GB news claims its “investigation” caused police to withdraw from Muslim conference
GB News claims West Midlands Police withdrew from the Life of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) Conference after an “investigation” by the controversial right-wing channel. West Midlands Police Recruitment Outreach were scheduled to attend Islam Channel’s Life of the Prophet Muhammad Conference as an exhibitor at the event, on Saturday 30th September, at the ICC in Birmingham, as part of its drive for new recruits to be more representative of the local population, which in the case of Birmingham is 30% Muslim.
At 8.27 am on Thursday 28th September Islam Channel received an email from Charlie Peters, of GB News Limited, claiming: "West Midlands Police has confirmed to us that it is no longer attending your LPM conference in Birmingham this Saturday." It was only at 9.19 am (almost an hour later) that Islam Channel received an email from West Midlands Police saying: “We would like to confirm that unfortunately West Midlands Police will no longer be able to attend this event on Saturday 30th September 2023.”
An article published on GB News website on Friday 29th September stated: “the force confirmed that it had retracted its attendance after GB News sent a dossier of controversial remarks that speakers had made about the Taliban, non-Muslims, Israel and politicians.”
Mohamed Harrath, CEO of Islam Channel said: "It is ironic that GB News, which styles itself as the ‘home of free speech’ is claiming to have influenced the West Midlands Police decision to pull out of our conference tomorrow. It is clear that they do not believe that freedom of speech should be extended to Muslims.”
He added: "Given the problematic history and track record of policing when it comes to ethnic minorities in general and Muslims in particular, we believe it is imperative for police forces to engage with important Muslim community events and institutions to build a rapport and trust between the Muslim community and the police service."
“We believe that the attempts by GB News to de-platform our speakers is not only hypocritical, but also a dangerous and cynical attempt to deflect attention from their own situation by attempting to marginalise the Muslim community and destabilise relations with the police.”
Islam Channel wrote to West Midlands Police urging them to reconsider their decision and asking them to clarify the sequence of events which led them to pull out of the event. A spokesperson for the force said: “I can assure you that our decision not to attend the event in an exhibitor capacity was not due to pressure exerted by any media organisation.”
They added: “We will always respect and protect people’s fundamental right to freedom of expression.”
Harrath said: “It would be a very concerning message to send to the local Muslim community, if they felt that giving in to pressure exerted by any media organisation were more important to the police than supporting the local community, especially if that organisation is GB News, which is currently in the news itself for its extremely poor record of misogyny amongst other concerns.”
West Midlands Police was keen to reassure Islam Channel stating: “Building and maintaining positive relationships with the diverse communities we serve is a priority for us and we already work closely with many of the local charities, community and religious organisations that are attending the event. A number of our neighbourhood officers and members of our Chaplaincy are looking forward to engaging with and supporting members of the local community who will be there.
"I wish you every success with the event and look forward to exploring opportunities to work with you in future.”
The LPM Conference is a community and religious event, focused on the life of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and none of the speeches had any political content whatsoever. It was hailed as a great success. It was attended by 2000 local people, is supported by 50 local businesses and organisations exhibiting at the event and has the support of key prominent local charities, community and religious organisations including Birmingham Central Mosque, ILM UK, Exhibition Islam, Sultan Bahu Trust, Support Muslim Business Forum and the Islamic Centre of Britain.