UPDATE 04/05/2015: Following last week’s event a report of Dr Wahid’s speech has been published on the HT website.
In this, Dr Wahid states that his aim was: “exposing the UK Counter-Extremism policy called ‘Prevent’ for an audience that may not be well-acquainted with its most sinister and pernicious aspects”.
He also claims that: “‘Deradicalisation’…is the process of de-Islamisation or ‘Westernising’ (secularising) Muslim communities”; that: “‘Pre-crime’ and ‘thought crime’ are now a norm for Muslims”; and that people must:“challenge Prevent’s attempts to de-Islamicise Muslims.
This Thursday, an event at the London School of Economics (LSE) will address the implications on free speech of new legislation requiring public bodies to be aware of the dangers posed by extremism.
Called ‘How Free is Free Speech?’, the event description asks “what is an extremist?” and wonders: “how can a society which says it is committed to freedom seek to stop political speech it disagrees with?”
This claim – that a duty to prevent people being drawn into extremism stops political speech – is deeply misleading, and highlights the scare-mongering characterising much of the debate around this issue.
It also plays into the narrative of extremist groups seeking to undermine efforts challenging their activities, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), which claims these laws are in fact an “attempt to reform Islam”.
In this case however, the LSE has gone a step further, and has invited the current chairman of HT, Dr Abdul Wahid, to speak on the panel at the event.
This is despite the fact that HT holds a number of extreme positions which are in direct opposition to freedom of expression, including that Muslims cannot engage in democracy:
“For Muslims to adopt democracy means to disbelieve in all…the decisive evidences and conclusive evidences…which oblige them to follow Allah and to reject any other law”.
These positions also include supporting the death penalty for apostasy, with the group declaring:“…the rule regarding the Muslim who becomes apostate is to require his repentance. If he insists on his disbelief, the capital punishment is applied on him”.
At an event in 2008, Dr Wahid was reported to have argued that “religious obedience is more important than the right to freedom of speech”.
Meanwhile, the group’s former leader, Jalaluddin Patel, has stated how in the group’s ideal society: “[political] parties that are not based upon Islam will not be allowed”.
That a speaker from a group with such views has been invited to denounce the record of democratic governments on freedom of speech is a bad joke.
It also highlights the importance of challenging organisations like HT when they are given platforms; ensuring universities’ claims campuses are the place to expose extreme views are tested.
If these extremists are to be given a platform it is vital that the positions of Dr Wahid and his bigoted group are opposed by students – and that the LSE provides the opportunity to do this.