Scuffles as extremist Muslim group orders men and woman to be segregated at public meeting. Daily Mail.UK
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 11:59 AM on 18th June 2009
A public debate organised by banned Islamic sect Al Muhajiroun was cancelled today after an angry confrontation broke out over the segregation of men and women.
Management at the meeting’s venue said ‘fundamentalist thugs’ forced the event to be called off after they physically prevented men and women sitting together.
Giles Enders, Chairman of the South Place Ethical Society, which runs Conway Hall in Holborn, London, said scuffles broke out over the group’s heavy-handed approach.
Douglas Murray and Anjem Choudary confront each other after the South Place Ethical Society banned the pracher’s group, Al Muhajiroun from the hall.
The meeting came as the group’s new leader, Anjem Choudary, issued a challenge to the Government to ban the group after it emerged it was reforming.
Al Muhajiroun has sparked controversy after he said he wanted Sharia law in Britain and called 9/11 terrorists as the ‘Magnificent 19’.
The group was hoping to hold its first public meeting in five years but Mr Enders said the group had broken the terms for its hire of the hall.
Today’s debate, called Sharia Law Versus British Law, was intended to pit Choudary against Douglas Murray, director of right-wing think tank the Centre for Social Cohesion.
Taking to the stage, Mr Enders said: ‘A group of thugs at the door have refused to let women in. I’m cancelling this meeting.’
He was cheered by a small group of women sitting in the balcony but was also heckled by many of the 100 or so men in the main hall.
Mr Choudary, who sat on stage during the scuffles and Mr Enders’ announcement, then grabbed the microphone and after led chants saying: ‘This is a victory for Osama Muslims.’
Police watch as crowds gather outside Conway Hall following the cancellation of today’s meeting.
But Mr Enders took the microphone back from Mr Choudary and ordered everyone in the hall to leave.
Alexander Hitchens, of the Centre for Social Cohesion, said his group was invited to the debate with Mr Choudary on the understanding that it would be held on neutral ground with no segregation.
He said he was greeted by members of Al Muharjiroun on the door before being barred from entering.
‘We were led to believe it would be completely neutral,’ he said.
Outside the hall, Mr Choudary criticised British society as ‘dirty’ and predicted that, within one or two decades, Muslims would be the majority here.
Asked why he was living here, he said: ‘We come here to civilise people, get them to come out of the darkness and injustice into the beauty of Islam.’
Mr Murray, who arrived at the venue with his own security guards, said the platform of tonight’s planned debate was ‘completely unacceptable’.
Choudary insisted his group was not illegal and called on all Muslims to join.
He said: ‘I’m perfectly willing to debate Anjem Choudary and Al Muhajiroun’s ideas. His ideas are not difficult. They do not stand up.
‘But it’s very clear that this debate is not neutral. This was a segregated event, policed by Al Muhajiroun’s guards.’
He added he had been led to the event under false pretences by a front organisation called Global Issues Society.
Mr Murray confronted Mr Choudary and his supporters in the street and the pair spoke for about 10 minutes.
Mr Choudary said he had not broken any laws and called to Muslims to join his group.
‘We are not a proscribed group and it is not illegal to be a member,’ he said.
‘That’s a challenge to the Government and to the media – we were not doing anything that was terrorist-related in the past.’
Accepting that the group would have to pay attention to laws which outlaw the glorification of terrorism, he said: ‘We will have to choose our words a little bit more carefully.’
Opposition leaders called on ministers to act swiftly to implement a ban.
However, the Home Office said a ban could only be implemented if there was evidence that a group was involved with terrorism.
A spokesman said: ‘Proscription is a tough but necessary power to tackle terrorism.
‘Decisions on proscription must be proportionate and based on evidence that a group is concerned in terrorism as defined in the Terrorism Act 2000.
‘Organisations which cause us concern, including those which might change their name to avoid the consequences of proscription, are kept under constant review.
‘As and when new material comes to light, it is considered and the organisation reassessed as part of that process.’
Shadow security minister Baroness Pauline-Neville Jones said the ban would be a test as to whether the Government was serious about proscribing organisations which espouse extremism.
Former prime minister Tony Blair pledged to ban the group four years ago, but it was never outlawed while two splinter groups, Al Gurabaa and the Saviour Sect, were proscribed.
Al Muhajiroun was formed by radical preacher Omar Bakri Muhammad, who was later kicked out of Britain.
Mr Choudary’s followers provoked outrage in Luton earlier this year when they protested against soldiers returning from Iraq.