Written by Student Rights on 29 May 2012 at 8pm

FOSIS responds to new Student Rights report

Following the release of our new reportChallenging extremists: practical frameworks for our universities’, it comes as no surprise that the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) has felt the need to comment. In a press release sent out earlier they said that:

FOSIS, the national Muslim student body, commented today on a report by the Henry Jackson Society titled 'Challenging Extremists'.

Nabil Ahmed, President of FOSIS, said, "This strange Facebook-profile-trawling report sensationally cites but a handful of examples to paint a distorted picture of campus extremism. Our experience on the ground on over 100 campuses around the country, as well as the well-established contributions of bodies like Universities UK and NUS over recent years, is at odds with it. We agree with The Home Affairs Select Committee who said in February that Universities are not complacent to the risks of radicalisation

He emphasised, "Muslim student activism has long been successful in being an affront to extremism, including marginalising fringe groups. Divisive individuals that are found on campus but operate within the remit of the law should be engaged with, and challenged - and we agree with the involvement of bodies like NUS.

He concluded, "The Henry Jackson Society (HJS) needs to get its house in order - whilst it calls for challenging extremists, one of its Directors was banned from speaking on campus at the London School of Economics, who had also remarked that "conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board". Indeed after their last report on Muslim students (then fronted as the Centre for Social Cohesion) they were described by the NUS in 2008 as having an 'unhealthy obsession with Muslims and Islam' . It is understandable to question their intentions."

It is encouraging that FOSIS have clearly been able to find no fault with the report’s findings, and have instead resorted to baseless attacks on one of the Henry Jackson Societies’ Directors, claiming he had been banned from speaking at the London School of Economics.

This is a staggering reversal of the truth, as Douglas Murray was in fact asked not to appear due to potential threats to his safety.

To claim that our report paints a distorted picture of campus extremism, and then highlight an example of when extremists forced a university to cancel a speaker as they felt they couldn’t protect him, shows FOSIS’ confused understanding of the situation.

This incoherence is compounded by the fact that they claim the Home Affairs Select Committee report into the roots of radicalisation stated that “universities are not complacent to the risks of radicalisation.

This is not strictly true and is actually taken from a quote by Keith Vaz MP, who contradicted his committee’s own report by saying that.

What the report actually concluded is that “some universities may have been complacent about their role [in the Prevent Strategy]” and that “we are not convinced that extremists on campus are always subject to equal and robust challenge”. We wonder if FOSIS also agree with these statements.

Added to this is the fact that we did not claim that universities had been complacent to the risk of radicalisation anyway. We have simply highlighted that Islamist-inspired extremism on university campuses does exist, and that increasingly social media is being utilised to disseminate it.

This is actually the kind of research which Nabil Ahmed called for when he addressed the Home Affairs Select Committee and said that “the approach needs to move forward in taking the issue of campus extremism seriously, but based on evidence and firm research” in November 2011.

This report does just that by providing practical and workable recommendations for those whose job it is to challenge extremism on campuses. FOSIS’ refusal to engage with this issue is no doubt one of the reasons why government has been disengaging with them over the past years and suggests it is they, rather than us, who need to get their house in order.