Once again I get this news of what is happening in British universities from a foreign English language newspaper; The National of Dubai and the UAE, through their London office.
A British Muslim student group has been accused of acting “dangerously and irresponsibly” by the government for hosting an anti-counter-extremism university tour.
The Federation of Student Islamic Societies (Fosis) is hosting a tour of seven universities, including three Russell Group institutions, with groups that have previously been accused of undermining the UK’s counter-extremism strategy: Cage, Mend and Prevent Watch.
Fosis — which was created by the man who also founded the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Iraq — announced the tour, which is due to start on Friday at Strathclyde University, on Twitter.
The post advertises speakers from Cage — including former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg — Prevent Watch and Mend. UK think tank Policy Exchange has said these organisations have “sought to undermine Prevent and counter-extremism efforts”.
The student group — which has previously called for the “complete abolition” of the government’s anti-radicalisation Prevent programme, claiming it is “toxic” — is hosting the tour at Coventry University, Imperial College London (ICL), London City University, Dublin City University, Bristol University, Bradford University and Strathclyde University.
“Organisations that undermine the Prevent programme in this way are irresponsible and dangerous, particularly when they offer no credible alternative,” the Home Office told The National. “They are eroding the trust that is required for susceptible people to receive the support they need and diminishing the brilliant work of dedicated professionals, who work tirelessly within communities to keep them safe from extremism.”
Charlotte Littlewood, a former Prevent practitioner and counter-terrorism expert at the Henry Jackson Society, has labelled Fosis “abhorrent” for hosting the tour. “With a legal duty to safeguard students from being drawn into terrorism, it is abhorrent that groups who make it their priority to undermine such work are able to hold talks in universities with seemingly no counterbalancing organisations to debate their pernicious narrative,” she said. “In 2015, Fosis’s vice president of student affairs, Ibrahim Ali, whilst celebrating the work of Cage, declared that ‘Prevent in itself is a racist agenda; it’s an Islamophobic agenda’.
Strathclyde and ICL said Fosis has not asked permission for the talks and Bradford has suspended the tour pending further investigation.
“As with all University of Bradford events, the speaker and format for the proposed 30 November event were assessed — in this case on the understanding that there would be only one speaker — and enquiries revealed no concerns,” a representative for Bradford University said. “As the university has since learnt that there will be multiple speakers at the event, which is part of a wider series, the event is being reassessed. The event will not go ahead until the assessment is concluded and unless approval to proceed is given.”
The tweet of the full tour had been deleted after The National contacted the universities and the Home Office. That accounts for why I couldn’t find it just now. Good for The National, and shame on British newspapers for not noticing.
Fosis has not responded to The National’s request for comment.