Tell MAMA founder says he was 'made to feel like a criminal' and demands apology after being denied entry to host Islamophobia event
The head of a government-endorsed Islamophobia monitoring group has demanded an apology from the Conservative Party after he said he and colleagues were subjected to a “barrage of abuse and intimidation” by security guards and refused entry to the governing party's conference.
Fiyaz Mughal, the founder of Tell MAMA, told Middle East Eye that he and two colleagues were refused entry to the event in Birmingham on Tuesday after being told by staff that they had not been “security cleared”, despite having applied for entry passes in advance.
'We are being made to look as if we are criminals'
- Fiyaz Mughal
The three were attending the conference to host a Tell MAMA-organised fringe event on anti-Muslim hate crime.
Mughal said that the three had subsequently been intimidated and followed by security guards who he believes were assigned to follow them to make sure they left the building.
He said that one of his colleagues, who is gay, was subjected to homophobic abuse by a security guard, while another female colleague was physically intimidated.
“We are being made to look as if we are criminals,” said Mughal. “We wanted to come in and inform the Conservatives about anti-Muslim hate. We are now feeling as if we are part of the problem. Doesn’t that say that actually what we were trying to challenge may well be in the Conservative Party itself?
“We attend Lib Dem conferences. We have always had a positive reception in the Labour Party and from Labour MPs. We have never been treated with such indignity.”
Conservatives, G4S: No apologies
In a letter sent to Conservative Party Chairman Patrick McLoughlin on Thursday, which he subsequently forwarded to MEE, Mughal set out a detailed account of the abuse he says he and his colleagues were subjected to and called on the party to apologise.
"We do not feel comfortable attending a future Conservative Party conference unless assurances can be given to us that such actions will not take place again and we ask that a full apology be provided to us," Mughal wrote.
Tell MAMA’s account of the incident has been questioned by both the Conservative Party and G4S, the company which provided security for the event.
The Conservative Party said that Tell MAMA had applied too late for passes to be issued, and added that Tell MAMA staff had themselves been abusive to the Conservative Party member of staff who refused them passes.
"We always encourage delegates to apply for passes as early as possible," a party spokesperson told MEE. "Unfortunately if people apply close to the start of the conference we can't always guarantee they will get a pass in time."
G4S denied that its staff had behaved in a threatening way.
“We are very happy that our staff behaved in an entirely appropriate manner," they told MEE.
'A red line that cannot be crossed'
But Mughal accused both the Conservatives and G4S of attempting to “spin” the incident.
In his letter to McLoughlin, Mughal wrote: “We find this intolerable and a further insult to what has taken place against us and shows what we are dealing with.
Delegates listen to a keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham (AFP)
"This is a matter of principle and whether or not this Government supports our work, there comes a red line that cannot be crossed. Given our treatment and the subsequent briefing taking place, that line is near to being crossed.”
'It seemed that the very dignity of victims that we try and preserve through our work was stripped from our staff'
- Fiyaz Mighal
He also said that the fact that Tell MAMA had been prevented from attending its own event to “highlight prejudice, hatred and bigotry” would have been farcical had it not been so serious.
“We also are part of the Home Office’s national hate crime strategy. Yet… it seemed that the very dignity of victims that we try and preserve through our work, was stripped from our staff,” Mughal wrote.
Tell MAMA was established in 2012 with government funding. It collates data, based on anti-Muslim hate crime incidents reported via its website, a hotline and social media.
It work was highlighted by the government in a Home Office plan for tackling hate crime published in July.
According to its latest report published in June, there was a 326 percent rise in reported attacks against Muslims in public areas in 2015. Many police forces in the UK now collate their own figures about Islamophobic hate crime.