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Written by Student Rights on 5 March 2014 at 6pm

Protests featuring extreme speakers promoted to students

News that Moazzam Begg had been arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences quickly saw his supporters begin a campaign for his release last week.

While it should be remembered that he is innocent of all charges until proven guilty, it must also be highlighted that this campaign has seen protest events featuring a number of extreme or intolerant speakers promoted to students.

An event outside of the Home Office in London on the 2nd March, promoted to students at Southampton and City University, featured speakers including Haitham Al-Haddad, Uthman Lateef, Hamza Tzortzis, Azad Ali, Yvonne Ridley, and Taji Mustafa of Hizb ut-Tahrir.   

Given these speakers, it is worrying that students were being encouraged to attend.

It is also concerning that the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), which regularly attacks those who criticise it for not doing enough to challenge extremism, has allowed its name to be used on promotional material.  

FOSIS President Omar Ali has also been tweeting in support of Begg, calling him:

“...A champion of civil liberties, campaigner against torture, upholder of human rights and spokesperson for the oppressed”.

A second event, which a large number of student Islamic Societies were invited to online, took place the day before outside West Midlands Police Headquarters.

This featured Yvonne Ridley speaking alongside Zahir Mahmood, as well as speakers from CagePrisoners, and saw attendees chanting "No Justice, No Peace". 

While the vast majority of student Islamic Societies have not become involved in activism on Begg’s behalf, some have spread the damaging idea that Muslims are targeted unfairly in the UK, with students at City University writing:

As Muslims in the UK we have often found the UK law manifest itself in one form for the Muslims and in another for the rest of the population - it is naive to think otherwise”.

They have also claimed that there is:

...a concerted campaign of harassment against Muslim individuals and charities involved in providing humanitarian aid to the victims of the Syrian crisis...

The purpose is to intimidate and vilify the wider Muslim community so that they are prevented from delivering much needed aid to the Syrian people”.

As such, whilst this campaign is ongoing universities and student unions should take note of these developments, and be aware of the way in which extreme speakers may attempt to use Begg’s arrest and charge to spread a divisive message on campus.