Nick Lowles, the director of Hope Not Hate, claims to have been denied an invitation to speak at a conference on anti-racism on the grounds he is “Islamophobic.”
Hope Not Hate bills itself as having the remit to “investigate, expose and campaign against the activities of the far right and other promoters of hate in Britain and Internationally [sic],” seeking to achieve this via “engagement plans, training and educational services.”
Lowles says he was “no-platformed” by the National Union of Students (NUS) in the UK. He posted an angry rant on his Facebook page stating a group called ‘Black Students’ within the NUS opposed a prospective invitation to speak at an anti-racism conference on the grounds of his being “islamophobic [sic].”
This is the latest in a string of high-profile, “no-platforming” incidents in the UK.
“Now we have a culture in which allegations with little or no evidence silence people,” the executive director of non-partisan think tank Agora, Robbie Travers told Clarion Project. “This is not helpful for tackling prejudice, nor does it tackle hateful ideas, which proliferate without us being able to honestly tackle them.”
NUS President Megan Dunn refuted the claims, telling the Huffington Post, “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.”
If true, Lowles should not be surprised at this turn of events. He writes in a statement, “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.”
Ironically, this is the same “crime” for which Lowles blacklisted the Clarion Project in his report “The Counter Jihad Movement,” a lengthy document profiling organizations and individuals he deemed to be anti-Islam. Several Muslims were included in the list, including Egyptian author and former Islamist Tawfik Hamid and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy Dr. Zudhi Jasser. Muslim women’s rights activist and Clarion Project Honor Diaries film star Raquel Saraswati was also briefly listed, before her name was withdrawn after a social media outcry.
In his attempt to justify tarring long-standing campaigners against Islamist extremism as bigots, Lowles wrote, “Whilst the counter-jihadists have some differences between them, all agree that Islam is a supremacist religion and many see little difference between violent Jihadists and the ordinary Muslims who live their lives peacefully.”
While we cannot speak for the other organizations listed in the report, Clarion Project has never believed Islam is a supremacist religion and actively lobbies to educate on the difference between violent jihadists and ordinary Muslims who live their lives peacefully. For this reason, Clarion Project focuses on the ideology of Islamism – the theocratic attempt to impose an interpretation of Islam onto the others and to implement sharia as state law.
In this capacity we, like Lowles, have spoken out against the failure of the left to tackle the issue of predominantly Muslim grooming gangs. We have challenged organizations such as CAGE which purport to be anti-racist (but have links with known terrorists like Jihadi John) and Islamist organizations like Hizb ut-Tahrir, which seeks to establish a global Islamist caliphate.
We have documented the international theocratic vision of the Muslim Brotherhood and called out Western governments for supporting the Wahhabi regime of Saudi Arabia. We have also dedicated our ‘Voices for Human Rights’ section to interviewing Muslim and non-Muslim activists from around the world with a range of views and understandings of Islam that deserve to be given airtime, including Sheikh Usama Hasan of the Quilliam Foundation, Dr. Nahid Angha the founder of the International Women’s Sufi Movement, Saudi dissident and human rights activist Yahya Assiri and many others.
All of these stances should be uncontroversial. The Islamist theocratic movement is clearly exactly the sort of extremist movement a group like Hope Not Hate ought to be opposing, rather than accusing those who oppose it of anti-Muslim bigotry.
Clarion Project does not need the approval of activists like Mr. Lowles to continue opposing extremism and conducting outreach to the Muslim community. The fight against extremism is too important. If we fail to wage it and if we fail to engage with Muslims in that fight, we risk creating exactly the sort of “Muslims versus everyone else” situation that Lowles worries about and that the Islamic State is trying to create.
In reflexively slandering anti-Islamist organizations, Lowles is making that prospect more likely, not less.
Now that Lowles has attempted to oppose anti-Muslim bigotry, he seems to have found himself subjected to the same tactics that he has espoused. Hopefully, this latest turn of events will make him reconsider his previous stances and work with Muslim activists who oppose extremism, as we do, instead of trying to silence them.
Lowles told The Guardian, “It’s amusing in its absurdity, but it does reflect the failure of a small section of the left to understand that we have to confront extremism and intolerance in all its forms.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.