Written by Student Rights on 14 December 2012 at 12pm

Huffington Post UK: FOSIS Must do More to Demonstrate its Rejection of Extremist Narratives

By Rupert Sutton

14th December 2012

Back in February a Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) spokesperson wrote on this website that criticism of his organisation's failure to fully challenge extremism was misleading and part of an effort to "criminalise the activities of Muslim students on British campuses".

This was despite the fact that the group had actively been involved in promoting extremist speakers just weeks before, including Haitham al-Haddad andZahir Mahmood, both of whom have been filmed defending Hamas.

FOSIS didn't stop there either: in September Head of Campaigns Omar Hajaj spoke at a rally calling for the release from prison of Dr Aafia Siddique, an anti-Semitic Al-Qaeda facilitator convicted of attempted murder in February 2010.

This year's winter conference which begins on Friday will yet again test FOSIS's claim to reject those who excuse violent extremism. Among the advertised speakers is Azad Ali, another individual whose support for terrorist groups has raised concern.

Chair of the Muslim Safety Forum and Vice-Chair of Unite Against Fascism, Azad Ali has advised both government and the police on community engagement and the use of dialogue instead of confrontation.

Ali also works on community development at Engage, a group dedicated to encouraging greater political participation amongst the Muslim community. In July 2011 it was removed as the secretariat for the All Party Political Group on Islamophobia due to controversy over its alleged links to extremism.

Like other FOSIS invitees, Ali has expressed his support for Hamas, the Islamist paramilitary group whose military wing is proscribed by the British government as a terrorist organisation.

During Operation Cast Lead in 2008/9 he claimed that "Hamas is a true resistance movement that is standing up for the rights of the Palestinians" and declared "we should know that the aim is to defeat the resistance. So our priority is to ensure that this does not happen".

He also praised the "strength and courage and sheer determination" of the organisation, regardless of its targeting of civilians, and suggested that the West is attempting "the complete eradication of the need of the Caliphate, which we know is a necessity in itself".

Given that the Prevent review of June 2011 specifically raised the issue of challenging apologists for terrorist groups, these comments should be enough to make FOSIS reconsider its decision to give Ali a platform.

However, Ali was also criticised after he included a quote on his blog in which the son of jihadist fighter Abdullah Azzam justified the murder of British and American soldiers in Iraq as they were "fighters and occupiers".

Despite attempts to sue newspapers that reported this, in January 2010 he lost his libel case after a judge found that his "the claim can be categorised legitimately as 'bound to fail' and as having about it an 'absence of reality".

These views hardly seem in keeping with FOSIS's claim to reject that any of their speakers condone violent extremism, and should raise further questions about the organisations ability to truly represent Muslim students in the UK.

Whilst FOSIS will no doubt complain in response to this article that it is once again being targeted because of its religious nature, perhaps it is time for it to face facts. As long as speakers who hold these views are invited to events like this, the accusation that it is unable to challenge extremist narratives will continue to stick.