The Oxford Union’s decision to invite leader of the Alternative für Deutschland, Alice Weidel, to speak on next month was condemned by the Oxford University Student Council this Wednesday evening.
Following a wide-ranging debate, 72% of the voting members expressed opposition to Weidel’s invitation.
Oxford Student Union President, Joe Inwood, told Cherwell that the Council “decided by vote to make a stand against the invitation of a proponent of values contrary to those of Oxford students.”
Student Council members, including Vice President of Welfare and Equal Opportunities, Ellie Macdonald, were keen to express that they did not consider Weidel speaking at the Union simply an exercise in “free speech”.
They argued that the AfD, which is now the third largest party in the German Bundestag, does not just broadcast “hate speech” – it has also actively condoned physical violence in Germany against minority groups.
Concern was about the invitation was expressed by those present, who noted the increase in racially-motivated violence in Britain in recent years.
In Oxford, a Stand Up to Racism street stand was attacked by two men in Carfax in August. Stand Up to Racism Oxford is one of the key groups involved in organising a protest against Weidel in November.
21 of the 38 representatives present at Council voted in favour of condemning Weidel’s invitation, while eight voted against. There were nine abstentions.
Oxford’s Liberal Democrat MP, Layla Moran, has backed the Union’s decision to host Weidel. This puts her at odds with the city’s Labour MP, Anneliese Dodds.
Last week, Dodds said: “It is very concerning to hear that the Oxford Union has gone out of its way to court a far-right politician in this way.
“The AfD marched alongside Pegida, an extreme-right group, during protests in the German city of Chemnitz last month, which featured protestors making Nazi salutes and openly threatening migrants.”
In contrast, Moran said: “The AfD’s views are abhorrent and do not reflect the values of Oxfordshire, the United Kingdom, the Liberal Democrats nor the vast majority of Oxford University students.
“However, I do think their views and those of similar parties and organisations in the UK should berobustly challenged in healthy andopen debate.”
Last week, President of the Oxford Union, Stephen Horvath, told Cherwell: “The Oxford Union remains committed to the principles of political neutrality and free speech, and we invite a variety of political leaders from different countries and competing ideological camps.
“In recent years, those perspectives featured and questioned at the Union have ranged from Julius Malema, leader of the radically leftist Economic Freedom Fighters in South Africa, to Marine Le Pen.
“Alice Weidel is the leader of the largest opposition party in the German Parliament. After Dr Weidel’s speech in the Union’s debating Chamber, members will be welcome to ask her questions, and challenge her views if they wish.”