Student Rights uncover Jihadist videos at Westminster University (Update: Videos removed from Facebook)
UPDATE: Since the publication of this article, the Islamic Society at the University of Westminster appear to have removed these videos from their Facebook page.
In the past month, Student Rights have uncovered a number of posts on the Facebook page for the University of Westminster Islamic Society which we have found deeply worrying. In this time, four videos have been posted by an account called اسماء اويس, which can be translated as ‘The Names of Aweys’.
This account claims to be based in Mogadishu, Somalia, and the name appears to reference Hassan Dahir Aweys, seen by some as one of Somalia’s foremost jihadists. A senior figure in the Somali Islamist terrorist group Al-Shabbab, he was named by the United Nations as an individual “associated with Al-Qaeda, Usama Bin Laden or the Taliban” in November 2001.
The most serious of the videos posted, called ‘What is the least we can do for the Mujahideen’, was posted on April 5th and has since been ‘liked’ by five people. It has also been commented on by one student, who stated “may Allah honour us by meeting them Inshallah”.
The video features a slide show of photographs showing insurgent fighters posing with weapons, and engaged in fire-fights and a voiceover by Abdul Rahman Saleem, who was convicted of inciting racial hatred in 2007 after he was filmed shouting "UK, USA, 7/7 on its way. UK you will pay, Bin Laden is on his way" at a march against the publication of cartoons of Muhammad by a Danish newspaper.
In the video he can be heard saying that Muslims should “Ask Allah to remove those Kuffar from our lands, ask Allah to let their blood run on the streets of Fallujah, let their blood run in the mountains of Afghanistan, let the Mujahideen kill them and destroy them one after the other”. He also states that they should pray that Coalition soldiers “women become widows, like our women become widows” and “their children become orphans, like our children become orphans”.
He also tells listeners that “There is nobody like them today, the Mujahideen. When we speak about them, when we hear about them, we walk with our heads up high” and that “we should make dua for them, that’s the least that we can do, for those who can’t go and fight. And know that if you don’t go and fight you’re not going to be following the shahada”.
Another video, which appears to be nearly as serious, was posted on March 29th. Called ‘Is the Ummah living in the new Gold Rush’, it features a voiceover by the Al-Qaeda affiliated cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki and numerous images of jihadist fighters and their leaders, including Chechen militant Shamil Baseyev and Palestinian Abdullah Azzam, seen by many as one of the most influential jihadist figures of the 20th Century.
In the video, Awlaki says that “we just need to realise it, realise how much ajira [life after death] is out there waiting for us if we just go and do something” and that “you can’t even imagine how much ajira is out there to be handed out...we don’t want to be waiting on the sidelines when all this is happening. People are going and making millions and you’re sitting at home doing nothing”.
On the 8th March the same profile posted a similar video called ‘German Mujahid Abu Ibrahim in Afghanistan’. In this video, a man in camouflage fatigues addresses the camera and declares that “If the Arabian peninsula, the blessed land of Muhammad, continues to be occupied by the polytheists and apostates then it is upon us to expel them” and that “with the permission of Allah we will fight mankind until it testifies that there is nothing worthy of worship except Allah the most high”.
The video ends with footage of insurgents posing with weapons including heavy machine guns and assault rifles before stating “make du’a [pray]for the Mujahideen”. It is accompanied by the comment “Beautiful reminder/advice” by the individual who posted the link.
In addition to these three, another video containing one of Al-Awlaki’s historical lectures has also been posted, on the 9th May. Whilst this video did not contain any calls for violent action, it provides religious legitimacy to a jihadist recruiter which can lead to students becoming radicalised.
This has been documented in the case of Roshonara Choudhry, who told police interviewers that she began watching more extreme videos after starting with revert stories and religious history.
These videos can be interpreted as the glorification of the 'resistance' in Afghanistan and Iraq, i.e. the Taliban and other violent terrorist groups and, in the case of ‘Is the Ummah living in the new Gold Rush’ and ‘What is the least we can do for the Mujahideen’, could clearly be regarded as a recruitment tool.
As well as this, there have been a number of video posts on the page by other individuals which are cause for concern, including another Anwar Al-Awlaki speech called ‘Message for the Youth’ and another more serious one which is a tribute to the jihadist cleric. This tribute video has since been ‘liked’ by six individuals, with not one comment criticising the posting of such material.
The effect that this has on encouraging students to explore his further work can also be seen in a comment on the post from one student which says “very inspirational brother...may Allah grant him jannatul firdous [highest level of paradise]. I recommend everyone to watch his talk the battle of hearts and minds”.
'Battle of Hearts and Minds' is a much more inflammatory speech which argues that “a moderate Muslim to them [the West], is in reality a non-Muslim!” and that “the fundamentalists and extremists, whom they [the West] despise, are not only going to win in Afghanistan and Iraq, but they will continue their march, until they drag your people, the Jews, out of the Holy Land and plant their black banners on the roof tops of Jerusalem”.
Other posts by individuals on this page have said of US forces in Afghanistan “O Allah they are killing and enslaving your slaves, O Allah direct your Forces against these filthy american soldjiers [sic]. O Allah bring about the end of USA as we know it, and leave them humiliated and weak”. This has since been ‘liked’ by four members of the society.
They have also posted a picture of Israeli civilians sheltering from terrorist rocket fire with a caption saying “Israeli people hiding and scared of the Palestinian's rockets ALLAH AKBAR”. This received seven ‘likes’ in the 14 hours after it was posted on the Facebook page.
Student Right’s Head of Research Rupert Sutton has said that “These videos glorify terrorism and imply that participation in such activity is a religious duty in the most insidious way. Given the number of student Islamic Society members who have gone on to attempt acts of terrorism, and the influence that online material is known to have had in some cases, this is something that the University of Westminster should be taking very seriously indeed. Here at Student Rights we also find any suggested link to Somalia very worrying considering that a number of British citizens are believed to have either joined, or attempted to join, militant groups in that country in recent years. When compounded by the fact that the University recently allowed a senior member of the Islamist party Hizb-ut-Tahrir to speak on their campus, these videos must raise serious questions about Westminster University’s commitment to challenging radicalisation on campus.”