The head of a campaign which seeks to counter racism and fascism in the UK has allegedly been “no-platformed” by the National Union of Students (NUS) on the grounds he is “Islamophobic.”
Nick Lowles, chief executive of HOPE not hate, took to his Facebook to criticise Black Students - the NUS campaign which focuses on equality in education, black representation, anti-racism and anti-fascism - for its “ultra-left lunacy.”
As displayed in a tweet from journalist and blogger Sunny Hundal, Mr Lowles alleged on Thursday that NUS Black Students was opposing a plan to invite him to speak on an anti-racism platform because he’s “Islamophobic.”
He continued: “Never mind all the work HOPE not hate has done challenging anti-Muslim hatred, it seems that some ultra left activists believe I’m Islamophobic because I have repeatedly spoken out against grooming and dared condemn Islamist extremism.”
Parts of the NUS have officially become a joke pic.twitter.com/1tm2fHTLQW— Sunny Hundal (@sunny_hundal) February 18, 2016
Not long now before Muslims are no-platformed by the NUS for being Islamophobic, and I'm no-platformed for being racist!— Sunny Hundal (@sunny_hundal) February 18, 2016
Mr Lowles said the charge of Islamophobia was “obviously quite ridiculous.” The row comes amid a growing outcry against the trend of “no-platforming” at British universities following the revelation veteran human rights activist Peter Tatchell had been snubbed by students for his free speech stance
In a statement, Mr Lowles said: “I am an independent member of the Government’s Anti-Muslim hatred Working Group and over the last few years HOPE not hate, as an organisation, has worked closely with Muslim communities throughout Britain to defeat the politics of hate. Only last December, I co-authored the most comprehensive report into organised anti-Muslim hatred.
“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. I make no apology for either position. We need to be consistent in our opposition to extremism - from whatever quarter it comes.”
He added: “The situation is almost amusing in its absurdity, but I want to stress that my beef is with a small group of ultra-leftists within the NUS, not NUS itself.”
Mr Tatchell has come to the defence of Mr Lowles. He told the Independent: “Nick Lowles and HOPE Not Hate have an extemporary, trail-blazing record of fighting racism and fascism. The idea that there should be any attempt to prevent them speaking is profoundly disturbing. It smacks of political sectarianism of the worst kind.
“There are many good people in the NUS, but it seems that a significant minority are more interested in fighting other activists than fighting real racists, fascists and anti-Muslim bigots.”
Reaction to the news has seen Twitter users take to the site to describe the NUS’s actions as, among other things, “absurd” and “ridiculous”:
OK, we've now reached peak lunacy. NUS is attempting to "no platform" Nick Lowles from Hope Not Hate for "Islamophobia".— Dan Hodges (@DPJHodges) February 18, 2016
Me, when I heard Nick Lowles has been no platformed by NUS for supposed Islamophobia. pic.twitter.com/NvyzHdm5Uv— Paula (@XxPLWxX) February 18, 2016
Thought NUS members had reached peak lunacy accusing Peter Tatchell of having a dodgy human rights record, but Nick Lowles? Say what?— Emma C Williams (@emma_c_williams) February 18, 2016
If Nick Lowles is “Islamophobic” then the term has distorted to the point of being meaningless.— Mark Ferguson (@Markfergusonuk) February 18, 2016
Even needing to say that is ridiculous.
@ambermb I am 100% against hysteria and generally support no platforming but, put it this way, anyone who thinks Nick Lowles is a racist...— Josh Lowe (@JeyyLowe) February 18, 2016
No-platforming Nick Lowles - of all people - at an anti-racism event. I mean, really.— Rachel Danae Burgin (@MrsBurgin) February 18, 2016
Leading anti-racism campaigner Nick Lowles, who runs @hopenothate, has been no platformed by NUS for supposed Islamophobia. Beyond absurd— Tom Copley (@tomcopley) February 18, 2016
On his short Twitter biography, Mr Lowles describes himself as being “anti-fascist” and also a “staunch supporter of the Kurdish fight against Isis.”
According to the HOPE not hate site, the campaign came to be in 2004 to provide a “positive antidote to the politics of hate,” adding: “The British National Party (BNP) was winning substantial votes and local councillors in our northern towns and traditional anti-racism and anti-fascism was failing.
“HOPE not hate was established to offer a more positive and engaged way of doing anti-fascism. And we have had some amazing success. Our campaign can take some credit for the collapse of the BNP.”
A report issued by HOPE not hate last year highlighted how, despite fertile conditions for the rise of extremism, the most prominent groups - such as the BNP and the English Defence League (EDL) - were fragmented and haemorrhaging support.
Mr Lowles said at the time of the report’s publication: “Despite otherwise favourable conditions, far-right hate networks are really struggling. The situation can change very fast.
“It’s disturbing to see the rise of neo-Nazis like National Action - young, committed activists who have deeply anti-Semitic, National Socialist views.”
In an email to the Independent, however, NUS president Megan Dunn said HOPE not hate was not on the NUS 'no-platform list'. She added: “I would happily share a platform with anyone from HOPE not hate, and its representatives - 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.”