The girl’s winning speech insulted others by spreading pro-Palestine “propaganda,” according to the organizers.
A 15-year-old girl was kicked out of a speech competition on Sunday for “propaganda” after delivering a winning speech on the rights of Palestinians and Muslims.
The Speak Out Challenge, the largest youth speaking event in the world, disqualified British-Palestinian Leanne Mohamad after receiving a complaint about her speech, which went viral after her regional win. In her speech, Mohamad described the onslaught against the rights of Palestinian children, who she said are accorded less protection than dogs. Her baby cousin, she said, passed away a few weeks ago because he was denied medical attention in the occupied territories.
She also widened her speech to attack Islamophobia, saying, “Islam is perfect, but I’m not. So if I make a mistake, you blame it on me, and not on my religion, because terrorism has no religion.” The complaint, according to the Jewish Chronicle, came from Edgar Davidson, who blogs against supposed anti-Israel bias in the United Kingdom and runs the satirical Free Palestine Now site.
“Why is it called a ‘Speak Out Challenge’ when I am then silenced?” Mohamad later tweeted, complaining of the litany of abuse she has faced on social media. “Absolutely appalled to receive such hateful messages from adults on Twitter. I’m 15 years old, you should be ashamed,” she tweeted.
The judging panel “unanimously” eliminated Mohamad from the final rounds because she ostensibly violated two rules, according the Speakers Trust, which trains students for the competition: “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,” the group said in a statement. Mohamad, who ended her speech by waving a Palestinian flag and calling for a “Free Palestine,” has since had her remarks removed from YouTube and the Speakers Trust website.
British-Palestinian schoolgirl expelled from public speaking competition
Leanne Mohamad, a 15-year-old student at Wanstead High School in London, won a regional final of the Jack Petchey Speak Out Challenge with her speech ‘Birds not Bombs’, in which she describes the historical and contemporary reality for Palestinians under Israeli settler colonialism.
The Jack Petchey-sponsored competition is run by Speakers Trust, and bills itself as the world’s biggest youth speaking event.
Responding to complaints by anti-Palestinian blogger Edgar Davidson, Speakers Trust CEO Julie Holness said that they took his “concerns very seriously”, and confirmed that Mohamad would not be sent through to the next stage of the contest, and “will not be speaking at the Grand Final.”
The decision to expel Mohamad, made by a Speakers Trust and Jack Petchey Foundation judging panel, was based on her breaching two rules: that “the speech must have a positive and uplifting message”, and that “a speaker should never inflame or offend the audience or insult others.”
Holness offered to forward Davidson’s email to Mohamad’s school, and said the blogger was “welcome to use [my home office number] at any time.”
Responding to the news, Mohamad tweeted: “Why is it called a “Speak Out Challenge” when I am then silenced?” While Speakers Trust has removed the speech from their website and YouTube Channel, it has been re-uploaded here.
Davidson last year praised English Defence League-founder Tommy Robinson as “simply a British patriot.” His blog’s ‘Key Readings’ includes an article that states “Palestinians are a fake creation.”