Freshers’ Week is finally over. Freshers’ fairs, usually hosted by student unions at most campuses between the middle of September and early October, allows a range of student societies to hand out promotional literature and sign up new members. It is also a perfect opportunity for extremists to target students.
This year was no different. Student Rights has discovered that student societies across London have distributed leaflets promoting organisations with concerning reputations. We also found numerous examples of leaflets promoting extreme individuals.
The SOAS Islamic Society advertised an event called ‘ILMFest’. This conference, which is being sponsored by the Al-Maghrib Institute and will take place next to the O2 arena on 4 November, will feature extreme speakers such as Omar Suleiman, Yasir Qadhi, Yayha Ibrahim, and Abu Eesa Niamutullah. The Al-Maghrib Institute has a shameful record of promoting speakers with intolerant and extreme views.
Omar Suleiman has previously called homosexuality a “disease” and a “repugnant shameless sin”. Yasir Qadhi has said that to “kill … the homosexual – this is also our religion”, and that “to make fun of Allah and his Messenger, the punishment is death”.
Yahya Ibrahim has said that “Allah gives us almost an advice by warning us of who our enemies are … never will the Christians and the Jews be satisfied or content or pleased with you until you follow them and their religion”. He has also stated that the mushrikeen and kuffar [polytheists and non-believers] “try to answer us and say verily we as humans were only created to follow our ambition, and to follow our lust, and to acquire as much wealth, and as much women and children as we can”.
Abu Eesa Niamutullah has said that the Ummah (Muslim community) “is our primary identity” and that “liberal people who call themselves Muslims are the biggest danger within our community at the moment”.
A leaflet promoting the upcoming Stand Up To Racism Conference, which will take place at Friends House on 21 October, was distributed at the City University Freshers’ Fair. This conference will feature Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee and founder of the infamous lobby group CAGE, which has publicly defended individuals involved in terrorism.
Begg has interviewed deported extremist cleric Abu Qatada via Skype at a CAGE event – he later suggested that Al-Qaeda associated clerics such as Abu Qatada and Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi were the “most credible voices” against ISIS.
Begg has also admitted travelling to Syria to train fighters with a view to defending civilians. He has since engaged in public defence of individuals convicted for travelling to the country.
The SOAS and UCL Kurdish Societies promoted literature written by Abdullah Öcalan, the founder of the proscribed terrorist group Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The titles included Öcalan’s theory of ‘Democratic Confederalism’ as well as ‘Democratic Nation’, ‘War and Peace in Kurdistan’ and ‘Liberating Life: Woman’s Revolution’.
Since 1984, the PKK has led an armed struggle against Turkey that has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Öcalan is “alleged to have ordered the murder of large numbers of civilians, the kidnapping of Western tourists, and the murder of many comrades who challenged his beliefs”. He is currently serving a life sentence in a Turkish prison.
Some Pro-Palestine societies also distributed leaflets linked to an array of extreme organisations.
Queen Mary Friends of Palestine Society handed out Interpal leaflets. Interpal was ordered to disassociate from the US designated Hamas fundraising organisation Union of Good by the Charity Commission in 2009.
Ibrahim Hewitt, the Chair of Trustees at Interpal, was disinvited from an Oxfam event in January 2014, after comments he had made referring to the “so-called Holocaust” as well as his claim that homosexuals would be “severely punished” for their “great sin”.
Friends of Al-Aqsa is another disturbing organisation – their leaflets were promoted by the City University, Goldsmiths and SOAS Palestine societies.
Ismail Patel, the founder of Friends of Al-Aqsa, has supported Hamas whilst Shamiul Joarder, a Friends of Al-Aqsa speaker, has been linked to the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), a Muslim Brotherhood affiliated group.
Friends of Al-Aqsa’s bank account was closed by the Co-operative Bank in December 2015. The bank claimed this decision was due to their own “risk appetite” and had followed processes of due diligence.
Goldsmiths Palestine Society also shared leaflets from the Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association (CADFA). In 2009, Jon Benjamin, the then Chief Executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, wrote to Hampstead School to express his concern at a CADFA-organised event in which an activist warned pupils that he was being persecuted by “Jewish soldiers”. This incident was also condemned by the then London Mayor Boris Johnson.
In 2012, the then Chairman of CADFA, Munir Nusseibeh, appeared on Press TV, a television news channel controlled by the Iranian regime, about his and CADFA’s support for Khader Adnan – a ‘political prisoner’ from the proscribed terrorist organisation Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).
Student Rights is extremely disturbed by the appearance of these leaflets at university freshers’ fairs. There can be no place for extremism on university campuses. We strongly urge the relevant university authorities and student unions to look into these incidents in order to prevent this from happening again.