Dear Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard,
I hope this message finds you well.
As the President of the British Islamic Medical Association, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for reviewing your invite to Julia Hartley-Brewer to speak at the RCGP Annual Conference.
Like many others, we were concerned at her initial invitation as she has a long history of anti-immigrant and Islamophobic rhetoric. Statements such as “Islam is still rooted in the values of the dark ages and until we accept that we will never get rid of radicalism” which she has made without apology go beyond the realm of genuine political differences and comfortably into open discrimination and vilification of an entire community. Indeed, had she said that about another faith or race, there would be no question of it being acceptable.
We are weary of insinuations of no-platforming, or ultimatums from members replacing constructive dialogue. The freedoms to criticise and resist are fundamental to our democratic society. We welcome robust debate around the role of immigration, race, faith and modern British society.
Equally essential are our freedoms to be safe and to uphold the responsibilities to protect communities who lack the privileges and means to challenge discrimination.
We know that this decision will attract criticism from those who see her words and position as legitimate. And those who use the cloak of freedom of speech as cover to demonise minorities.
We would like to add our voices and that of our members, to those who appreciate the College for making this difficult decision. And in doing so indicating to colleagues and patients that our shared values encompass many diametrically opposing viewpoints from a position of inclusion and respect for all.
We hope to continue our work with the College in supporting General Practice and primary care for the future and making our communities more inclusive as we promote holistic, person-centered health and well-being.
Dr Sharif Kaf Al-Ghazal
President, British Islamic Medical Association