Written by Student Rights on 19 November 2013 at 4pm

Second event featuring Haitham Al-Haddad booked at Westminster (Update: Statement from the University of Westminster)

UPDATE: The University of Westminster has released a statement to Student Rights, stating that:

“The University has only recently received full details of this proposed event by a Students’ Union society and we are working through the procedure that is in place for ratifying events with external speakers on the University’s premises.

The University is committed to open debate and providing a forum where differing views can be expressed, but within a safe environment and one tempered by individual responsibility and respect for others.”

On 4th November Student Rights uncovered that the speaker for the University of Westminster Islamic Society's Charity Dinner had been changed to the extremist cleric Haitham Al-Haddad.

Despite complaints from students the event still went ahead, and now Student Rights has been passed a poster for an event on the 28th November which shows that Haddad has been invited once again.

Organised by the Global Ideas Society, the event focuses on the Arab Spring, and will also feature the CagePrisoners’ Director Moazzam Begg and a Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) member called Yahya Nisbet.

Haddad’s views are well known, and students at the university will be angry that he has been invited again so soon after his previous appearance caused such controversy.

More concerning though is the fact that several other extremists have been invited as well, suggesting that both the University of Westminster and its Student Union are failing to challenge this issue.

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.

Yahya Nisbet is less well known, and is one of the HT members who served a prison sentence alongside Maajid Nawaz in Egypt until 2006.

His membership of HT, a group ‘No-Platformed’ as a fascist organisation by the National Union of Students (NUS), highlights that extremists can still access UK campuses despite this ban.

In February 2012 the Student Union at the University of Westminster explicitly rejected the policy in relation to another HT speaker, declaringThe no-platform policy is not an adopted policy at Westminster University...therefore, the NUS have no authority to dictate Westminster SU policy”.

Since then the Global Ideas Society has invited other HT speakers onto campus, and an HT campaign has been promoted at the Freshers’ Fair.

As such, it is clear that serious concerns exist around the ease with which extremists can access the campus at Westminster, and despite claiming that “providing a safe environment for our students is a top priority”, the university is failing its students.

While we rarely call for events to be cancelled, this event makes no pretence at balance, with the broadcaster Ajmal Masroor heavily outnumbered by extremists on the panel.

Here at Student Rights we therefore hope that the university will investigate why this event was approved immediately.