However, the event has now been forced to relocate after far-right extremists threatened to target the event.
The conference details were publicised on the far-right Casuals United blog, while a Facebook page linked to the nationalist ‘Britain Strong’ group also encouraged attendance, stating “hell awaits all who insult our great nation” and telling activists to “get ready for war”.
On its website the IHRC states:“Birkbeck College has withdrawn the go-ahead it originally gave for the conference…citing its inability to arrange sufficient security”.[…] The turnaround came after calls were made on social media by Britain First…to demonstrate at the event.
The prospect of far-right organisations threatening to target universities is deeply worrying – there must be no place in the UK for physical threats against events, regardless of the politics of the organisers.
It highlights the growing menace of the far-right, and the importance of considering all the risks posed to on-campus events, demonstrating why groups must work with government and universities to manage those risks.
However, while the cancellation of this weekend’s event is a blow to free expression, it is only right that university and government officials took the risk to student safety seriously.
It is now important that this incident is not used to fuel further grievance, with the IHRC’s attacks on Birkbeck and the government extremely unhelpful.
These have included claims Birkbeck “may even have Islamophobic motives itself for cancelling the booking” and criticism of the involvement of counter-extremism officials.
Extremism only breeds extremism, and labelling efforts to mitigate far-right disorder as “institutional Islamophobia” will only leave us trapped in a cycle of intolerance.