A prominent Oxford Muslim has challenged controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders to meet him for a public debate over Islam. Dr. Taj Hargey, Imam of the Summertown Islamic congregation, and leader of the Muslim Education Centre of Oxford, has invited Wilders — barred from Britain in February because of his anti-Muslim views — to meet at a neutral venue, saying his ideas need to be challenged publicly rather than boycotted.

Dr. Hargey has himself courted controversy in the Muslim community. He invited a woman to lead a congregation of men and women for Friday prayers, and offered financial support to a Buckinghamshire school after it refused to allow a female Muslim pupil to wear a full-face veil. Dr. Hargey said he was totally opposed to Wilders’ views on Islam, but insisted that made it all the more important for them to be questioned in a public way. “By banning him, Wilders became a bigger hero to the anti-Muslim brigade”, he said.

Dr. Hargey added: “If he does not accept the invitation, his criticism of Islam has no foundation.” Meanwhile Dr. Hargey received a call from Wilders’s office saying they had received the invitation for a public discourse but that the MP was currently travelling and would not be able to respond until next week.

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