Naz Shah pulls out of Oxford Union debate with Katie Hopkins after student protest

Left to right: Naz Shah MP and Katie Hopkins. [Image: BBC]

A Muslim Labour MP has pulled out of an Oxford Union debate at very short notice with the far-right broadcaster Katie Hopkins after students called for a boycott of the debating society.  

MP for Bradford West Naz Shah said she withdrew from the debate after she learned that the Islamophobic pundit would be on the panel.

Her decision came after students signed an open letter organised by the group “Boycott the Oxford Union”, which called for the society to stop inviting “fascist and racist” speakers.

Protests were held outside the venue last Thursday, where Ms Hopkins was accompanied by the controversial journalist Toby Young and former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe.

A 21-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of common assault after liquid, which was believed to be a drink, was thrown and hit a man and a woman during the protest.

President of the Oxford Union, Genevieve Athis, told student newspaper Cherwell: “I think it is a great shame that instead of debating Ms Hopkins in our chamber Ms Shah has decided to not participate altogether and I am sure that many of our members will also be deeply disappointed by this.”

Ms Hopkins posted a video on Twitter saying that it was ironic that the MP pulled out of a no platforming debate.

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In a statement to The Independent, Ms Shah said: “I believe in free speech, the right to hold contrasting beliefs, to challenge bigoted views through debate and dialogue.

“However, with everything including freedom of speech, there is always a line to be drawn and I draw the line at those who use racism to dehumanise people, especially those from minority groups.

“Speaking at the Oxford Union is supposed to be an honour and a privilege. When such platforms become acceptable places for those that try to divide communities and drive hatred towards certain minorities, then such a privilege and honour is not for me.”

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