Mysogynist Islamist group forced to leave Conway Hall

The relaunch of the controversial Islamist group Al-Muhajiroun at Conway Hall, central London, ended with supporters being ordered to leave because women were being forced to sit in a separate area.

Photograph: Wesley Johnson/PA

The event titled Sharia law versus British law was meant to be a debate between radical preacher Anjem Choudary and Douglas Murray, director of the right-wing thinktank The Centre for Social Cohesion. Choudary is the leader of Al-Muhajiroun which wants sharia law in Britain and which has praised the 9/11 terrorists as the Magnificent 19.

NSS Life Member Giles Enders, chairman of the South Place Ethical Society which runs the Hall, came on stage, took the microphone away from Choudary and declared the meeting cancelled. He stated that Conway Hall does not tolerate discrimination and added: "A group of thugs at the door have refused to let women in. I'm cancelling this meeting." He was cheered by a small group of women sitting in the balcony, but was heckled by many of the 100 or so men in the main hall.

Conway Hall

Choudary, who remained on stage during Enders' announcement, then grabbed the microphone. He said: "Jews and Christians will never make peace with you until you either become like them or adopt their ways." Loud chanting and scuffles broke out before police arrived.

Speakers who had been invited to share a platform with Choudary accused Al-Muhajiroun of inviting them under false pretences.

Conway Hall has been the home of freethought and open debate since 1929 and is also the home of the NSS.

Al-Muhajiroun disbanded in 2004 but was succeeded by the Saviour Sect and Al-Ghurabaa, both of which were banned under the Terrorism Act 2006 for "the glorification" of terrorism. Outside, Choudary criticised British society as "dirty" and predicted that, within one or two decades, Muslims would make up the majority. After the meeting there were calls for the Government to ban Al-Muhajiroun.

Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society said "Anjem Choudary is an idiotic rabble-rouser who revels in this kind of outrage. The ideas he promotes will repel all reasonable people - including Muslims who want to be part of this country rather than separate from it."

He continued "Conway Hall offered these people freedom of speech and assembly which is so precious but we doubt Al-Muhajiroun would accord it to those with whom they disagreed.

"The NSS abhors the women present being relegated to second class status by being denied access to the main meeting against their will. We congratulate South Place Ethical Society, who run Conway Hall, for their principled stance.

"We are not calling for Al-Muhajiroun to be banned. We want people to continue to be reminded how obnoxious they are."