Palestine event dominated by extremist speakers
Over the past few weeks students at a number of universities have been encouraged to attend an event entitled ‘Palestine: Journey through the Ages’, which takes place this Sunday in East London.
Advertising “a host of inspirational speakers”, the event has been organised by Interpal, a charity ordered by the Charity Commission in 2009 to disassociate from the Hamas fundraising organisation Union of Good.
Many of the speakers advertised have a history of extremism, and chief amongst these will be Daud Abdullah, the former Deputy Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and Director of Middle East Monitor.
In 2009 Abdullah was criticised by the British government for signing a declaration which praised “the victory that Allah accomplished by means of our brothers the mujahidin, our defiant and steadfast kinsfolk in Gaza”.
It also stated of the Gaza Strip that “closure of the crossings or the prevention of the entry of weapons through them should be regarded as high treason in the Islamic Nation, and clear support for the Zionist enemy”.
Joining Abdullah will be Zahir Mahmood, who famously declared that “Hamas are not terrorists, they’re freedom fighters”.
Mahmood has stoked communal division, telling audiences that “the reality is, a glance at European history, you will see that they are only doing what their forefathers have done for over 1,000 years. They have been vilifying, demonising the Muslims, Islam, and especially the prophet...there’s been a deep enmity and a deep history”.
Speaking alongside Mahmood and Abdullah will be Yvonne Ridley, who has openly declared that she has given money to Hamas, breaking sanctions on the terrorist group in the process.
After taking part in a convoy to Gaza she claimed that “I brought cash and I am happy to say I have given that cash to George Galloway and we have both given that money to the Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, which has broken UN sanctions”.
Ridley has defended the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq Abu-Musab Al-Zarqawi, attacking his family members who condemned a suicide bombing he directed in Amman in 2005 which killed 61, and referring to the attack as a “martyrdom operation”.
She has also referenced anti-Semitic tropes in her criticisms of Israel, declaring in 2009 that “the Zionists have tentacles everywhere” and that “drinking Coca Cola is like drinking the blood of Palestinian children”.
In addition to these individuals, the event will also see three former members of the now defunct Hittin Institute, which promoted Islam as a socio-political framework for religious governance.
The former director of the Hittin Institute is a regular speaker on UK campuses and has been recorded stating that “if we are teaching the way of life of the disbelievers, of the kuffar, Allah will bring humiliation on us”.
He has also claimed that Muslims should beware of being sold “a democratic Islam...the redefined, repackaged Islam. The so-called Islam that speaks of abolition of Sharia, like we don’t need Sharia anymore”, and in 2007 told an audience that “we don’t accept homosexuality...we hate it because Allah hates it”.
Adnan Rashid is a fomer researcher at the Hittin Institute and now works at the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA), which runs dawah training on campuses around the country.
He has written that “the Islamic model supported by Shari’ah is a cohesive model that allows a diverse multitude of ethnicities to co-exist” and has claimed that “Islam’s legacy is deliberately hidden from the masses to justify the ongoing global persecution of the Muslims”.
The final member of this trio, Hamza Tzortzis was found in January to have been the most common speaker on UK campuses during 2012, recorded 48 times by Student Rights.
Tzortzis is most famous for declaring that “we as Muslims reject the idea of freedom of speech, and even the idea of freedom” but has also expressed his support for barbaric punishments including amputation and declared that that “those who claim that making homosexuality a criminal act is wrong are totally inconsistent”.
A former Hizb ut-Tahrir member, he has also argued that that society must turn to “cohesive values that will bring us out of this social decay. It can be argued these cohesive values must be the Islamic values and the workable solution is the Islamic Social Model”.
Whilst learning about the history of conflicts and the areas in which they take place is vital if a clear understanding is to be had, the line-up of speakers suggests that this event will be one-sided at best.
In addition, the apologia and support for violent extremism risks creating an atmosphere in which students at risk of radicalisation could be targeted.
That an event taking place off-campus and featuring extremist speakers is being prompted to students via social media is further proof of the reach that the medium gives radical preachers and ideologues.
Until university authorities are able to adapt to work alongside their students in challenging this behaviour, preventing such activity will continue to be extremely difficult.