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Jeremy Corbyn's attendance at Mend event condemned as 'utterly unacceptable'

The Labour Party leader spoke at a meeting arranged by the Muslim Engagement and Development group (Mend) in Parliament

    Jeremy Corbyn's attendance at an event organised by a group accused of having previously hosted “extremist Islamist speakers” has been condemned as “utterly unacceptable”.

    The Labour Party leader spoke at a meeting arranged by the Muslim Engagement and Development group (Mend) in Parliament on Wednesday evening.

    He was joined by fellow Labour MPs Naz Shah, Stephen Kinnock, Wes Streeting, Afzal Khan and Kate Green, as well as Shakira Martin, president of the National Union of Students.

    In a strongly worded attack, Jennifer Gerber, the director of Labour Friends of Israel, said it was “utterly unacceptable that Jeremy Corbyn last night chose to attend an event organised by a group which has repeatedly peddled myths about the power of the “Israeli lobby” that play into classic antisemitic tropes”.

    Ms Gerber highlighted the contrast between Mr Corbyn’s participation in the meeting and his decision not to accept an invitation to Thursday’s dinner marking the Balfour Declaration centenary, which is due to be attended by Prime Minister Theresa May and Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Ms Gerber said: “Mr Corbyn’s appearance at this event, and his refusal to attend tonight’s dinner once again suggests that he is more interested in attacking Israel than furthering the cause of dialogue, peace and reconciliation."

    But the Jewish Labour Movement defended the presence of the party's MPs at the meeting.

    A JLM spokesperson said: "Tackling antisemitism and tackling islamophobia are not mutually exclusive. A healthy civil society must do both. We do not agree that MPs should boycott Islamophobia Awareness Month. It is an important initiative and worthy of support.

    "Labour MPs Wes Streeting and Stephen Kinnock were correct and courageous to use this platform to articulate communal concerns over Mend."

    At the meeting, Mr Streeting warned that Mend's work in combating Islamophobia "is fatally undermined if the organisation tolerates, or is perceived to tolerate, individuals expressing attitudes that fall far short of Mend’s stated commitment to creating a more “inclusive and tolerant Britain".

    He added: "From reported remarks about gay people and the use of antisemitic tropes to criticise the State of Israel to appearing to justify the attacks on British troops – such behaviour cannot be excused or tolerated."

    In a report published this week by the Henry Jackson Society, Mend was accused of having “regularly hosted illiberal, intolerant and extremist Islamist speakers at public events”.

    Marie Van der Zyl, vice president of the Board of Deputies, said: “Mend is not an organisation we can work with.”

    MPs Anna Soubry, Crispin Blunt, Sir Ed Davey and Joanna Cherry had been due to speak at the event, but pulled out after being alerted to the nature of statements made by Mend.

    Ms Soubry said the organisation did not “have the best of reputations”, while the other three MPs issued a statement saying: “It has become clear there is controversy over Mend’s record and claims of links between the organisation and extremist views.”

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