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Written by Student Rights on 26 June 2013 at 12pm

Video messages removed from FOSIS Conference schedule

Last week Student Rights highlighted that the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) had planned to screen two video messages from controversial clerics Muhammad Al-Arifi and Salman Al-Oudeh at this week’s Annual Conference.

After writing to the University of Birmingham, where the conference is due to take place, we were told by the media office that:

We have received the final list of speakers and are in the process of carrying out relevant checks.  As you will be aware under the 1986 Education Act we have a legal duty to promote freedom of speech but we also actively challenge discrimination of any kind and strive to strike a balance that protects these freedoms and ensures vigilance against any forms of potential extremism”.

Today it appears that the video messages have been removed from the list of speakers at the event by FOSIS, suggesting that permission to play the messages may have been denied.

FOSIS is yet to confirm this, or even mention it on its social media platforms and, as with the cancellation of Shady Al-Suleiman, is potentially trying to downplay the loss of speakers.

Having spoken to the press office at Birmingham, it also appears that Al-Arifi and Al-Oudeh were not on the list of speakers passed to the university, raising the possibility that an attempt had been made to bypass speaker regulations.

Despite their removal from the schedule though, it is clear that students have still been able to promote and attend events featuring Muhammad Al-Arifi this weekend.

On Sunday a charity dinner to raise money for Syria featured the Sheikh “live in person” at the Waterlily in East London, alongside HHUGS patron Wasim Kempson.

The event was promoted on Facebook to students at Kingston University and Queen Mary, and the list of attendees suggested that several students from these institutions stated they would be going, as did the official London Metropolitan University Islamic Society profile.

That student social media can be used to promote off-campus events in this way highlights the difficulty universities face in providing oversight, and the ease with which extreme speakers can gain access to young people.

Ultimately though it is encouraging that video messages from hAl-Arifi and Al-Oudeh do not appear to be featuring at the FOSIS Conference anymore, and should the University of Birmingham have decided that they were unsuitable speakers, it should be commended for making the right decision.