Four-Day Islamic Event Near York Cancelled: Conflicting Reasons Given

From an anonymous “Guest Post” at Harry’s Place:

The Islamia Village event that was to take place at Thorpe Underwood Estate this Bank Holiday weekend (24th— 27th August) has now been cancelled.

Readers of this blog were first alerted to this event by The Islamic Far-Right in Britain, reposted at Harry’s Place on the 13th of July. Further coverage of the hate-preachers set to headline the event were subsequently posted at Hope Not HateHarry’s Place, and Student Rights.

As reported by The Islamic Far-Right in Britain several days ago, anti-extremist activists have been in negotiation with Thorpe Underwood Estate since the event was reported at Harry’s Place in July.

The Islamic Far-Right in Britain highlighted numerous quotes which show that several of the advertised speakers have a history making of hateful and extremist statements. The promotion of such views may or may not have been the specific purpose of the Islamia Village event, but it is certainly reasonable to be concerned and to take the view that any involvement by such persons would be pernicious.

According to a press release by the Estate quoted in the Harry’s Place post:

A spokesman for Thorpe Underwood Estate said that there had been problems in accommodating some of the key speakers in the event and that the Trustees had had no choice but to cancel.

However, comments from an unnamed trustee of the Estate (also added to the Harry’s Place post) suggest other factors:

The threat to “burn the buildings down with everyone in them” was made in a “comment” on a “Casuals Unlimted” blog site page.

AND for clarity the event was NOT cancelled because the organisers would not agree to what was being asked of them. It was a myriad of reasons – some very “sensitive” from a security point of view. The Police did not advise cancellation. The organisers at one point would have been willing for EVERY one of the speakers, highlighted as previous “hate-preachers,” to not even attend, let alone not speak. In the end it was a whole combination of reasons that made the Trustees believe they had come to the end of the line in attempting to host a non-controversial event that would have been safe for all concerned attending.

…This booking WAS checked out with ALL the relevant Government bodies possible and opinion sought as to whether the booking should have been refused. Rather than say, suggest or even infer that perhaps it would be sensible to say “no”, the responses were given as “positive to proceed”. The issued press release is correct “there were problems accomodating the key speakers”. Our earlier post was to give clarity as to the facts. Safety of those attending probably accounted for 80% of the decision making process. 

A website run by the “Casuals United Female Division” issued a “call to action” on 22 August, under the heading “Hate speech conference in #York this weekend action required #edl #bnp #ukip”; this was followed with

Well done all who helped get the #York hate festival cancelled #edl [English Defence League] #nwi [North West Infidels] #cxf [Combined ex-Forces] #nei [North East Infidels] #sdl [Scottish Defence League]

Working together we can apply massive pressure and stop these scumbags getting their message of hate out there. Well done everyone from various groups who sent emails or phoned. The Manager told me he was seriously not happy about the prospect of a demo outside his venue and promised he would cancel it which he has….


Well done everyone who called or emailed the venue and the York press. This is how to get results. The threat of us disrupting was enough to get the venue cancelled. Job done. Forget pointlessly standing in carparks, we frustrate them every time they announce a conference. Commies can only dream of being able to do this to us LOL.

The EDL, meanwhile, have posted to Facebook a “A massive thanks to the EDL and Casuals who got this event stopped.”

Such posts, along with the Trustee’s comments, tends to undermine the claim made at Harry’s Place that the cancellation

should be seen as a victory for peaceful campaigning and reasonable negotiation over hatred and extremism, whether the latter comes from Islamist fanatics or anti-Muslim hooligans. The latter will not, on this occasion at least, be claiming a victory for themselves on the back of others’ hard work.

There are two very obvious points that I shouldn’t need to state, but which it may be prudent to do so: the fact that Islamia Village may have been cancelled due to fears of aggressive protests – or worse – by anti-Islam groups does not mean that it was wrong to highlight, and to challenge, the involvement of hate preachers. However, concerns about hate preachers do not mean that we should gloss over why exactly the cancellation occured. Casuals United and the EDL may be trying to take credit for an outcome which was achieved by “reasonable negotiation” undertaken by others, but the Trustee’s comments appear to support their version of events.

It is odd that the Harry’s Place post is anonymous, and that that the “anti-extremist activists” who “have been in negotiation with Thorpe Underwood Estate” are unidentified . The person who runs The Islamic Far Right in Britain has left comments on this blog in the past (some of a goading nature), and he is clearly “Harry Burns” of the “Anti-Extremism Alliance”; the event’s cancellation is noted on a new Tweet on the AEA’s infrequent Twitter feed.

I discussed Burns and the AEA last year here; the group presents itself as being opposed all forms of extremism, and organisations such as the Quilliam Foundation are associated with it (perhaps this explains by the Islamic Network, which organised the Islamia Village event, in part blames the Quilliam Foundation for the cancellation; Quilliam does not appear to have made any public statement about the events). However, opposing political extremism is not the same thing as opposing extreme personal behaviour, and the AEA is quite willing to indulge thuggery: also involved with the group is Charlie Flowers, who has recently taken to writing deranged and violent fantasies about shooting people and who threatens to deploy paedo-smears against anyone whom he dislikes.

UPDATE: “Harry Burns” has added comments below, identifying himself as Andy Hughes and confirming that although he was previously a member of the AEA, he is now not currently part of the group. Meanwhile, Islamophobia Watch has noted the above post, and have highlighted his past involvement with the EDL. Harry (to use his preferred pen-name) now writes at The Islamic Far-Right in Britain:

IW is not exactly on the ball here, or purposely likes to juice his info up a bit. Yes, my ass was there at the start of the EDL in London back in 2009. There was a lot of good lads involved in EDL London at the beginning, in those days it really did what it said on the tin – demoing against Islamic extremism and believe it or not, Muslims joined us at the early demos in London. By the time we hit 2010 it had become a constant battle to keep anti-Muslim sentiment at bay and by mid 2010 I’d had enough and done a bunk.

…Google is your friend IW. “This from a man who until recently was himself an activist in the nationalist far right” < there’s the juice. Richard Bartholomew could/would have told him that EDL had been history for me for a long time. It obviously suits IW to add a bit of hype, there’s no boom!

I should perhaps make clear that I have never had any direct or private communication with Islamophobia Watch. The site often draws attention to news items that I find to be of interest, and I have sometimes been quoted by them. However, that does not mean that we share the same perspective: I’ve previously criticised the site for apparently suggesting that protesting against a particular event amounts to a wish to suppress free speech, and I don’t always agree with its interpretations of groups and individuals. I’ve always acknowledged that an element of the early EDL was anti-Islamic extremist rather than anti-Muslim (despite receiving threats and abuse from a member of that element), and I’m sparing about using labels such as “far-right”. Indeed, I tend to avoid using the term “Islamophobia” altogether, as vague and lacking in explanatory force.