By Dominic Gover
Int'l Business Times
May 6, 2015 16:19 BST
A public debate featuring English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson was scotched in Rotherham because the scandal-hit council and police feared criticism over child sex abuse, organisers have claimed.
Robinson was due to debate with a Muslim youth group in the town on the issue of child sex abuse and the Muslim community, last week.
But at the last minute, two venues pulled out of hosting the event, after being visited by representatives from South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham borough council.
The pressure brought to bear on the Hilton hotel and a second venue came after both had initially welcomed the event on their premises. The sudden change of heart left organisers fuming.
Both the police and council told IBTimes UK there were concerns about the impact upon security of a potential large crowd turning up for the event, adding the decision to cancel was the hotels' themselves.
Yeah, Right! I believe that, don't you?
Robinson sparked controversy this week by unveiling a plan to host a 'Draw Mohammed' contest, after a similar event in the United States was targeted by gunmen.
The police would have been much better off having allowed the debate. Now they have a real security nightmare on their hands.
According to the founder of British Muslim Youth (BMY), the authorities "scared" venues into withdrawing from the event, out of a self-serving desire to silence criticism about a notorious child sex scandal, earlier this year.
Muslims are saying this! That's wild!
It sparked outrage in Britain after it was revealed 1,400 vulnerable girls were molested by a paedophile gang -- mainly comprising Muslim men -- while authorities in the South Yorkshire town looked the other way.
Muhbeen Hussain of BMY said: "We need to have these difficult conversations. It was the police and council who blamed their failures [over the scandal] on not wanting to be called racists, which was a lie. They arrest other criminals who follow Islam, but they [tried to] cover their tracks behind political correctness [on child sex abuse].
Efforts were made to liaise with the authorities, insisted Hussain, who claimed this was not reciprocated in turn.
"We received an email for this hotel saying they wanted to back out from the agreement because of the advice they had received from Rotherham Borough council and South Yorkshire Police.
"We weren't made aware by the police or the council. We could have changed the venue, but they didn't want to get in touch. This is because they didn't want it to happen, that's why they went behind our backs. They didn't have the decency to contact us."
A police spokesman said: "Officers liaised with the venue and following that consultation, the hotel made the decision not to host the event.
"The decision whether to hold events is a choice for the venue concerned and not a police decision."
A Rotherham council spokesman said the authority had met with organisers at BMY about hosting the event.
"The Council had spoken with a hotel about a proposed event due to take place at the venue, organised by a representative of the British Muslim Youth organisation. Following the discussion with the Council and South Yorkshire Police, the hotel made the decision not to host the event – ultimately it is their choice to go ahead or not. It is not a decision for the council."
Ultimately, that is true! But what we don't know is what they said to the venue operators to turn them against hosting the debate. There certainly was some small risk of violence erupting from within or without the debate, and it may even have been proper for the police to warn them of that possibility. However, the optics are pretty bad, even to the Muslim Youth it looks like the police and Council are protecting themselves from further criticism.
While there was a small risk of violence, there was also a possibility of some genuine communication and even healing. That possibility is now gone with Robinson's decision to hold a 'draw Mohammed' event. A decision that may well have been provoked by the police/council intervention. Now, lives are at risk and the rift in the community will just get wider and wider.