28 student societies and campaigns have signed an open letter calling for the Oxford Union to immediately withdraw their invitation to Alice Weidel.
The leader of the far-right German political party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is scheduled to speak at the Union next Wednesday, 7th November.
The open letter reads: “As Student Societies of Oxford University, we write to express our grave concern at the Oxford Union’s decision to host leader of the far-right German political party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), Alice Weidel. We wish to make clear that Weidel and her values are not welcome in our community.
“Since Weidel joined the party in 2012, she has pushed racist, Islamophobic and dehumanising rhetoric about migrants and refugees. Earlier this year, she used a Bundestag debate to denounce ‘girls in headscarves, knife-wielding men on government benefits and other good-for nothing people.’ She has described refugees as ‘illiterate’ and derided ‘grabby migrants’ who she claims bring ‘stone age Sharia populism’ to Germany. When asked in 2015 if she believes Islam poses a danger to Germany, she replied ‘of course.’
“Since 2016 (Weidel became co-leader in 2017), the AfD has adopted an explicitly anti-Islam policy. Its most recent election manifesto contained a section on why ‘Islam does not belong to Germany.’ The party has also has drafted the proposals to ban ‘the construction and operation’ of mosques, claiming that they contribute ‘to the spread of Islamic teachings directed towards the removal of our legal order.’ AfD Party officials have called for migrants to be shot on sight at the border. Their manifesto is also distinctly homophobic, claiming that a ‘family’ can consist only of a father, mother and children.
“We find it deeply concerning that this individual representing the Alternative für Deutschland should be invited to speak at the Oxford Union. Weidel’s reactionary, racist rhetoric stands in direct opposition to the student community’s values of equality and freedom from discrimination, contravenes the University’s own Equality policies, and goes against the central purpose of the University.
“We call on the Oxford Union to withdraw their invitation to Weidel immediately, in the name of justice and equality for all.”
On their Facebook page, the Oxford SU Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality (CRAE), who signed the letter, wrote: “[Weidel’s] party’s race-baiting, anti-Muslim politics stand in direct opposition to the values that our community prides itself on.”
The University’s LGBTQ+ Society, also signatories, added: “LGBTQ+ Soc supports the call for the Oxford Union to withdraw its invitation to far-right German politician, Alice Weidel.
“We consider the views she expresses to be Islamophobic, homophobic and racist, and we do not believe there is a place for the expression of hatred at this university. Furthermore, the format of this event – a speech, with only a brief Q&A – is not accessible, nor is it conducive to healthy debate.
“As a welfare society, we believe it is our duty to oppose the propagation of violent rhetoric in our university.”
In a Facebook post sharing the letter, an Oxford student said: “If they can use their platform to promote racism and facism, we can use the platform to criticise them for it.”
The Oxford Union has been contacted for comment on this joint letter.
In a previous statement to Cherwell, President of the Oxford Union, Stephen Horvath, said: “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.”
Oxford SU and and the SU’s Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality (CRAE) have also been contacted for comment.
The Oxford Union have since cancelled Weidel’s speaker event.
Union President Stephen Horvath told Cherwell: “Alice Weidel has cancelled her planned trip to the U.K. next week due to concerns with the security arrangements for aspects of her travels and engagements.
“We regret to inform members that she will therefore not be speaking at the Oxford Union.”
In a collective statement responding to the Union’s cancellation of the event, the signatories of the letter told Cherwell: “As Student Societies of Oxford University, we welcome the news that Alice Weidel will no longer be speaking at the Oxford Union next Wednesday.
“However, it is deeply regrettable that the Union saw fit to invite an unashamed racist to speak in the first place. We note that the Union has previously hosted speakers such as the BNP leader Nick Griffin, the leader of National Rally Marine Le Pen, and the Holocaust denier David Irving. This is not the first time that students have been forced to tell the Union that neither their values nor those of their speakers are acceptable and we don’t believe that it will be the last.
“We are proud of the collective effort of our community in opposing Weidel and the AfD and remain steadfast in our commitment to opposing fascism and racism, in all their forms.”