I was at the Conservative Party Conference and listened to Theresa May this morning. She was right to talk of the importance of a cohesive society. Which is why it is all the more inexplicable that Conservative Party Conference organisers banned the event ‘Faith and British Values: The Muslim Charity Question’.
And banned it at the eleventh hour and without notification to either the hosts ACEVO or the sponsors the Muslim Charity Forum.
The event was rearranged outside the Conservative Party zone of control. At that event, at the Friends Meeting House outside the Tory perimeter, I said that you can't prescribe a cohesive society by government legislation. A cohesive society is built by citizens and communities. So working with the leadership of Muslim charities, with faith groups in general and with charities is vital in tackling extremism and alienation.
Muslim charities, together with the rest of our charity sector must be on the inside, central to developing a strategy to tackle extremism. The message sent by the Party’s decision to ban ‘Faith and British Values’ was simply counterproductive.
And it is already clear that many in the Conservative party are upset and perplexed by this decision. At our rearranged event I was pleased that the Chair of the Conservative Forum was both present and spoke. Whoever in the conference organisation made this regrettable decision, it must not be allowed to cloud or impair efforts by our sector and community leaders to work for a more cohesive society.
It was great to see so many people coming to our event at short notice. It was gratifying to have the support of faith leaders, and especially the Quakers who made their meeting house available to an event designed to promote the contribution of the Muslim constituency within the charitable and wider community.
ACEVO has developed a strong working relationship with the Muslim Charity Forum and we will continue to give them strong support in promoting what they do and developing their leadership and governance.
The massive Twitter traffic controversy over the banning of this event has shown the sector unites in dismay at the way in which we were treated. Muslim charities are part of the solution to cohesion, not part of the problem. We will be looking at meeting with Theresa May to discuss how we can develop this. If you think that it is us in the sector alone who feel strongly about this please read what Daily Mail columnist Peter Oborne has to say in his article for Middle East Eye. http://bit.ly/1Ojn6MY