Hope Not Hate director Nick Lowles says NUS Black Students blocked his invitation to anti-racism conference but NUS president says she would ‘happily share platform’
An anti-racism campaigner claims he has been prevented from speaking at a National Union of Students event following accusations that he holds “Islamophobic” views.
Nick Lowles, the Hope Not Hate director, said it was absurd that the NUS Black Students’ campaign opposed an invitation to him to speak at an anti-racism event.
Under the heading “ultra-left lunacy”, Lowles wrote on his Facebook profile: “So, it seems that NUS Black Students are opposing a plan to invite me to speak on an anti-racism platform because I’m ‘Islamophobic’.
“Never mind all the work Hope Not Hate has done challenging anti-Muslim hatred, it seems that some activists believe I’m Islamophobic because I have repeatedly spoken out against grooming and dared condemn Islamist extremism.”
Lowles told the Guardian: “It’s amusing in its absurdity but it does reflec
t the failure of a small section of the left to understand that we have to confront extremism and intolerance in all its forms. My issue is with this small group of political activists and not with NUS itself, who I believe were unaware of this.”
He added that, during a discussion among organisers of the NUS’ anti-racism conference, some people spoke out against the idea of inviting Hope Not Hate to speak. As a result, the group was not invited, Lowles said.
NUS president Megan Dunn said: “Hope Not Hate is not on NUS’ no platform list. I would happily share a platform with anyone from Hope Not Hate tomorrow.
“Representatives from Hope Not Hate, including Nick Lowles, have and continue to be invited to NUS events. I have tried to clarify this issue with Mr Lowles but have been unable to contact him.”
Lowles added: “My crime, it seems, has been to repeatedly call on the anti-racist movement to do more to condemn on-street grooming by gangs and campaigning against Islamist extremist groups in the UK and abroad.”
The claims come after a row over an attempt by the NUS’ LGBT officer
Fran Cowling to no platform the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell because she believed him to be racist and transphobic after he signed an open letter in the Observer defending the principle of free speech.
The letter was in response to calls to withdraw an invitation to Germaine Greer to speak at the Cambridge Union after she said that, in her opinion, transgender women were “not women”.
Tatchell said Cowling wrote to the organisers of the Canterbury Christ Church University event declining to attend as a speaker unless Tatchell withdrew.
The organisers said this week that the event, which is aimed at challengin
g prejudice against LGBT people, would go ahead as planned and expressed their disappointment at Cowling’s refusal to take part.
Earlier this month, a student at the London School of Economics called for the institution’s free speech society Speakeasy to be banned because it was “self-important and ill-informed”.
In an article for its student newspaper, Maurice Banerjee Palmer wrote: “At best, Speakeasy/Free Speech seems to be naive to the limits on freedom of expression. At worst, they pretty much endorse hate speech (which is illegal).
“Moreover, they don’t seem to have put any effort into understanding the rationale behind safe spaces, or their effect. And for a supposedly pro-debate organisation they don’t seem awfully keen on putting across the other side of the argument.”
A spokesperson for the NUS Black Students’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment.