UK student union elects radical Islamists

2 elected to top leadership posts at Westminster University have ties to group calling for Islamic or caliphate.

By JONNY PAUL, JPOST CORRESPONDENT
April 14, 2011 05:00
2 minute read.
Security officers at Israel demonstration

UK school 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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LONDON – The student union at Westminster University in central London has elected to its top leadership posts two people linked to a radical Islamist group with an anti-Semitic history.

The two have ties to Hizb ut- Tahrir, a group calling for an Islamic state or caliphate. The group has been barred from organizing and speaking on campuses under the National Union of Students (NUS) policy of “no platform” for racist or fascist views.

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“Our rules state individuals or members of organizations or groups identified as holding racist or fascist views are not allowed to stand for election or go to, speak at or take part in conferences, meetings or any other events,” said NUS president Aaron Porter.

Tarik Mahri, 23, was elected president of the Westminster student union in polling on April 1. He is a member of the “Global Ideas” society, which was banned last year by the university after inviting senior Hizb ut- Tahrir member Jamal Harwood to address students.

In his election manifesto, Mahri called for the creation of “segregated sports activities” for women, and his Twitter feed and Facebook profile are littered with calls for Shari'a law and the establishment of an Islamic caliphate.

Jamal Achchi, 26, was elected vice-president. He has been accused of circulating Hizb ut- Tahrir documents that call on Muslims to overthrow democratic regimes and establish the Khilafah, a worldwide Islamic theocracy run by mullahs.

Hizb ut-Tahrir was once led by Omar Bakri Mohammed, who was expelled from the UK in 2006. Residing today in Lebanon, the radical cleric has recently been charged with fundraising for al-Qaida.



Since the 7/7 terrorist 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, which has been outlawed in a number of countries, including Germany and Egypt, 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.”

Islamist radicalization on campuses is a huge concern in the UK. A review of extremism by Universities UK, the organization of vice-chancellors in Britain, was launched last year after it was discovered that the failed 2009 Detroit airline bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was a former president of the Islamic Society at University College London.

“Hizb ut-Tahrir despises democracy and believes Shari'a law must be imposed over the whole world, by force if necessary,” said Shiraz Maher, a former member of the group and now a senior research fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalism at King’s College London. “I think unless we challenge this we are sleepwalking into a very dangerous future.”

Raheem Kassam, director of Student Rights, an organization that tackles radicalism on campus, and himself a former Westminster student, said there has been a “grassroots Islamist movement” there for many years and that he had “experienced” it himself.

“What’s disgraceful is that the Student Union refuses to subscribe to the NUS’s no-platform policy for extremists and that the university allows this to continue,” Kassam said.

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