FOSIS support for Aafia Siddique highlights its hypocrisy
Earlier this year I wrote an article for the Huffington Post in response to an allegation by a senior member of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) that Student Rights were complicit in “misrepresenting and foully attacking” groups like FOSIS over its record on extremism.
In my piece I pointed out the association with extremist speakers such as Haitham Al-Haddad that FOSIS has had in the past, as well as highlighting its willingness to defend individuals like Yusuf Al-Qaradawi.
Whilst FOSIS itself is not an extremist organisation, it has made an unfortunate habit of supporting them in recent years, so I was disappointed but unsurprised to see that the new executive for the upcoming academic year have continued in that vein.
On the 23rd September the recently appointed Head of Campaigns at FOSIS, Omar Hajaj, will speak at a protest rally outside of the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square which calls for the release of Dr Aafia Siddique from prison.
Dubbed ‘Lady Al-Qaeda’ by the US media, Aafia Siddique was convicted in February 2010 of the attempted murder of government officials who had come to interview after she was arrested in possession of notes referring to mass-casualty attacks and a pen-drive referring to recruitment and training.
Before her arrest, Siddique had been involved with Islamism-inspired extremism for a number of years, including fundraising for a precursor organisation to Al-Qaeda called Maktab Al-Khitmet.
She had also been married to Ammar al-Baluchi, a senior member of Al-Qaeda now imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay who is the nephew of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. During their marriage Siddique was believed to have been involved in a plot to smuggle explosives into the US.
Siddique also expressed virulent anti-Semitic sentiment during her trial, writing that Jews are “cruel, ungrateful, back-stabbing people” and that “they masterminded 9/11, and I have proof of that...there are attacks being planned against America, big wars being planned, and they are involved in it”.
Support for the release of a convicted Al-Qaeda facilitator is certainly at odds with FOSIS’s claim to reject those who promote violent extremism. At the same time, given Siddique’s hatred of Jews, the UK’s Jewish students will also be unconvinced that FOSIS is being completely honest when it condemn anti-Semitism on our campuses.
Statements remarkably similar to Siddique’s have also been made by one of Hajaj’s fellow speakers, the pro-Palestine activist Ken O’Keefe, who in March 2012 was declared “not welcome to speak on our campus” by a number of student societies.
Following an event at Middlesex University in which he compared Israel to Nazi Germany and stated that he wanted to see Israel destroyed, he wrote on his blog that “Israeli Mossad worked with high treason traitors in the US government to set explosives in the twin towers and building 7 on 9/11 so as to instigate the fraudulent ‘War on Terror”.
He has also claimed that there is a “Jewish supremacism that is of dire consequence to our world” and has praised Hamas, claiming in April 2011 that “for all of its problems, Hamas has done a good job of getting rid of the collaborators”.
This documentation by Human Rights Watch of the group’s murder of 32 Palestinian civilians accused of working for Israel between December 2008 and April 2009 demonstrates what that means in practice.
O’Keefe is not the only individual that Hajaj will be sharing a panel with who Student Rights have written about in the past though.
Joining him onstage will be Uthman Lateef, a frequent speaker on university campuses, who was also given a platform by FOSIS Ireland at Trinity College Dublin in April 2011, and quoted by FOSIS London on its Facebook page in March 2012.
Lateef has a history of homophobia, stating in 2007 that “we don’t accept homosexuality...we hate it because Allah hates it” and in 2009 was found to have preached that “if we are teaching the way of life of the disbelievers, of the kuffar, Allah will bring humiliation on us”.
Adnan Rashid, a lecturer at the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA) and former researcher at Lateef’s ‘Hittin Institute’ will also be appearing at the event.
Rashid believes that “Islam’s legacy is deliberately hidden from the masses to justify the ongoing global persecution of the Muslims” and that “the Muslims...should be allowed to run the affairs of Palestine and other Islamic lands ensuring that the Islamic law is implemented comprehensively”.
Given the speakers that Hajaj will be rubbing shoulders with, which will also include the Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Taji Mustafa, it would appear that FOSIS’s claim to reject extremist speakers is little more than hot air. Arguing that it is unfairly stigmatised as a supporter of extremism whilst calling for the release of a convicted terrorist also demonstrates an astonishing level of hypocrisy.
That FOSIS feels that this cause is one which its Head of Campaigns should be so openly supporting is something which further highlights the organisations inability to face up to its responsibilities when it comes to challenging extremism.
Given the recent disengagement by government from its work with the group, it is time for FOSIS to make a decision. Either it is willing to publicly come out and condemn whoever decided that Omar Hajaj would speak at this event, or it has to accept that it will continue to be seen as an organisation that is part of the problem rather than the solution.