A public meeting in Newcastle tonight about the rise of Islamophobia and PREVENT featuring Moazzam Begg and Yvonne Ridley has been re-located after the original venue pulled out at the last minute.
Elswick councillor Dipu Ahad said he believed the meeting entitled “Not a terrorist – until proven… Muslim” was cancelled based on pressure from members of far-right political groups.
The meeting will now be held at Latif Restaurant, on Clayton Street, which is only a stones’ throw away from the Royal Station Hotel (the origional venue) and Coun Ahad is expecting around 200 people to attend.
The Royal Station Hotel refused to comment to the Newcastle Chronicle on the reasons behind their move to cancel the event, and told locals by tweeting “Tonight’s meeting @RoyalStation has been cancelled. Please do not attend.”
It has also not been confirmed if PREVENT officers put pressure on the venue to cancel.
Coun Ahad was not officially informed of the cancellation until after 1pm on Wednesday, according to the newspaper. He attributed the sudden change in plans to angry messages sent to the hotel over social media by members of far-right political groups.
“The Royal Station Hotel have bowed to pressure from the far right, from the Lib Dems” he said. “Police have not had an issue with this. They have had no threats, and so cancelling it without justification, especially last minute, is absolutely disgraceful.
“This is exactly what the title of the meeting says. Cancelling just proves our point. Every Muslim is treated as suspicious. If anyone wants to talk about Islamophobia, they’re under suspicion.”
Councillor Ahad came under fire from the leader of Newcastle’s Liberal Democrat group for sharing a platform with Mr Begg, a director of group CAGE.
The event has been criticised by a number of groups – including former EDL member Tommy Robinson, who accused Coun Ahad of “showing his true colours” for taking part in the talks.
Yesterday, Yvonne Ridley billed the event as “PREVENTING PREVENT.” She said the meeting would examine “the government’s failing Prevent scheme” and that “Prevent has done its best to stop the meeting – and failed.”
She added: “A large number of teaching unions and eminent academics have slammed Prevent because of its plans to spy on the community. Today it’s the Muslims but tomorrow it could be you!”