SOAS speakers claim undermined by event history

Last week, following a government press release which ‘named and shamed’ several universities for hosting extreme speakers, one of the institutions identified hit back at these claims.

Laura Gibbs, registrar of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), argued in a statement that the college had “not hosted any extremist speakers in the last year, or indeed the recent past”.

SOAS accepted it had hosted Haitham Al-Haddad in January 2014, but claimed this was the only event of concern, as it was the only one to feature a speaker named by the government.

It was also claimed Haddad had visited SOAS “only to address students on Islamic finance” – an absurd defence which whitewashes his extreme views.

However, Student Rights has in fact logged at least five events at SOAS in 2015 which featured speakers with a history of extreme views, suggesting the college may have been unaware they were taking place.

At least two of these events featured speakers affiliated with the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), which has called for the execution of apostates and rejects democracy, claiming:

“…whoever does not rule whatever Allah has revealed, denying Allah’s right to legislate, as is the case with those who believe in democracy, is a Kafir”.

Adnan Khan, an HT activist, appeared at the university in February, and has suggested apostates that “openly leave Islam, and choose to remain in the state” should face the death penalty.

He has also written that: “equality is not the basis of Islam and never has been in the history of Islamic jurisprudence. This is a term alien to Islam”.

Shohana Khan, who identified herself as HT women’s media representative until May 2015, appeared in March 2015, speaking alongside Zara Faris from the Hittin Institute.

She has claimed that implementing gender segregation, harsh punishments for sex outside of marriage, and the criminalisation of a “lustful glance” will “protect the women in society”.

Student Rights also logged events featuring Uthman Lateef; Abdullah Al-Andalusi; Asim Qureshi (despite his name not appearing on promotional material); and Wasim Kempson.

Next week meanwhile, the university will host CAGE Outreach Director Moazzam Begg at an event attacking government counter-radicalisation policy.

CAGE has regularly written in support of convicted terrorists including Djamel Beghal, Nizar Trabelsi, and Munir Farooqi.

A terrorism case against Begg collapsed in October 2014, but he accepted he had been in Syria training fighters – and was recorded criticising recruits, saying:

“…they want to call it martyrdom but I said we have to be physically prepared. If you don’t prepare this just becomes suicide, not martyrdom”.

To claim, therefore, that no extreme speakers had appeared on-campus is clearly untrue, and suggests it is the college’s announcement rather than the government’s which “includes some inaccuracies”.

Meanwhile, that Begg will speak on-campus next week at an event chaired by a member of the Islamic Human Rights Commission shows that the new academic year is unlikely to see the situation change.

In her statement on the issue, Gibbs claimed: “we [SOAS] take our duty of care to our community and our legal obligations very seriously”.

Hopefully, highlighting these events will give the university the opportunity to show that this is the case.

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