Friends of al-Aqsa at the FOSIS Palestine Conference

On Saturday 4th March, Friends of al-Aqsa and the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) co-hosted the annual FOSIS Palestine Conference at University College London (UCL).

The conference aimed to mark 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, in which the British government promised to work towards the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, with the website stating that:

“There will be a particular focus on how the Zionists lobbied and why the declaration was passed. It aims to shed light on Britain’s role in the loss of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel.”

Speakers at the conference included Shamiul Joarder, Director of Public Affairs at Friends of al-Aqsa, and Ismail Patel, the group’s founder.

Joarder has worked for the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), described as the “the main declared British affiliate” of the Muslim Brotherhood.

He also appears to have been involved with the British Muslim Initiative (BMI), a “successor” to the MAB founded by a man described by the BBC as a “fugitive Hamas Commander”.

Patel, meanwhile, was employed by the BMI, and has claimed that: “Hamas is no terrorist organisation…we salute Hamas for standing up to Israel”.

The conference also saw National Union of Students (NUS) president, Malia Bouattia, appear as a keynote speaker, while NUS vice-president, Shelly Asquith, encouraged students to attend, saying it was: “a really good event – recommend to students interested in wanting to get involved in Palestine solidarity activism”.

Here at Student Rights, we have frequently written of our concerns about the embracing of extreme or intolerant groups by the student movement, and the advertising of these groups’ events to individual student societies.

When student umbrella groups like FOSIS and the NUS work with a group that defends Hamas and has a history of promoting bigoted writers, this can only increase tensions on campus.

Instead, there needs to be a robust response when groups such as Friends of al-Aqsa are invited to address or train students, ensuring they face a demand for balanced platforms and do not have free rein to target campuses without challenge.

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