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Written by Student Rights on 13 September 2012 at 1pm

Sabeel continue to provide a platform for Haitham Al-Haddad

In our report ‘Challenging Extremists’, published earlier this year, we highlighted the role an organisation called Sabeel plays in exposing students to extremist speakers.

Running relatively cheap seminars and weekend retreats, Sabeel claims to give young Muslims the opportunity to spend time with scholars and to “gain a deep and comprehensive understanding of important subjects”.

In reality, it instead provides intolerant individuals with a platform to preach and a captive audience of impressionable young students to influence.

During the previous academic year the organisation used instances of student activism profiled in our report to regularly promote events and share information on where to buy tickets.

Its events were also advertised by a number of London-based Islamic Societies, eight of which were also listed as attending one event called ‘The Divine Sciences’ in June 2012.

The speaker at the weekend retreat was Haitham Al-Haddad, the founder of Sabeel’s parent group the Muslim Research and Development Foundation (MRDF).

This weekend, Al-Haddad will lead a two day Sabeel course at the Water Lily in East London called ‘Leading Proactive Lives’, which we have found being promoted to students by London Metropolitan University Islamic Society.

Prevented from speaking at several universities in the past, Al-Haddad has a history of inflammatory views, including his belief that “the scourge of homosexuality” is a “criminal act” that must be opposed.

He has also declared that he Israeli Defence Force Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9 was a good thing as “many Muslims who left their religion became more convinced that they have to go back to their religion”. 

These views on the Middle East conflict chime with his opinions on the Islamist paramilitary group Hamas, who he believes are opposed by the West because “there is a high level of enmity and hatred against Hamas as a Muslim group”.

He has also been accused of extreme anti-Semitism in the past, something else he would have in common with the Palestinian militant group, designated as a terrorist organisation by the British government.

As the new academic year begins then it is clear that Sabeel and the MRDF are still providing a way in which individuals like Al-Haddad can interact with students. It is also apparent that some university societies are still promoting these events.

Given that this particular event is taking place off-campus, there is little that universities can do other than make clear to their Islamic Societies that they should not be sharing invites like this on affiliated Facebook pages.

However, here at Student Rights we would hope that the majority of students who find Al-Haddad’s intolerant views distasteful would work within their society to ensure that such events are not promoted by the group in future.