The Hounslow Muslim Forum was delighted to host its much anticipated public debate entitled ‘Putting Contest 2 in Context?’ on Saturday 11th of July 2009 at Lampton school, which proved a great success attracting some two hundred community-conscious residents and representatives from local organisations and institutions.
Invited speakers gave temperate and balanced orations on community concerns about the Contest 2 agenda, the significance of community cohesion and civic engagement. Whilst unanimously re-stating their opposition to all forms of extremism, the discussion highlighted the sense of irony and shared sentiment within the community, that our civic leadership and media vilify and malign Muslims with ill-defined terms, if they have the resolve to speak about genuine issues of concern, in an open and public manner.
The event confirmed British Muslim calls for more transparent, genuine and democratic dealings between government departments and the Muslim community, to proportionately tackle the issues of extremism, youth empowerment, social justice and communal harmony.
This untied message shone through despite extraordinary attempts by Hounslow council to force a cancellation of the public event on the erroneous grounds of promoting ‘Muslim extremists’ – a baseless slur which was further fanned by inflammatory front-page articles in local newspapers such as the Hounslow Chronicle.
All those in attendance, including respected local councillors, acknowledged that it was a genuine community centric meeting and was not in anyway espousing extremism, distrust or fear. There was all-round agreement for the need for an organic, local contact group such as the HMF.
Commenting on the event, Chairman of HMF Mohammad Ata Chaudhry said: “The Forum would like to extend a heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the executive team at Lampton School, who supported and trusted our good intentions. Whilst we are utterly pleased by all the support and praise received from people of all persuasions at the event, which we have documented and intend to share with the council, we are still hurting from being treated like common criminals by the council and local media. It is still not clear exactly why Hounslow Council condemned us in advance for promoting ‘extremist’ views, without engaging with us directly and boycotting our invitation to contribute to the programme? We will be writing to Hounslow council and local newspapers for an explanation, and hope that they will not be so presumptive on our future events and activities”