By Emma Fox
On 14th July, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) – an umbrella network that claims to represent Muslim students and societies across the UK – will host its annual conference.
Anticipation spread through FOSIS’s social media channels as they teased their followers with a countdown to the announcement of each keynote speaker. Eager participants were quick to weigh in with suggestions – Erdogan? Zakir Naik? Jeremy Corbyn? Alas, it seemed none of them were available. Instead, among a handful of comics and entertainment artists, FOSIS is hosting Abdur-Raheem McCarthy and Waleed Basyouni.
For those who are unfamiliar with the names, McCarthy is advertised as a scholar from the University of Madinah, “well-known” from his appearances on Peace TV and Huda TV, two popular Islamic networks. While used here as a source of promotion, these two channels are notorious for hosting extremist preachers. In fact, Peace TV was founded by Zakir Naik, a cleric banned from entering the UK, who has expressed sympathy with Osama bin Laden and attempted to legitimise domestic violence. The sermons delivered on his channel have been so extreme, including the promotion of violence against homosexuals, that the channel has been sanctioned by Ofcom.
Huda TV also hosts Naik, alongside “Huda Stars” such as Haitham al-Haddad – who has claimed there is a ‘proper’ way of performing female genital mutilation (FGM) – and Bilal Philips, who has been named an “unindicted co-conspirator” of the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing (and who is also banned from entering the United Kingdom). McCarthy himself has made some intolerant comments, including stating that it is “haram” for Muslims to take part in Valentine’s Day, and that greeting non-Muslims on a national holiday is an equivalent sin to the drinking of wine, homicide or “illicit” sex.
Also in attendance will be Waleed Basyouni, Vice-President of the Al Maghrib Institute, an organisation also known for hosting an array of Islamist extremists. These include Omar Suleiman, who has previously called homosexuality a “repugnant shameless sin”; Yasir Qadhi, who reportedly endorsed the killing of those who mock the Islamic prophet Mohammed; and Abu Easa Niamutallah, who has said that Jews “blow up babies” like a computer game. Basyouni is also promoted as a media star of Peace TV and Huda TV, although he has also appeared on the Islam Channel, another network that promotes extremism. Indeed, Basyouni’s credentials include his position on the American Jurists Association (AJA), a council that has issued fatwa such as the endorsement of marital rape, death for apostates and the practice of FGM. A further concern is Basyouni’s seemingly sympathetic stance towards the terror group Hamas.
This is not the first time that FOSIS have hosted controversial clerics at their conferences. Hopefully it will be the last. Among the comedians, nasheed stars and performers, the conference will expose students to individuals who have a vast array of extremist associations – and there may be more speakers to be announced.
Emma Fox is National Organiser at Student Rights at The Henry Jackson Society.