Written by Student Rights on 23 June 2014 at 8am

ISIS recruitment video highlights concerns over radicalisation

The appearance of young British men from Cardiff in a recruitment video for the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) has given fresh impetus to the debate surrounding radicalisation related to the conflict in Syria.

While 20 year olds Nasser Muthana and Reyaad Khan do not appear to have attended university, their story still highlights concerns for higher education institutions.

Chief among these is that Muthana’s father has claimed his son was brainwashed by extremist speakers visiting the Al-Manar Centre in Cardiff, a mosque near Cardiff University Student Union.

This has been denied by the trustees of the centre, yet a member of the local Yemeni community has stated:

These boys were that they are satisfied that what they go to do is right. It all comes from the same school of thought.

Fight the Shias, fight these people...the teaching [at Al Manar] helped the people recruiting”.

As such, it is worrying that Student Rights has recorded five events at Al-Manar being promoted to students since September 2013, with speakers including Haitham Al-Haddad and Abu Usamah at-Thahabi, demonstrating the extent to which off-campus events target student audiences. 

Meanwhile, the hard-line views of one of the more extreme clerics who spoke at the centre have also been promoted to students on a number of occasions through social media, showing the ease with which such material can be accessed. 

Deeply sectarian, Muhammad Al-Arifi has referred to Shia as “evil”, and has encouraged individuals to join Syrian rebel groups, saying that there is religious justification for such action.

He was booked to deliver a video message to the FOSIS Annual Conference in June 2013, and then removed after Student Rights highlighted his presence.

As security figures highlight the threat posed by the return of fighters from Syria, it is vital that universities and colleges take the risk that their students may be tempted to travel to Syria seriously.

Being aware of which speakers and events are being promoted to students via union-affiliated social media will not solve this problem, but it is certainly an important step in the right direction.