Written by Student Rights on 25 November 2013 at 7pm

FOSIS and the issue of extremist speakers

With the recent success of campaigners against homophobic cleric Mufti Menk, and the release of Universities UK’s guidelines last week, the issue of how to challenge extremist speaker’s is one which has received increased attention recently.

The increase in campaigns faced by extremists has clearly not gone unnoticed, and last Thursday an event entitled ‘Freedom of Speech: Are Muslims Excluded?’ took place at the Waterlily in East London. 

Promoted to students at the University of Westminster, and featuring Federation of Student Islamic Societies President (FOSIS) Omar Ali, the event included a number of speakers who have raised concerns in the past.

Chaired by Yusuf Chambers of the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA), and Azad Ali of iEngage, speakers included Haitham Al-Haddad, regularly invited to speak on UK campuses.

Haddad has a history of homophobia and misogyny, as well as support for militant groups and brutal punishments for apostasy. He is due to speak at the University of Westminster on Thursday.

Also present was Shakeel Begg, who claimedI tell my wife and children sleep the night with the expectation that my door will be smashed in by the police. This is the pressure on me as an imam”.

Begg is reported to have told students “You want to make jihad? Very good...take some money and go to Palestine and fight, fight the terrorists, fight the Zionists”.

Dr Abdul Wahid, the Chairman of the extremist Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, was also on the bill, and declared that there was “a global attack on Islam to change the values we hold”.

Hizb ut-Tahrir is ‘No-Platformed’ by the National Union of Students, and has been highlighted by the government as an organisation which “target[s] specific universities and colleges...with the objective of radicalising and recruiting students”.

Finally, Yusuf Chamber’s colleague at IERA Abdurraheem Green also spoke, allegedly expressing support for convicted terrorist Ali Al-Tamimi.

Green has been criticised in the past for claiming that “Islam is not compatible with democracy" and that a husband may use "physical force... a very light beating" against his wife.

That such a collection of speakers are concerned enough about the success of campaigns to highlight their and other individuals views shows that work such as that done by Student Rights is having an effect.

Despite this, it is deeply concerning to see the President of FOSIS speaking alongside such individuals.

Compounding this is the claim by an individual reporting Ali’s words that he said “We can say homosexuality is a sin. There's no problem in saying that” which if true is likely to worry LGBT students.

Here at Student Rights we have highlighted FOSIS’s failure to fully challenge extremist narratives on a number of occasions.

Sadly, this is yet another example of that continued failure, and as such the organisation’s claims to represent mainstream Muslim students are becoming less credible as result.