By Emma Fox
The start of the university term has begun, and alongside the usual jubilance and revelry that characterises Freshers’ events, so too has the promotion of extremism permeated campus ‘Welcome Weeks’ across the UK.
Predictably, SOAS has once again topped the list. Pinned to a tree, behind a society stall entitled ‘Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism’ lay a poster of Leila Khaled, the convicted Palestinian terrorist and plane hijacker, in the notorious graphic of her brandishing an AK-47. Khaled, one of the most prolific members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PFLP] – a US and EU proscribed organisation – once hijacked an American aircraft in 1969, and held two Israeli passengers in Syria as hostages for three months before they were released during a prisoner swap with Israel. During the infamous PFLP hijackings the following year, Khaled was arrested on-board an EL AL flight from Amsterdam carrying two grenades. She was brought to the UK and released a month later in exchange for western hostages from another plane hijack. Despite having never renounced violence, Khaled has been “lionised” by proponents of ‘resistance’ movements and continues to be afforded a platform at pro-Palestine events. It should come as no shock that Corbyn himself has shared a stage with Khaled – once at a London rally in 2002 and again in 2011 at a Palestine conference in Lebanon. Indeed, the fact that Khaled’s image can be sprawled so brazenly across SOAS’ front lawn displays how pernicious the university’s association with extremism has become.
In other news, this year we saw extremist charities hold their own stalls at Freshers’ Fairs – Islamic Help and Muslim Hands. Both organisations belong to the umbrella group called the ‘Muslim Charities Forum’ [MCF], exposed – most prominently in one of HJS’ recent publications – for alleged connections to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
MCF members include several charities that once belonged to the ‘Union of Good’, a US-proscribed fundraising body for Hamas. This includes Muslim Hands, the aforementioned charity which now freely distributes literature at universities. The MCF have been on the government’s radar for several years, evidenced dramatically in 2014 when the Department for Communities and Local Government [DCLG] withdrew £140,000 of their funding for concerns relating to extremism. However, that hasn’t seemed to prevent their promotion as a mainstream Islamic charity, having since consistently appeared on university campuses and been championed by Members of Parliament.
Indeed, MCF’s Muslim Aid sponsored a panel at the Labour Party’s conference this week, in partnership with the British Red Cross and the Association of Labour Councillors. According to the Telegraph, Muslim Aid has admitted funding organisations “closely linked” to the proscribed groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. So there you have it. A group banned in Israel for funding terrorism is provided a prestigious platform at Corbyn’s conference. Just another episode in the latest series of flirtations with extremism from the Left.
Coincidently, not too far away at Liverpool’s John Moores university, MCF’s Islamic Help were seen distributing flyers (and goading students with the chance to win an iPad if they sign up) on a stall at Freshers’ fair. John Moores however, is no stranger to controversy surrounding extremism, for in 2015 it was revealed that three of its students had links with the Islamic State. This included an Al-Qaeda sympathiser who planned a bomb on Manchester’s Arndale Centre, and two former students who were killed in Syria, one of whom was named as a senior commander for the terror group. John Moores also plays host to the notorious Rizwaan Sabir, an academic in their Humanities and Social Science department who famously described terrorism as “political violence or a militarised form of activism by Muslims”.
Lectures have yet to begin and students are already being exposed to extremist organisations and proponents of terror. What a year we have in store…