UPDATE: Following the publication of this article, the title of this event was changed to the first Annual Dinner of the ‘Al-Kawni Trust’. This organisation, alleged to be a front set up by members of City Islamic Society in 2010, has frequently promoted City events in the past.
The City University Islamic Society has denied this, stating that the event was “not organised or under the management of City ISOC”. Despite this, the event was still referred to as the Annual Dinner of the society on a number of occasions by individuals sharing pictures from the event.
With the increasing focus on the issue of campus extremism, it appears that some student groups are intent on avoiding scrutiny, holding events off-campus and hiding the identity of their speakers.
On Friday, students from the Islamic Societies at Queen Mary and City University will hold a joint ‘Annual Dinner’ at the Waterlily in East London.
Entitled ‘Rewriting History’, the event will feature a three course meal and talks by a number of un-named “special guest speakers”.
That the speakers were not identified suggested they would be controversial, and a careless tweet on Friday from an individual involved in selling tickets confirmed this.
When asked who the speakers would be the individual said: “thus far…Uthman Lateef, Shaykh Haitham Al Haddad, Asim Qureshi & (Moazzam Begg & Abdurraheem Green)”.
The tweet has since been deleted.
Qureshi and Begg are senior figures at CAGE, which attracted significant criticism in March after blaming the radicalisation of ISIS executioner Mohammed Emwazi on the British security services.
Finally, Abdurraheem Green was reported in 2009 to have claimed that “Islam is not compatible with democracy”, and that a husband may use “physical force… a very light beating” against his wife.
The posters also provide different email addresses for men and women to buy tickets – and previous events at the Waterlily attended by Student Rights have appeared to be segregated by gender.
Should this be the case at this event, guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) suggests that the two societies’ respective student unions may be in breach of equality law:“Equality law…may also apply to premises being used by a student’s society even if unconnected to the university or students’ union”.
That students are attempting to avoid scrutiny in this manner highlights the difficulty faced by universities in challenging extremism amongst their students.
It also demonstrates how little these student groups care about enabling debate – and should be a lesson for those who claim the invitation of extremists to student events will see their ideas exposed.
Instead, it is clear that these speakers will have an unopposed platform to preach to an audience of students – and there will be little that the university will be able to do about it.
Given that one student who attended an event at Queen Mary in February featuring two of these speakers is now on bail after attempting to travel to Syria this should concern us all.