Radical Islamist lectures at London university

Member of group accused of grooming bombers that attacked 'Mike's Place' teaching at UK university.

January 19, 2010 05:53
3 minute read.
lse 88

lse 88. (photo credit: )

A senior member of a radical Islamist organization accused of grooming one of the suicide bombers that targeted a Tel Aviv bar in 2003 is currently teaching at a prestigious London university.

Reza Pankhurst, a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir - a hard-line Islamist group the government has talked about banning - is a lecturer at the London School of Political Science. An assistant lecturer in LSE's government department, he teaches a course titled "States, Nations and Empires."

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He is also alleged to have played a key role in the radicalization of Omar Sharif, the British suicide bomber who targeted Mike's Place in Tel Aviv. Sharif allegedly met Pankhurst as a student at Kings' College London in 1994 after he began attending meetings organized by the radical group.

According to Zaheer Khan, a university friend at the time, Sharif began regularly attending Hizb ut-Tahrir meetings around three months into his studies.

Speaking to the New Statesman magazine in April 2006, Khan said, "Sharif acquired a mentor: Reza Pankhurst, one of the Hizb ut-Tahrir members released from a three-year prison sentence in Egypt in February this year."

Khan also remembered attending talks by Pankhurst, saying that although he wasn't the leader, he had "a big hand to play" in organizing on campus.

Pankhurst, who was imprisoned in Egypt in 2003 for being a member of the group, is also said to be preaching to students at Friday prayers at the university and is a member of the LSE student union's Islam Society. Hizb ut-Tahrir is barred from organizing and speaking on campuses under the National Union of Students policy of "no platform" for racist or fascist views.

A member of the student society told The Times on Saturday, "He preaches every other week and is constantly bringing the subject around to politics, talking of Afghanistan and the need to establish the Caliphate, or Islamic state. Only last week, he was talking about the Detroit bomber and saying the guy was not radicalized in London and it was all to do with foreign policy."

Since the 7/7 attack on London in 2005, the government keeps Hizb ut-Tahrir "under continuous review" but has not yet banned the group, despite regular calls by the Conservative party to do so. The group is proscribed in a number of countries, including Germany and Egypt.

It also calls for "the dismantling" of the "illegal entity" of Israel. In 2001, part of a statement removed from its Web site said: "In origin, no one likes the Jews except the Jews. Even they themselves rarely like each other."

The presence of one of Hizb ut-Tahrir's most senior members as a university lecturer raises new concerns about Islamist radicalization on campuses. A review of campus extremism by Universities UK, the organization of vice-chancellors in Britain, was launched earlier this month after it was discovered that failed Detroit airline bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was a former president of the Islamic Society at University College London.

LSE said no concerns had been raised about his conduct or membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir.

"We confirm that Mr. Pankhurst is a research student at LSE and a graduate teaching assistant," a spokesperson said. "No concerns about his conduct have been raised with the school, and we are not aware that he is a member of any proscribed organization or has broken any laws or LSE regulations.

The spokesperson added that "all students and members of staff at LSE are entitled to freedom of expression within the law. Anyone who breaks a law or disciplinary regulation can of course expect action to be taken."

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