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Written by Student Rights on 20 June 2012 at 1pm

Anwar Al-Awlaki videos shared with students once again (Update: Further videos shared with students)

UPDATE II: We have since uncovered a further video featuring Anwar Al-Awlaki that has been shared by the London Metropolitan University Islamic Society.

Called ‘The People of Paradise Jannah’, this video has been commented on by one individual who has said “May Allah grant Sheikh Anwar Jannat ul Firdows [highest level of Paradise]”. The Islamic Society Facebook account has responded to this by saying Ameen.  

UPDATE: Student Rights have recently uncovered another two videos featuring lectures by Anwar Al-Awlaki that have been shared with students by the London Metropolitan University Islamic Society.

Called ‘Hell-Fire and its Life’ and ‘Ratio of People in Hell and Paradise’, these videos were shared on the 6th and 7th of July 2012.

One of these was shared with the message “Don't bother sleeping now, you will not be able to ake [sic] up for Fajr. Stay up and listen to this amazing guy”, further highlighting the support for Awlaki that exists amongst a small minority of British students. 

In our recent report, ‘Challenging extremists: practical frameworks for our universities’, Student Rights uncovered the sharing of material featuring violent extremists by Islamic Societies via their Facebook pages.

This included multiple videos and audio files featuring the Al-Qaeda cleric and facilitator Anwar Al-Awlaki, killed in Yemen in September 2011. Student Rights found that these had been shared with students at universities including London South Bank University (LSBU) and Sheffield Hallam University

In recent days, research by Student Rights has documented further sharing of Awlaki’s material at another London university. Since 14th June the London Metropolitan University Islamic Society has shared two YouTube videos featuring lectures by Awlaki with their student members. 

In one case, a video of the lecture ‘The Hereafter’ was shared by the Islamic Society with the message “Please Please Listen To This Amazing Lecture”.

In another, the lecture ‘Love for the Sunnah’ was shared in a video containing military imagery including a masked man holding a rifle.

The official Facebook page of the Islamic Society also ‘likes’ a Shaykh Anwar Al-Awlaki Facebook page, where many more videos of Awlaki can be found.

Before his death Awlaki had been linked to two incidents when British students had become involved in terrorism. He was directly involved in facilitating Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempted bombing of an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 and inspired Roshonara Choudhry’s assassination attempt of the MP Stephen Timms.

The potential impact of Awlaki’s lectures can be seen in the police interviews carried out with Choudhry following her arrest.

When questioned as to what had made her leave her course and carry out her attack she admitted to listening to all of Awlaki’s online videos, around 100 hours of material.

That material featuring this man is still being shared with students by Islamic Societies is deeply concerning, and highlights the continuing inability of a number of student societies to challenge those who would share extremist material.

As our new report argues, solving this problem must be the responsibility of students, as top-down regulation of social media by university authorities could have a chilling effect on freedom of expression.

However, in cases where students are themselves posting material featuring violent extremists it may be time for the university and Student Union to make societies aware of their responsibility more forcefully, perhaps by disaffiliating societies which repeatedly share such material.