Police officers tried to block a meeting in an Oxford church hall because it featured Aki Nawaz of radical Muslim hip-hop act Fun-Da-Mental, according to the organisers.
Dr Taj Hargey from the Muslim Education Centre of Oxford (Meco) invited Aki to speak at the meeting about the issues raised by the band’s new album, All Is War.
Aki has been pilloried in the tabloid press and faced severe distribution problems because of the album’s uncompromising anti-imperialist politics.
Dr Hargey spoke to Socialist Worker about the police’s bizarre intervention. “We’ve been holding regular monthly meetings in Oxford for several years and never had any dealings with the police,” he said.
“We’ve given platforms to all kinds of perspectives. We invited Aki because we believe we need alternative views, especially regarding the war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine.”
But on Thursday of last week Oxford police started calling Dr Hargey and demanding that they meet with him. “I told them that it was a public meeting and that I did not need police permission or involvement to hold it,” he said.
“That didn’t go down too well. The next call was from a sergeant who told me that Aki Nawaz was fomenting hatred and had published recipes for how to make liquid bombs on his website!”
The police then attempted to put pressure on the vicar of the church hall, Dr Hargey adds. But they all held firm and the meeting went ahead on Sunday without incident.
“I think this was about the police trying to show Muslims who’s the boss,” said Dr Hargey. “They’ve subsequently denied trying to stop the event. But telling me Aki published recipes for liquid bombs - a statement like that has only one subtext.”
Aki told Socialist Worker that public meetings over the war were necessary to bypass persistent media misprepresentation of the issues.
“We need to create these public spaces for interaction - it’s such an urgent thing to do. People need to speak out.
“If we want the madness to stop we have to point the finger at foreign policy - and the psychological aspects of that policy that come straight from colonial times,” he added.