Students at Oxford university and anti-fascist campaigners have reacted with outrage to the news that the Oxford Union debating club has invited two leading Nazis to speak to its members next month.
The club plans to host an evening with Nick Griffin, leader of the fascist British National Party (BNP), and David Irving, a Holocaust denier and longstanding Nazi activist, on Monday 26 November.
Anti-fascist campaigners at the university have vowed to blockade the meeting and prevent it from going ahead.
A similar campaign at Bath university last year involving students, lecturers and local people successfully stopped Griffin from holding a meeting there.
Unite Against Fascism (UAF) has teamed up with the National Union of Students (NUS) to campaign against the invitations to Griffin and Irving.
“Fascist organisations such as the BNP are not normal political parties and should not be treated as such,” said Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of UAF.
“The infamous images of fascist students burning books shortly after Hitler’s ascent to power should serve to remind us that campuses are not immune to fascist ideas.”
Gemma Tumelty, president of the NUS, said, “NUS utterly opposes racism and fascism wherever it arises and will certainly oppose any attempt by the Oxford Union to invite Irving and Griffin to speak.”
Other student groups were swift to condemn the Oxford Union’s decision to grant a platform to nazis. The university’s student union reaffirmed its commitment to a “no platform” policy against fascists at a meeting on Friday of last week.
A statement from Oxford university’s Jewish Society said it would be “a disgrace if these discredited speakers are allowed a platform”.
Irving recently served time behind bars in Austria for promoting Holocaust denial. Since his release from jail he now claims that “the Jews are the architects of their own misfortune”.
Griffin also has a criminal record related to Holocaust denial. In 1998 he was convicted of incitement to racial hatred for producing a BNP publication that described the Holocaust as “the hoax of the 20th century”.
The BNP is keen to build in universities in order to provide a “respectable” front for its racism and bigotry towards Muslims and other minority groups.
By giving fascists a space to organise and promote their views, the Oxford Union is not promoting “free speech” but rather actively helping those who wish to create a climate of fear and race hatred on campus.
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