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Fools At Your Service

This is a guest post by habibi

A few days ago this blog covered the government’s decision to work with the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) on a “study exploring the views and attitudes of Muslim students in England.”

This post provides more on the story, including several links which may be of interest to those following developments.

The Policy Project

The Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) leads the project. A contractor – as yet unnamed – will be chosen to carry out the work. The initiative is scheduled to start by the end of this month. Focus groups will be formed and opinion surveys carried out. A final report will be issued by June 2009.

FOSIS will participate in a “steering group” alongside the DIUS, the Department of Communities and Local Government and the National Union of Students. This group will “oversee” the project and have “significant regular contact with the contractor” as work progresses.

The main topics will be:

- Faith on campus

- Identity and integration of Muslim students

- Facilities and Services

- Extremism

- Organisations, the government and media

This appears to be a serious initiative to measure opinion for the government. The press release notes:

The report will inform the work that DIUS, FOSIS and NUS does in working with Muslim students. The results will further inform government, sector agency and institutional policy on these issues as appropriate.

The Problems

This could be a good policy idea. I’m not against it at all. Radicalisation of young Muslims on campus is obviously a serious security concern. The range, depth and characteristics of radical views – and more mainstream views too – should indeed be measured and assessed.

However, choosing FOSIS as a partner is foolish. One might as well ask the UK Independence Party to help provide an objective assessment of the whole UK population’s views on the European Union.

FOSIS are no moderates, nor are they representative of all British Muslims. Consider the following:

- FOSIS stands up for Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who has been banned from the UK. When the government made that decision, FOSIS expressed “severe disappointment” and added this line to its press release: “He has been firm and forthright in his condemnation of terrorist actions across the world.” This is a brazen lie, unless Israel is not considered part of the world or the murder of Israeli women and children – which al-Qaradawi approves – is not “terrorism”. Why is the government working with an organisation that praises an extremist it has banned?

- As for al-Qardawi’s condemnation of 9/11, oft cited by his Islamist supporters, one really should read the whole thing. He did condemn the attacks, but thought they were a good occasion to rant about Israel and express support for Palestinian terrorists. He also said this: If such attacks were carried out by a Muslim – as some biased groups claim [my emphasis] – then we, in the name of our religion, deny the act and incriminate the perpetrator. This statement was published on the 13th of September. At that point, one certainly didn’t need to be a counterterrorism expert to know who did it. But al-Qaradawi thought it would be best to sow doubts. This is the kind of “scholar” FOSIS calls “well known and respected”.

- FOSIS also campaigns for Babar Ahmad. Here is a particularly and typically disgraceful piece of Islamist scaremongering: “Today it is Babar who has been extradited [he hasn’t been, actually], tomorrow it may be any one of us. It could be your son, father or brother who is facing potential torture and injustice.” FOSIS has also claimed that there is a “distinct lack of evidence against him”. This is a lie, as this extradition affidavit of 2004 shows:

In summary, Babar AHMAD, between 1998 and August 2004, with others and by himself, solicited and invited, through U.S.-based and operated websites and related electronic mail, or email, communications within and without the United States, persons in the United States and elsewhere to give or otherwise make available money and other property, including military items, intending that such support should be used in furtherance of acts of terrorism in Chechnya and Afghanistan. The acts of terrorism specifically involved violence against persons, including murder, and violence against property in those countries to achieve political, religious, and ideological ends by influencing governments or intimidating the public there.

- Even if the United States had not presented a case against Babar Ahmad, it is curious, to say the least, that FOSIS campaigns for the man who ran azzam.com. Perhaps, to be absurdly charitable, FOSIS people don’t know how to use the internet archive. Here’s a helping hand if they don’t. On the 16th of September 2001 page – the first in the archive after 9/11 – the headline is “URGENT APPEAL TO DEFEND AFGHANISTAN”. Ahmad’s site was certainly not talking about Ahmed Shah Massoud here. Instead, azzam.com was a staunch supporter of jihad and the Taleban. I find it rather hard to believe that FOSIS was not aware of this. More likely, Ahmad’s extremism is what motivates them.

- The Islamists of Hizb-ut-Tahrir also get support from FOSIS. Here’s Faisal Hanjra, president of FOSIS, as reported by Eastern Eye:

We don’t always agree with their views and the way they go about things, but they’re not an extremist organisation [my emphasis].

- As noted in the earlier HP post, FOSIS are also enthusiastic backers of Azzam Tamimi. No further comment on Tamimi is needed than his disgusting hate speech in the video below.

One typical FOSIS tactic is to downplay media reports on extremism in Britain or simply dismiss them as hatemongering. Here Faisal Hanjra says media reports on Tableeghi Jammat, Hizb-ut-Tahrir and the Muslim Brotherhood are “Islamophobic” and debate about Islam is for Muslims, not others. This does make him a rather strange partner for government discussions, I must say.- Indignantly pulling out of scheduled meetings is another tactic. In the latest instance, FOSIS has refused to participate in the Coexistence Trust’s fluffy university interfaith tour. It was prompted in part by Lord Ahmed’s decision to withdraw. Lord Ahmed, as far as I can ascertain, is a backer of notorious anti-Semite Israel Shamir. If FOSIS draws inspiration from the likes of Lord Ahmed, it is no friend of moderation.

- Turning to representation, FOSIS claim to represent “over 90,000 Muslim students” in the UK and Ireland. That is, all of them. As far as I can see, no evidence has been presented to back up this claim. Nor should mere attendance at Friday prayers, which is the extent of some students’ contact with FOSIS, be taken as somehow giving FOSIS status as authentic representatives. If Whitehall thinks they are representative, it should explain its reasoning.

Campus Stories

To conclude, I note that FOSIS has insisted that radicalisation on campus is a minor problem, if it is a problem at all. Here is Faisal Hanjra again, in January 2008:

There is no evidence to suggest that Muslim students at university are particularly vulnerable to radicalisation nor is there any evidence to suggest that university campuses are hotbeds of extremist activity.

This beggars belief. A few examples:

Kafeel Ahmed

Jawad Akbar

Hizb on campus

Yassin Nassari

Omar Sharif

Ahmed Omar Sheikh

Jawad Syed

Waheed Zaman

Is the DIUS quite mad? How can FOSIS possibly be considered any kind of legitimate partner in any anti-extremist work?