Portsmouth show cancelled amid row over Muslim commentator

Comedian Joe Wells

Comedian Joe Wells

Matthew Carscadden

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A Portsmouth comic has defended his decision to cancel a show featuring a controversial Muslim commentator at the New Theatre Royal.

Mo Ansar was set to appear at an 8pm showing of Joe Wells’ comedy panel show, but the gig was scrapped yesterday following uproar on social media.

We had safety concerns and weren’t able to provide security

Joe Wells

On Tuesday evening activist Ansar took to Twitter to criticise calls for him to be ‘no platformed’ and said it was ‘potentially unlawful for any of us to pull out when coerced to discriminate’.

But Wells stood by his decision to pull the show.

‘I wasn’t aware of quite how controversial a panellist Mo would be’, the comic admitted.

‘We’re a silly, whimsical comedy show not equipped for serious controversy.

‘There was a lot of anger from people on the internet.

‘I felt like we were out of our depth.

‘We had safety concerns and weren’t able to provide security.’

But Ansar questioned the decision, suggesting ‘organisers wobbled on a free speech issue.’

He said: ‘If someone’s going after Muslims they should stand up. There’s a lot of anti-Muslim hate and they should stand up for Muslim activists.’

The show, hosted by Joe, involves guests discussing their policy ideas with a panel in front of a live audience.

Ansar has been involved in various controversies and until recently appeared frequently on mainstream media, including a BBC documentary about Muslims interacting with the English Defence League.

In a two-part tweet, Ansar wrote: ‘Ah here’s some superb stupid stupidity. I was asked to attend on the panel at @newtheatreroyal tomorrow for @joewellscomic show... Apparently due to libels and Twitter trolling and harassment, @newtheatreroyal and @joewellscomic have been asked to NO PLATFORM me’

The post led to an online spat which had former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson joining in.

The theatre said the show was pulled ‘at the artist’s (Wells’) request’ but nobody was available for further comment.

Tickets for the event are set to be reimbursed.

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