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FOSIS and the promotion of extremist narratives

Despite its continued protestations that the problem of extremism on university campuses is a smear used to attack Muslim students, Student Rights have once again found evidence of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) engaging with extremist narratives.

Since the beginning of January, the FOSIS London Twitter account has indulged in promoting the notion that Muslims are oppressed by the justice system, driving grievances that can be used by radicals to recruit support.

On the 8th, 12th and 23rd of January the Twitter account was used to share a video supporting the release of Shaker Aamer, described by a senior Al-Qaeda figure as an “extremely active” recruiter for the group, and as a weapons trained fighter by the campaigner Moazzam Begg.

It also posted tweets promoting the charity Helping Households Under Great Stress (HHUGS), with one sharing an article entitled ‘Who will stand with Britain’s untouchables’, and another a video encouraging viewers to attend a HHUGS fundraising event which takes place tomorrow.

HHUGS exists to provide financial and ideological support for Muslims arrested under terrorism laws, and to provide relief for their families. Whilst the website states that this does not extend to those convicted of offences, this does not appear to be completely the case.

In February 2012 a number of videos and articles, including one by the extremist cleric Haitham Al-Haddad, appeared on the website supporting the family of Munir Farooqi despite his convictions for soliciting to murder and preparing terrorist acts.

The organisation also encouraged supporters to write to Khalid Al-Fawwaz, Osama Bin Laden’s former UK spokesman, and Adel Abdul Bary, indicted alongside Al-Fawwaz in May 2000 in response to the 1998 US Embassy bombings.

Since Student Rights highlighted this back in September, this request has been removed from the HHUGS website.

Given that FOSIS has regularly stated it rejects extremism, to see the London branch share an article which describes terrorist activity as “a catch-all term for any engagement, by word or deed, in the political aspects of Islam” is deeply concerning.

In addition to this, the HHUGS event promoted by FOSIS features Shakeel Begg, a cleric atLewisham Islamic Centre who in 2006 was reported to have told students “You want to make jihad? Very good…take some money and go to Palestine and fight, fight the terrorists, fight the Zionists”.

As well as online support though, FOSISmembers have also become personally involved in activity relating to Muslim prisoners, with the Head of Campaigns atFOSIS Omar Hajajsharing platforms with a number of extremist individuals at events, and espousing some worrying views.

In September Student Rights highlighted that Hajaj would be speaking at an event in support of the Al-Qaeda facilitator Dr Aafia Siddique, convicted in February 2010 of the attempted murder of government officials after she was arrested in possession of notes referring to mass-casualty attacks, recruitment and training.

Virulently anti-Semitic, Siddique wrote before her trial that Jews are “cruel, ungrateful, back-stabbing people” and that “they masterminded 9/11, and I have proof of that…there are attacks being planned against America, big wars being planned, and they are involved in it”.

At the time we suggested that students would be unconvinced FOSIS truly rejected extremism given its support for an individual like Siddique, yet Hajaj’s speech went further, stating that:

In reality, one day all of us here, we will wish that we were Aafia Siddique, that all of us here, we will wish we were someone like Babar Ahmed, we will wish we were someone like Khalid. We will be wishing that we had their status because on the Day of Judgement they are amongst the best people in the sight of Allah”.

Earlier in the year, Hajaj also attended a ‘Belmarsh Iftar’, an event supporting those individuals held in the maximum security prison. During his speech he said that “As Muslims we should be doing more to help the Muslim prisoners and be involved with them”.

It is time for FOSIS to stand up and announce where it stand on this issue.

If it does truly reject support for extremism then it should make clear that it will not promote groups like HHUGS or speak in support of individuals like Siddique.

Until it does this it will continue to be seen as just another group which promotes one message to the media and to government, and another to its supporters.