The English Defence League’s West Midlands Division intends to protest outside Waterworld on August 1 after discovering ‘Muslim-only days with extremist linked groups’. Under its ‘Special Events’ page on its website the event on August 9 states:
Our sisters only event is an event restricted to female gender only and boys up to the age of 4 years old. All rides and attractions are open as normal. Clothing during this event must be both culturally and islamically appropriate for the event. There is a designated prayer area located in the reception area. All windows are blacked out with only female staff/lifeguards on duty throughout the night, Female staff will guard the front entrance to make sure that no males enter the facility.
Nor is the event strictly a ‘day’ as it takes place between 7 and 9pm. This simply reflects a wider strategy to target various demographics including ‘male-only’ and events exclusively for nudists. There is no ‘Muslim-only’ event.
Following a litany of complaints on Facebook, staff at Waterworld attempted to respond to accusations of discrimination by stating the special event was also open to non-Muslim women. It remains understandable that some will not attend given the “Islamically appropriate” theme.
Nor are these events a rarity at Waterworld. A blog from 2011 discussed the upcoming ‘Sisters only’ event at the venue. Others used Facebook to label the company ‘racist’ and insisted on a boycott.
Waterworld’s official Twitter page promoted ‘Sisters-only’ events last year:
Check out our upcoming special events, including out Sisters Only event on Saturday 29th November http://t.co/z1904oxm3d
— Waterworld Stoke (@WaterWorldStoke) November 19, 2014
The charity Interpal hosted two events at Waterworld earlier this year. Interpal has for years, faced accusations of funding Hamas (the armed wing of the party is a proscribed terrorist organisation). Three separate Charity Commission investigations looked into the alleged links that date back to 1996. In 2009, it ruled that a Panorama investigation ‘lacked‘ the necessary evidence to prove a terrorism link. But Interpal had “not adequately managed” its relationship with the Union for Good and its “continued membership of the Union for Good was not appropriate”. In 2012, a follow-up enquiry noted that Interpal had implemented its 2009 recommendations, including severing links with Union for Good.
The story is reminisicent of how the far-right exploited stories concerning Legoland and Vue Cinema that made similar allegations (and unfounded) allegations of non-Muslim discrimination.