LONDON (Reuters) - The head of Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission asked Oxford University’s debating society on Sunday to review its decision to invite holocaust denier David Irving to speak at a free speech forum.
British historian Irving will be a speaker at Monday’s event, which has been organized by the Oxford Union’s inner debating chamber, as will British National Party leader Nick Griffin.
“People have died for freedom of speech,” the EHRC’s head Trevor Phillips, told the BBC on Sunday. “They didn’t fight and die for it so it could be used as a silly parlor game.”
“Nobody needs to invite these people to deny the holocaust. The issues are too serious. I would say to the Oxford Union — think again. If this goes ahead I hope the Oxford students will turn their backs on this shabby exhibition.”
Reuters was unable to reach the president of the Oxford Union Debating Society Luke Tryl for comment.
The invitations to the forum have been opposed by the Oxford Student Union and the university’s Muslim and Jewish societies.
Irving, a self-taught historian, was arrested in Austria after his arrival on a visit in November 2005. He spent more than a year in an Austrian jail for denying the Nazis organized mass murder of six million Jews during World War Two.
Last year Griffin was twice cleared of inciting racial hatred. The BNP commands nothing like the influence of similar far-right parties across Europe but holds several seats on local councils.
The EHRC is a public agency that fights discrimination.
Reporting by John Sinnott