A Mail on Sunday investigation has revealed the identity of Umm Muthanna Al-Britaniyah, an Islamic State (IS) recruiter who tried to lure young British Muslim women to travel to Syria to marry fighters.
The woman is believed to be Tooba Gondal, a 22 year old from East London who studied English at Goldsmiths College.
While in Syria, Gondal has tweeted photos of herself holding an AK-47, said she wished she could have seen the victims of the Paris attacks being murdered, and claimed she: “…came here to die. I will not leave till I get what I came here for: shahadah [martyrdom].”
Former friends who had kept in touch with Gondal during college told the Mail they couldn’t understand why she had travelled to Syria, but one claimed she had noticed a change two years ago when Gondal started “talking about religion”.
According to the Mail, Gondal claimed to have “reverted” back to Islam while studying at Goldsmiths, and to have become involved with the university Islamic Society (ISOC).
However, increased religiosity alone is not a sign of radicalisation, and it is so far unknown the influence any on-campus activity may have had on Gondal.
Goldsmiths ISOC has denied Gondal was ever involved with the society, with a spokesperson saying: “I have never heard the name, nor have any idea who this individual may be.”
The Mail’s investigation also revealed that Gondal has married a Lebanese jihadist called Abu Abbas Al-Lubani who has tried to recruit women from the UK, although it is unclear if he contributed to Gondal’s radicalisation.
Regardless of where Gondal’s radicalisation occurred, universities are nonetheless responsible for the welfare of their students, and any concerns about Gondal should have been reported to the relevant authorities.
This case highlights the importance of the Prevent duty, which makes it a legal requirement for Higher Education institutions to have policies and procedures in place to prevent people being drawn into terrorism.
While Goldsmiths College claims to have fully complied with this duty, it appears that a number of students and members of staff at the university are determined to undermine these efforts.
This anti-Prevent activism has manifested itself in two on-campus events this academic year, both of which featured speakers with extreme views.
Speaking at the national conference, Professor Des Freedman, a lecturer at Goldsmiths, boasted of efforts to force university management to adopt a “light-touch” approach to Prevent and contrasted Goldsmiths to the “aggressive” policies adopted by the University of Westminster.
Gondal’s case is a reminder that the threat of young people becoming radicalised is a serious one, and shows that university staff can’t play politics with the Prevent duty and must take their responsibility for student welfare seriously.
While it is too late for Gondal, we hope her unfortunate example will get some of those university staff opposing Prevent focused on protecting vulnerable students instead of trying to water down measures which seek to prevent young people being drawn into terrorism.