May 31, 2016
In What We Can Do
Leanne Muhamad of Wansted High School won the “Speak out” challenge after giving an impressive performance to enthusiastic applause. However one day later, following complaints from extremist anti-Palestinian blogger Edgar Davidson to the Speakers Trust (the charity that trains the students to take part in the Speak Out Challenge) the Jack Petchey Foundation and Wanstead High School, the judging panel have now decided “unanimously” against sending Leanne Mohamad through to the final rounds of the competition.
Julie Holness, CEO of the Speakers Trust, alleged that Ms Mohamad had breached “two fundamental rules that are made explicit during the training”. She said: “There are two fundamental rules that are made explicit during the training: the speech must have a positive and uplifting message – in fact this is one of the core terms of the agreement with the Jack Petchey Foundation [and] a speaker should never inflame or offend the audience or insult others and this, by definition, means that propaganda is ruled out absolutely from the outset.
Given that the so-called “two fundamantal rules” are not written as Ms Holness shared them – and also were taken out of context – it is not stated anywhere about an “uplifting message” nor is it stated anywhere about “insulting others” nor any reference to “propaganda” in the topics recommended: Topics (note not rules) should be presented in a positive/constructive manner even if the subject is of a more serious or hard-hitting nature.
How Leanne was supposed to raise the death of her baby cousin who was trapped in Gaza and lacked basic medical aid due to the Apartheid blockade, positive and uplifting is macabre. She did manage to make it a part of her plea for peace and his passing has since been used against her in a cruel and malign fashion. This young person is still a minor and her cousin’s death has been very upsetting and yet there are those who believe it is acceptable to slaughter thousands of children, imprison thousands more and in Britain at least censor a young person from speaking out about it in an event designed specifically for young people to speak out!
However controversial the subject, speakers are warned never to offend the audience. Given that the audience gave her a standing ovation and rousing standing ovation at that – there was no signal of offence reported or given, and given that she asked for Birds of Peace instead of Bombs and an uplifting message to free her people; as well as summarizing the traumatic past from which she at her young age has escaped; there is nothing to offend a normal audience, and nowhere is the term “others’ mentioned. Also given that the speech was previously, marked voted on and won in another heat – by another panel of judges, and coached by teachers from Speakers Trust – all with no comments or remarks about its eligibility – as there was no offence and they thought it was constructive and positive – it is curious that a new panel voted against it, effectively silencing and deleting the previous panel’s decision and also silencing a schoolgirl’s story and plea for peace and freedom.
The fact that both the speech and also the video were deleted from record coincides with the deleting of a young girl’s story and passion, and also the history and recognition of an entire population and their identity and plight. It contradicts both the basic rights of freedom of speech, the spirit and ethos of the competition, and the democracy of this country. We ask that this speech is reinstated to the competition and given the time and respect it and all those who wrote, supported or coached it deserves.
Leanne has suffered upset and abuse, threats and personal attacks without any protection from this body that describes itself as one that empowers young people and gives them a voice. We the undersigned would see her reinstated and her story widely told.