Dear Julie Holness,
It is with great concern that we contact you following reports that Leanne Mohamad, the Redbridge Regional Final winner for the ‘Speak Out’ competition has been disqualified from the final. While we are aware that your website statement refutes this, the Jewish Chronicle and reports on social media suggest otherwise.
We at FOA have spent years campaigning for an end to the occupation of Palestine, an end to war crimes against Palestinian civilians and an end to human rights violations. The inhumane oppression and the severity of violence suffered by Palestinians can never be overstated, as it is all consuming. This is a fact supported by reports from the UN, medical professionals and human rights groups. The greatest impact is on children, with mental of physical trauma resulting in lost generations. For a young girl in Britain to show awareness of the situation and be moved by it to such an extent that she can produce a narrative in the manner that Leanne Mohamed has, should be applauded. Yet the message being sent to her and thousands of young entrants in your competition is that sympathising with Palestinians is not acceptable. This is disgraceful and unacceptable and needs to be addressed as a matter of priority.
Leanne makes no mention of religion in her speech, and she is not offending any body’s religious beliefs. She has focused on the human rights and political position, showing great courage.
While it may be true to say that those who support Israel would be offended by the speech, this does not make Leanne’s views are wrong and it would be absurd to suggest it does. Yet this is exactly what Speakers Trust appear to have done in this case.
Reports suggest that you have given in to the demands of an extremist in following this course of action – Edgar Davidson, the same man who labels racist campaigners from the EDL as ‘Patriots’ and undermines the right of the Palestinians to exist as a people. These developments are shocking and fundamentally oppose the basic political freedoms that young people should be encouraged to explore. Thus, it seems that Speakers Trust has fundamentally failed to uphold its own stated mission and position.
We hope that you will clarify the position on this matter. If a decision to disqualify Leanne was indeed taken, we hope that it will be reversed so that she is able to participate in the final.
We look forward to hearing from you.