FOSIS conference at the House of Lords hides its promotion of extremists
On 25th March the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) held a conference at the House of Lords called ‘Representation and Reality’, which aimed to challenge the idea that extremism exists on our campuses.
In a press release which followed, FOSIS President Omar Ali reinforced this notion, claiming that:
“There is a serious imbalance in the way Muslim students and Islamic societies are represented in the press and this has been by the route of attempting to frame Islamic societies as conveyor belts for extremism.
The thorough discussions highlighted what we have been saying for years; there is no evidence to suggest that universities are any more likely to be affected by extremism than other parts of society”.
Whilst the conference featured a number of individuals with a vested interest in downplaying extremism on campuses, including Universities UK CEO Nicola Dandridge and NUS President Liam Burns, it also included the Minister for Faith and Communities, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi.
Given that FOSIS openly endorse a boycott of Israel, citing “the West's blind and total support for their colonial offspring”, Baroness Warsi’s presence should certainly raise eyebrows from a government that explicitly rejects such divisive methods.
However, it is FOSIS’s continued promotion of extremists at events, and its willingness to share platforms with individuals with deeply unpleasant views, that should lead to further questions on why a government minister is working with such a group.
Just the day before the conference, FOSIS organised an event at Imperial College called ‘Need for Creed’ which featured Hamza Tzortzis as a speaker.
A former member of the radical Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir, Tzortzis has claimed of apostates “if someone’s going to fight against the community they should be killed”, and rejects freedom of speech.
In March 2013, the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA), which Tzortzis is a leading member of, was barred from University College London after attempting to enforce segregation by gender.
Compounding this, only a few days later Omar Ali spoke at a rally in support of the convicted Al-Qaeda facilitator Dr Aafia Siddique, sharing a platform with extremists including Dr Khalid Fikry and Hizb ut-Tahrir spokeswoman Dr Nazreen Nawaz.
Dr Fikry is a virulently sectarian speaker who has claimed that “Shia are one of the worst and greatest enemies against our Ummah nowadays”, hardly something likely to reassure Shia students that FOSIS will challenge bigotry on campus.
However, this is not the first time that FOSIS has shown such hypocrisy, as in September 2012, the organisation’s Head of Campaigns attended another rally supporting Dr Siddique.
During this protest he claimed that “In reality, one day all of us here, we will wish that we were Aafia Siddique”.
Earlier in the year he spoke at a ‘Belmarsh Iftar’, designed to show support for those held in the maximum security prison.
During his speech he told listeners that “As Muslims we should be doing more to help the Muslim prisoners and be involved with them”.
For those who believe that extremism on our university campuses is an issue that we cannot afford to ignore, to see government figures working alongside those who promote extremist narratives in these ways is deeply concerning.
As such, we would hope that Baroness Warsi will think twice next time FOSIS ask her to speak at an event, and that those who attend challenge FOSIS to account for its actions.