The Fairfield Halls this morning told the organisers of what was claiming to be a “debate” about Britain’s membership of the European Union that they were going to postpone the event, to have been staged in the Arnhem Gallery, in light of the atrocities in Paris on Friday night.
One of the key speakers was to have been Gerard Batten, the UKIP MEP who in the past has been accused of peddling Islamophobia.
In a brief statement issued to Inside Croydon, the Fairfield Halls management said, “After discussion with the organiser of this event this morning, Fairfield have decided to postpone the event with regard to the sensitivities of the international situation.”
The acknowledgement of the “international situation” strongly suggests that Batten’s reputation as the promoter of the “Charter of Muslim Understanding” goes before him.
Batten was ostensibly going to speak for the case for Brexit, while Tom Brake, the LibDems’ last remaining MP in London, was to make the case for Britain’s continued membership of the EU. No Croydon MP, either Conservative or Labour, agreed to share a platform with Batten.
Inside Croydon had flagged up the sensitivities of the situation on Saturday, hours after terrorists had struck at several locations around central Paris, leaving more than 120 innocent people dead and a similar number hospitalised with life-threatening injuries.
On Saturday, we wrote: “The question which arises now is whether the Fairfield Halls management… believe it is appropriate, at this time, to give Batten a platform from which he may attempt to use yesterday’s horrific and appalling events in Paris to try to stir up inter-community hatred in the country’s most multi-cultural boroughs.” Clearly, the answer is “No”.
Fairfield Halls said that they took the decision without any advice from the local police or Croydon Council, and only after speaking to the organisers. It is not known at this stage whether the organisers will seek to re-arrange the event.
The event was ostensibly being staged by an organisation called “Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy”, or EFDD, the European Parliament group that includes UKIP and other parties, some of which have far-right beliefs, including one which is led by a Holocaust denier.
An EFDD leaflet, distributed to some central Croydon households over the weekend to promote tonight’s “debate”, included anti-refugee scaremongering that some EU states are giving illegal migrants passports and sending them on their way to Calais. It further stated that there is nothing we can do to stop them.
It seemed likely that this might form a central theme of Batten’s proposed address tonight. But it was also likely that Batten would broaden the discussion: the MEP was behind the drafting of the “Charter of Muslim Understanding” in 2006. That document calls on Muslims to reject parts of the Qur’an which Batten claims promotes “violent physical jihad”.
A fortnight ago the former UKIP parliamentary candidate for Croydon North, Winston McKenzie, quit the party, claiming that he’d be subjected to racism from UKIP members at party headquarters and in the party locally.
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