World Bulletin / News Desk
Anti-racist and anti-fascist groups in the U.K. have criticized the Oxford University Union after it invited French far-right political party leader Marine Le Pen to address the university.
The UK-based Unite Against Fascism (UAF) group said on Tuesday it would organize a protest opposing the Oxford Union's "shameful decision" under the slogan: "No to Le Pen - Never again!"
The reaction came after members of the Oxford Union invited France's National Front leader to address Oxford University students on Thursday.
The UAF said in a statement: "The invitation should have been rescinded."
"In the aftermath of the Paris shootings, Le Pen has been whipping up Islamophobia, calling for the surveillance of Mosques - an attempt to blame the entire Muslim community for the actions of a handful of terrorists."
It went on: "Last week we commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day. We remembered the mass murder of six million Jewish people and others."
"The whole world said 'never again'. That means standing up and speaking out against fascism and racism today."
- 'No endorsement'
Le Pen's speech will be closed to members of the press, the National Front told Anadolu Agency.
The Oxford Union has defended its decision, saying it was a "politically-neutral institution".
Oxford Union president Lisa Wehden said: "Our members have a variety of views as do our speakers, officers and staff.
"An invitation from the union is not an endorsement of any particular agenda."
She added: "We allow our members to meet people face-to-face and make their own minds up."
"We invite no speakers who do not accept the right of our members to question them. Marine Le Pen will be answering questions from the audience after her address."
- 'Freed speech'
Le Pen's party was recently accused of fostering Islamophobia following the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris in which 17 people died.
She said in January: "This attack must instead free our speech about Islamic fundamentalism."
"We must not be silenced … We must not be scared of saying the words: 'This is a terrorist attack carried out in the name of radical Islam'."
The Union also recently announced former U.S. vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and former President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy will be speakers at the Union.