Written by Student Rights on 10 June 2013 at 7pm

Islamic Society Annual Dinner to feature Haitham Al-Haddad and Moazzam Begg (Update: Event Cancelled)

UPDATE: It appears that this event was cancelled at short notice, with the website replaced with a statement reading:

"Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances and certain logistical issues leading to the event, we have had to cancel our booking for the venue. Therefore, the event 'Stand For Something' due to be held on the 14th of June is now cancelled.

We profusely apologise to all attendees. We are also sorry that this message comes at such a close time to the event, being out of our control. We have refunded all online ticket purchases and apologise for all inconvenience caused. Thank you for expressing interest in our event and for your patience".

Following the first meeting of a new task force to examine radicalisation in the UK, the Business Secretary Vince Cable has been tasked with examining ways in which campus extremism can be challenged.

Much of the debate in previous years, as well as government policy, has focused on the issue of students inviting extremist speakers to address events, and on Friday a prime example of this will take place.

The Islamic Society at City University will hold its Annual Dinner, entitled ‘Stand for Something’, at the Waterlily in East London and will be joined by Haitham Al-Haddad and Moazzam Begg.

Haddad has been barred from speaking at a number of universities in the past, including the London School of Economics and London Metropolitan University in December 2012, and was cancelled at the University of Essex in February 2013.

He has claimed that the death penalty for apostasy “does make perfect sense” and has also written of “the scourge of homosexuality”, which he calls a “criminal act”.

In addition to this, he has also declared that “a man should not be questioned why he hit his wife, because this is something between them”.

Haddad has also suggested that Hamas is only opposed by the West as “there is a high level of enmity and hatred against Hamas as a Muslim group”.

When challenged on these beliefs he claims that he is a victim of a “smear campaign conducted by the British Zionist lobby”.

He will be joined at the event, which is described as “truly enlightening” despite the fact that the Facebook page does not mention the names of the speakers involved, by Moazzam Begg of CagePrisoners.  

Begg is a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay who was described by Gita Sahgal, the former head of Amnesty’s Gender Unit, as “Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban”.  

Arrested in 2000 after his Maktabah Al-Ansaar bookshop was raided by police and then released without charge, Begg was also linked to an individual identified as ‘D’ who the Home Office attempted to deport.

‘D’ was described in the court’s verdict as “an active supporter of the GIA [Algerian militant group]” who associated with “extremists, in particular Djamel Beghal, Abu Qatada and members of the latter’s group, and Begg.

In addition to this, the court highlighted that the Home Secretary had been wrong to suggest that ‘D’ had been in possession of weapons at the bookshop, and that in fact “they were found at Begg’s house, before D started working at the book shop”.

Begg has never been charged with any terrorist offences in the UK, but has admitted that he was responsible for “small arms and mountain tactics” in training camps on the Afghan border and had sent money to these facilities, including the Al-Qaeda-affiliated camp at Khalden.

If the government is serious about cracking down on extremist preachers and ideologues on our campuses and at student events, then this event is a prime example of one that any new policy would address.

Challenging those who would spread extreme or intolerant ideas to students is an extremely difficult issue to deal with, and this is made harder when events are moved off-campus to avoid oversight.

Student Rights have informed the university about this event, and would hope that staff will discuss these invites with the Islamic Society, encouraging them to either provide balance or invite speakers who don’t have a history as chequered as Begg or Haddad.