How universities are failing Muslim students
The progressive solution to campus extremism is not to ban or proscribe organisations or individuals but to counter them with moderate, progressive liberal Muslims.
University is supposed to be a time where minds are opened up to fresh ideas, debates ensue and views are moulded. Indeed, for many students that is the story of their time in higher education.
However, that’s often only part of the story if you’re a Muslim student. For the last five years, the counter-extremism organisation StandforPeace has documented, archived and exposed numerous occasions when hate preachers have been given a sole platform to air their, often, anti-liberal, Islamist and, to much sadness, down-right anti-British views.
We should, of course, make a distinction between Islam and Islamism. Islam is a diverse and fissile religion with just as many strands and schools of thought as there are followers. Most Muslims are peaceful, law-abiding citizens of this nation who follow Islam, and have no interest in theocratic parties and their attendant hate preachers. Just like the readers of this blog, they are more likely to be angered by public sector cuts than be moved by the Islamist message of division and grievance.
Islamism, in contrast, is a radical political ideology that seeks to use and consolidate power to establish, in the most literal sense, a global Islamic super-state, otherwise known as a caliphate. This fantasy requires them to convince Muslims that they have a religious duty to unite behind their cause.
Week-in, week-out Muslim students are bombarded with the views of preachers that fall within the Islamist strand of the debate. Islamic societies have been taken over by Islamists.
Take Kingston University, for example, who are hosting the hate preacher Haitham al-Haddad. Haddad is a regular hate preacher and a favourite of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, who represent the majority of university Islamic societies in Britain.
In his ‘autobiography’, the Christmas day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab describes how went on a ‘retreat’ with Haddad. Many have described Haddad as among the worst preachers in the UK. Yet, he is welcomed with open arms at many FOSIS-affiliated Islamic societies.
Haddad is a supremacist in much the same way that Tommy Robinson of the EDL is a supremacist. On interfaith, Haddad is on record as saying that ‘peaceful co-existence is just full stop wrong’. He considers integration and assimilation of Muslims into society as a hindrance to their faith. He could not be further away from the mainstream views of Muslims in the UK.
On relations with Christians and Jews, he subscribes to the view of ‘declaring Jews and Christians to be kuffar, and the necessity of hating them, and avoiding them’. On Jews specifically, he expresses the worst kind of anti-semitism: ‘The devils of mankind are perfectly represented by these Jews. Do their Protocols [of the Elders of Zion] not say: “We must seduce the world with women and wine, through gambling and recreation, and if this is not sufficient then their reality will testify to this.”’ The reference to the anti-semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a document that has been used to smear Jews, should send a chill to all anti-racism, anti-fascist campaigners.
Islamic Societies such as the one at Kingston University have a duty of care to protect their students from radical proselytisation from the likes of Haddad, but that provision is all but ignored.
Just looking at the case of Kingston University and Haddad, it becomes apparent how young moderate Muslims are brought in to the Islamist rhetoric and are taught to hate their country. Yet, that is the point. They are taught to do this. Islamism is a political idea – and it can be countered.
The progressive solution to campus extremism is not to ban or proscribe organisations or individuals as this merely offers extremists another talking point. The solution is to counter this narrative. It falls on universities to call out extremists like Haddad and make his attendance to talk at universities conditional on providing a dual platform alongside with a moderate, progressive liberal Muslim.
Progressive organisations like Progress can help turn the tide against these extremists. After all, fighting extremism is in the bloodstream of a progressive. Ask yourself this: if Haddad was a white European neo-Nazi (who could easily hold similar views on minorities), then would we offer an apologist’s account to Haddad? I don’t believe so. Fighting hate and sectarianism is part of the progressive movement – it’s time we unite and revive this tradition.
Hasan Afzal is a student at Birmingham University and director of StandforPeace. He tweets @hasanafzal
antisemitism, campus extremism, extremism, Islam, Islamism, Judaism, universities