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Banned extremism speaker to return to UoB months after uni cancel original talk

‘Anyone wishing to use their free speech to protest in a safe and cooperative manner should feel free to do so,’ say Free Speech Society.

Emma Fox, a researcher whose work looks at how extremist networks exploit institutions such as universities, will return to Bristol Uni just seven months after one of her talks was cancelled due to extensive opposition.

Fox will present the findings of a report titled “Extreme Speakers and Events: 2017/18." Part of this report details how Bristol Uni are in the top 10 universities for hosting extremists or those that adopt extremist rhetoric.

Fox was meant to give a similar talk at Bristol Uni, in conjunction with University of Bristol Freedom of Speech society, in March 2019.

500 students from across the country signed a petition calling for the talk to be cancelled, Bristol SU also recommended that the talk shouldn't go ahead and Bristol Islamic Society planned a ‘200-strong’ protest.

For those reasons, as well as the talk’s proximity to the tragic terror attacks that took place in New Zealand, Fox was informed that the event would not go ahead on campus, just hours before she was planning to speak.

The event did however take place at a secret location and was streamed live on Facebook by The Henry Jackson Institute (Fox's employer). Bristol SU dubbed this action “irresponsible and immoral.”

Speaking to The Bristol Tab, Fox suggested that it is vital her talk goes ahead this time, for the sake of freedom of speech.

“It is important to show that threats and intimidation don’t win, and the best way to challenge those you disagree with is more speech, not censorship.

“The Commission for Countering Extremism recently reported that individuals working to counter extremism face alarming levels of abuse, vilification and harassment. They rightly noted that this was having a chilling effect on freedom of expression.

“It is important to discuss controversial and sensitive issues otherwise it is left to the extremists on all sides to hijack the debate and stifle progress.” Fox told The Bristol Tab.

A spokesperson for The University of Bristol Free Speech Society, the organisers of the event, told The Bristol Tab: “We are delighted to welcome Emma Fox from The Henry Jackson Institute in a “take 2” of the event that we were forced to cancel last year due to security threats.”

“Having worked closely with the university and the SU over the summer to ensure safety for attendees, the event will now take place on Wednesday October 16th.

“Anyone wishing to use their free speech to protest in a safe and cooperative manner should feel free to do so.”