of antisemitism are thus unfounded, as our work has always been focussed on redressing the injustices faced by Palestine as caused by the political ideology of Zionism: criticism of Judaism does not come into it...

"Regarding the National Union of Students, since they declared their policies against us they have gone on to unseat two Muslim Presidents of their own organisation, who had also been outspoken advocates for Palestine, and as such their decision-making cannot be said to be a fully impartial barometer. 

"We invite scrutiny of our work and invite all to view our events where we denounce Zionism."

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