A PROMINENT speaker due to appear at Bradford Literature Festival has pulled out, blasting one of the festival’s funding streams as “structurally racist and Islamophobic”.

Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, from Bradford, had been due to appear at five events at the festival but has withdrawn, blaming the Home Office’s Building a Stronger Britain Together (BSBT) fund.

Part of the Government’s Counter Extremism strategy, money was provided by BSBT to the Literature Festival to run outreach engagement projects in the community in the lead up to the festival.

It said the festival does not share Ms Khan’s views, and the money has enabled “important work” to take place in the community.

The Home Office said the claims the strategy is Islamophobic or racist are fundamentally untrue, and BSBT has nothing to do with the Prevent programme.

In a statement, Ms Khan said: “I regret to announce my withdrawal from the Bradford Literature Festival due to becoming aware of the funding and support given to BLF by the BSBT fund.

“I apologise to anyone who was hoping to see my work festival, but I have to take a stance against working with or legitimising the Counter Extremism strategy.

“The strategy relies on the premise Muslims are predisposed to violence and therefore require monitoring and surveillance.

“Taking Counter Extremism money legitimises the strategy of the state which approaches Muslims as criminal.

“It supports the narrative Muslims need to be monitored and put ‘on the right path’ because they’re otherwise on a trajectory to violence.

“The state strategy criminalises Muslims, and the project relies on bad science, bad faith and structural racism and Islamophobia.”

A spokesperson for Bradford Literature Festival said: “We regret that Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan is withdrawing from the festival due to the support BLF has received this year from BSBT.

“As a South Asian, Muslim led organisation, BLF is entirely conscious of the opinion some parts of the Muslim community hold about the BSBT programme – and whilst we acknowledge and value the perspective and opinion, it isn’t one, on this matter, that we share.

“In the context of this festival, the focus of the BSBT work has been on promoting the value of education and the importance of literacy, which is central to the ethos of this festival and entirely of a piece with the other work we do in all communities, regardless of faith or ethnicity.

“In this instance the funding has allowed us to do important work with women’s community groups, has been hugely valued by the groups we have partnered with to deliver the activity, and has received great feedback from participants and community leaders.

“We sincerely hope Suhaiymah will work with us again in future.”

A Home Office spokesperson said BSBT is counter extremism, funding local groups focused on community cohesion and tackling any extremism narratives locally - ranging from far-right extremism to FGM - while Prevent is an entirely separate counter terrorism project.

He said: “It’s disappointing some individuals are seeking to undermine and misrepresent the incredibly valuable work done in communities by our BSBT partners.

“BSBT is an open and transparent programme, which supports local people in their vital work to bring communities together, promote fundamental values and tackle the spread of all extremist ideologies.

“We are proud of the work that our BSBT community groups do to tackle extremism in all its forms, and we will continue to support our members to enable them to make a positive impact in their local communities.”

Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan had been due to appear at the following events at Bradford Literature Festival:

- Sunday, June 30 - Whose Eyes are These Anyway? at The Studio, The Alhambra

- Sunday, June 30 - A Fly Girl’s Guide to University at Kala Sangam

- Tuesday, July 2 - Freedom Studios: Showcase at Theatre in the Mill, University of Bradford

- Thursday, July 4 - Lunch Bite: Poetry at Festival Hub, City Park

- Thursday, July 4 - Poetry with a Punch at St George’s Hall.