Tory council leader fails to block debate

A controversial school debate which Hounslow Council claimed would incite violence passed without incident.

Council leader Peter Thompson wrote to Lampton School headteacher Sue John after he heard the “extremist” group Hizb Ut-Tahrir would be speaking at the event on Saturday. Despite the group pulling out of the event, the council pushed the school and organisers to cancel the Putting Contest 2 in Context debate – a move which incensed the Muslim community.

Mohammed Chaudhry, of Hounslow Muslim Forum, said more than 200 people attended to hear speakers and join in the debate. He said:

“There were a mixture of people, young and old, Muslim and not Muslim. People were fascinated and wanted to know more about the community and have a healthy debate.

“It is important to realise if we stop debate the radical groups can flourish, a good balanced argument is healthy. There was no violence and it was a calm and civilised debate.”

Mr Thompson wrote in his letter prior to the meeting: “The event organisers, unwilling to properly engage in constructive debate, have not sought to ensure a balanced discussion or debate around the content of this Central Government document.

“We have real concerns that the lack of balanced debate could inflame perceived grievances and lead to a breakdown in community cohesion. In truth the only purpose of the event appears to be an attempt to increase fear and mistrust among Muslims in the UK, and in our borough.

“I am writing to ask that you give serious consideration to cancelling this booking before it is too late.”

A Hounslow police spokesman confirmed there were no incidents on the day.

Hounslow Guardian, 13 July 2009