Written by Student Rights on 16 November 2015 at 12pm

FOSIS work with MEND on Islamophobia campaign

Islamophobia Awareness Month (IAM) aims to raise awareness of anti-Muslim hate crime across the UK.

Bigotry towards Muslims remains a problem at UK universities, and groups like the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) are right to highlight this serious issue.

Student Rights has logged a number of anti-Muslim incidents at universities in the past, including racist graffiti at the University of Birmingham readingIslam must die”, and the vandalising of a prayer room at King’s College London.

Following Friday’s terror attacks in Paris meanwhile, a number of Islamic Societies claim to have received anti-Muslim abuse, including threats to bomb mosques.

However, the work of those who fight anti-Muslim hatred is fatally undermined when extremists are allowed to hijack the debate.

As such, it is disappointing to see FOSIS working with Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) to organise a UK-wide campaign on the issue.

Previously called iEngage, MEND was removed in 2011 as the secretariat of an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia because of its extremist connections.

Azad Ali, MEND’s Head of Community Development and Engagement, recently appeared in a FOSIS video promoting the tour.

This is despite Ali’s track record of extreme views, including opposing democracy if it is “at the expense of not implementing sharia”, and describing the proscribed terrorist group, Hamas, as “a true resistance movement that is standing up for the rights of the Palestinians".

In 2010, Ali lost a libel case over claims he justified the killing of American and British troops by jihadists in Iraq, with the judge stating:

"I would hold that the claimant was indeed, in November, 2008, and for so long as the blog remained available, taking the position that the killing of American and British troops in Iraq would be justified”.

MEND have organised several speakers to come onto campuses in the past, including their CEO Sufyan Ismail, who argued earlier this year that if Muslims became more involved in politics it could stop those travelling to fight in Syria being criminalised.

He also claimed that British law “allowed violence against Muslims while protecting other groups” and that British society hates Muslims.

Despite this, as part of this month’s tour MEND and FOSIS have organised speaker events at Leeds and Aston University and exhibitions at Bradford, Birmingham and Sheffield Hallam Universities.

Hate crimes against Muslims on campus, and in the wider community, must be challenged – but students must do this without linking up with extreme groups like MEND.

In doing so, FOSIS have provided an unchallenged platform for the group, and risk allowing MEND to use a serious issue to push a divisive and grievance-led agenda.