Conway Hall pulls plug on ‘segregated’ debate

London venue Conway Hall’s owners cancelled an event last week because organisers had, allegedly, tried to enforce segregation of men and women.

Giles Enders, chairman of the South Place Ethical Society which runs the Hall, pulled the plug on what was advertised as a public debate, ‘Sharia law versus British law’. Taking part were radical preacher Anjem Choudary and Douglas Murray, director of the right-wing think tank the Centre for Social Cohesion.

Enders tells conference-news he was forced to take the microphone and suspend proceedings, after the Muslim organiser’s own security had blocked staircases and refused entry to certain areas of the building to women.

“I’m not prepared to have fundamentalist thugs in our hall preventing people from coming in. We do not condone segregation,” Enders told the London Evening Standard which reported the security guards pushing out women trying to enter the main hall where about 60 Muslim men had been seated. Women had been confined to the upstairs balcony, the newspaper claimed.

Police eventually intervened outside the building in Red Lion Square. The 17 June event had been supposed to relaunch the radical organisation Al Muhajiroun, although Enders is adamant the booking was for an ‘open’ public meeting.

Choudary later addressed his supporters in the street outside and attacked British society as “corrupt” and “morally bankrupt”.

Douglas Murray said he had been, “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”.

Murray told conference-news the venue owners were “spectacularly naive to have allowed a situation to develop that should never have developed”.

Enders countered that the Hall’s policy was to take all bookings, regardless of religion or political affiliation as long as they were within the law. “As long as a meeting is legal you can have a debate here”. The events of 17 June he described as “a bad coincidence”.

Paul Colston

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Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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