Attempt to link Islamic societies to terrorism

Last Thursday BBC Radio 4 broadcast a Report programme in which they attempted to “investigate” the links between British university Islamic societies (or ISocs) with terrorism, on the basis that Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalib, who attempted to blow up a plane near Detroit last Christmas, had been president of the ISoc at University College London. In doing this they turn to some of the familiar talking heads, Ed Husain among them, giving the societies themselves a voice only at the beginning. (Available on iPlayer apparently permanently.)

Among those they first interview are Hamza Tzortzis, who is a former HT member (or at least, former activist) who has since left, and Qasim Rafiq of FOSIS, who had been Abdulmuttalib’s predecessor as president of UCL ISoc, who said that most people who get radicalsied do so through watching BBC News and al-Jazeera. After him came Ed Husain, whose view that the separation of men from women, the latter submitting their questions in writing, “are examples of the hardline form of Islam that has become endemic in many ISocs”. He himself said that the practice belongs in Saudi Arabia, not in Britain. He also alleged that the views given out in “event after event after event”, the literature present in prayer rooms and the content of Friday sermons “clearly does provide the extremist mood music to which suicide bombers dance”.

OK … besides the suggestion of dancing to “mood music” (mood music is background music; you don’t dance to it), this amounts to blaming ISocs for people becoming suicide bombers when there is no definite link. The programme points out that six former ISoc members have become involved in terrorism, but that is a small fraction of how many there have been. If ISocs convey any view on politics, it ought to be one based on the tenets of Islam and influenced by concern for the Ummah, not for what the government might want Muslims to think. As for the matter of separating men from women, people may disagree with it, but the issue has no place in any discussion on terrorism.

Next, there is a female (supposed) former ISoc member, who alleges that there is a culture of intolerance in the prayer room in which sisters who do not wear hijab, do not pray “correctly”, or do not share the common view on certain political issues like Palestine or the Iraq war, are looked down on. While the issues of people “correcting” each others’ prayers based on instructions from unreliable, sectarian sources is a well-known problem, not just in ISocs, what “moderate” views on Palestine and Iraq were objected to is not explained. She also alleged that the “hijabi sisters” would refuse to associate with her if they knew she had non-Muslim friends, male or female; this could only have been a certain section of them rather than all or even most. I’ve seen women in hijab socialising quite happily with obviously non-Muslim women on many occasions, including around the university quarter around Gower Street where UCL is.

They then interviewed the provost of UCL whose opinion was that university authorities cannot be the police, and that restricting outside speakers will not make a great deal of difference to terrorism as “the influences on young minds are many and varied”. The reporter then said that his team had discovered that an al-Muhajiroun presentation had taken place last December, with Anjem Choudhary chairing and a video-linked message from Omar Bakri Mohammed. The university had given a statement that they had been deceived by the person who booked the room who said he was from a London youth centre, that complaints had been made about the conduct of some attendees, and that the person who booked that meeting would not be allowed back.

There then followed an interrogation of Daud Abdullah over his signing of the Istanbul Declaration, which called for Muslims to fight foreign warships sent to police the “ceasefire” and prevent the smuggling of guns into Gaza “by all means and ways”. This leads to them arguing over what that phrase meant and whether it includes or excludes military means, but the real question should have been what it has to do with British students being radicalised and how much his course contributes to that. Daud Abdullah is then heard explaining that Hamas won the Palestinian election in 2006 and thus represents the will of the Palestinian people, and on that basis he supports them; he did, however, express disapproval to the killing of civilians, whoever they are.

After Daud Abdullah, they moved onto Shahidul Mursaleen, a member of the “moderate group” Minhaj-ul-Quran, who told how he had found himself unable to promote or arrange events on certain campuses because of interference from HT students. If such things are going on, surely they should be seeking help from the university authorities so that one group cannot prevent another from operating. Normally, however, universities reserve much of their poster space for internal use, which includes registered student societies and does not include outside organisations. Did the MQ group have permission to put the posters up? Surely they should try and settle these matters through the proper channels rather than running to the media.

Next came Anthony Glees, professor of security studies at Buckingham university, who alleged that universities had become “safe spaces for radicalisation that can lead to a state where a student is ready to be recruited by al-Qa’ida”. He blamed political correctness for allowing such radicalisation to be presented as free speech, such that those responsible could not be touched:

There is only free speech within the law; you should not be at liberty to incite people, you should not be at liberty to radicalise people so that they turn to terror. Joining al-Qa’ida is not like joining the Young Socialists or the Young Conservatives. It is a step change and it marks a move towards total abhorrence and hatred for everything the liberal democracy of this country stands for.

But the fact that al-Qa’ida depise western liberal democracy is not why anyone is fighting them; it is their behaviour as fighters and their behaviour when they get a chance to rule, or influence rulers, that motivates people to fight them. The west itself has produced a number of ideologies over the years whose followers despise liberal democracy, as well as academics who have acted as apologists for every dictatorial regime from Pinochet to the Khmer Rouge. This is not the same as inciting people to commit terrorist acts, as they would have gone to prison if they had done that, and quite rightly so. And as for “radicalising people” etc., if this is done by clearly teaching them that al-Qa’ida are fighting for Islam and that it is the duty of Muslims to support them, this should clearly not be allowed, but talks by former Guantanamo Bay prisoners and slideshows about atrocities in Iraq or Afghanistan, even though they may have this effect on some people, are free speech. As Qasim Rafiq said, people could be radicalised by simply watching the news, but in any case, the real radicalisation likely comes through websites anyway.

In short, this is yet another attempt to blame the Muslm community in the UK and its institutions for a terrorist act it had nothing to do with. They cannot find any real evidence that Umar Abdulmuttalib acted under the influence of “radicals” in the UK, so they make completely irrelevant attacks on elements of conservative Islam that they find objectionable, but which does not attract significant protest from those affected, and draw attention to some problems which are real, but which again have nothing to do with the Christmas bombing attempt. Sectarian bias and political control of ISocs is a real issue in some places, and if the Muslim student community tolerate it, it may be because they get their central job (organising Friday prayers and Ramadan fast-breaking facilities, for example) done efficiently enough that they can be ignored the rest of the time. None of these problems necessarily contributed to the terrorist act in Detroit or any other; the fact that they attack ISocs generally indicates that they cannot find any concrete evidence of a link.

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19 Responses

  1. ali khan says:


    I dont really have much to add to your well written rebuttal to the utter drivel that the bbc passes off as investigative reporting. My only gripe is the implied acceptance of the underpant bomber as a genuine event. Its not. It has staged written all over it in thick capital letters. I suppose believing it to be true and listening to the tosh from the beeb go hand in hand.

    And lets not forget the utter piece of trash called ed hussain. Witting or unwitting, he is a government agent pure and simple. Hearing his annoying voice really messes my day up and (edited). Pure scum. I am aware that

  2. ali khan says:

    sorry for the typo

  3. Indigo Jo says:

    As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    I had to edit the threatening bit out of your comment, as it could put me at risk of legal action.

    The Detroit bombing attempt may have been a set-up, in that it’s the second bombing of this type involving a black man from a non-Arabic country and a bomb that’s failed to go off. Perhaps whoever is doing this is using such people as patsies on trial bombing runs? Then again, bombs primed not to go off are convenient for a lot of people.

  4. mr. E says:


    i liked your post. An article with the same gist was written by someone at LSE. Here’s the link:

    What do you think?

  5. mr. E says:


    check out the above link from an LSE student. It seems to have the same gist as your own article. What do you think?

  6. ali khan says:


    My apologies to you matthew. I do not wish to get anybody into trouble. I will write to him on his own website ;-)


  7. Indigo Jo says:

    As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    The fact is that there is so much we can get Eddie on without resorting to threats or personal attacks (hence I just took another one off). Website owners, and server owners, are responsible for what others say on their sites.

    Libel laws are very heavily weighted towards the complainant, and while they cannot take this site down as it’s hosted in the USA, they can take me to court. I refused to change or remove an article I wrote about my old school because I know what I wrote is true, but I can’t do that with claims against individuals I don’t know.

  8. Keyser says:

    This is really reaching McCarthyite proportions now, where any semblance of Muslimness is stigmatised.

    On a side note Brother Yusuf according to wikipedia your a ” British Islamist blogger”. You cant win can you with some people.

  9. PakistaniMD says:

    Great Article… just a quick question: who are the Minhaj-ul-Quran? They seem to be quite an observant group, so what are their disagreements with the overall Muslim Community in the UK (MCB, FOIS)?

  10. Indigo Jo says:

    PakistaniMD: MQ are basically Barelvis. They are the group run by Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri and run a university in Lahore.

  11. LeedsLad says:

    These self styled “Islamic Societies” don’t do themselves justice when the majority of them are founded by illiterates or pyjama wearing self styled scholars/activists.

    What I do know is that Muslims sleep walk into radicalising themselves and their youth rather than protect children from such Fitnah. That Al-Jazeera has also added to our problems with its constant disturbing pieces of imagery and FOX News like shouting matches.

    How come all these bombers are from upper classes who binge on TV and coffee houses?

    There is too many issues facing us, yet these little kids in universities who were suppose to study are falling into the hands of people stuck with only one ME issue. Muslims or not, these “societies” are sabotaging our future and I want to attack them like the infidels.

    If you are joining them to meet a nice Muslimah, forget them cos its too late by then unless you want to fight some villager who was promised a visa to the UK.

  12. Keyser says:


    Anymore crass generalisations you want to throw in? You missed out mentioning bushy beards and walking ink blot. Glad I could be of service.

  13. khan says:

    LeedsLad ‘blah’blah’blah’blah’blah’ You are a self confessed kaffir so please save us the ‘i am a cultural muslim only but i still care about the muslims crap’. The crap you have written above does not even warrant a response.

  14. ali khan says:


    @leedslad- Can i have some of the crack you are smoking.

    Ladies and gentleman I proudly announce to you open season on all muslims!

    Listen folks whatever you do,short of changing your religion, its not going to be enough. So lets not beat about the proverbial bush. And if you agree with the notion of a ‘war’ on terror ,without even going into whether its staged or not (which it is), then you have lost the argument before it has even started. Muslims need to be proactive in their response and never reply to the usual suspect questions with the naff ‘BUT’.

    Listed below are a few points that might be of help.

    1) terrorism is not confined to individuals. States can and DO commit terrorism

    2) Hiroshima. Probably the single biggest act of terrorism to date in human history and definitely the most killed in a single instance. Even if you believe the yanks were responding to pearl harbour it still doesnt justify the killing of civilians

    3) Nobody trusts politicians so why trust them on security matters. They lie about everything else then why believe them on security matters. Hard to square that circle.

    4) Al-qaeda is nothing more than a cia list/database of various afghan mujahideen.

    5) Offshore banksters are robbing everyone regardless of creed and they are giving you a golden shower while they do it.

    6) If they can torture children, which they admit to, then why should they care about anyone else.

  15. LeedsLad says:

    “War on terror” peddled by the UK gov is a myth. How can you be at war with people they create in the first place?

    My beef is with time wasters who cannot leave kids alone unless they molest them with their bushy beards. Look at this stupid and tell me if that is the government’s mistake or the people he was hanging around with: Student says ‘slaughter the Jews’ remark was misunderstood

    20 odd years of investment went into that kid by his parents, and look at the result created with his own hands. Did Sheikh Bushy made him do it, or Rabbi Zionmyopia?

    Chill out ppl, and clean our houses first.

  16. Keyser says:


    You could at least reference me in the bushy beard comment :-)How very predictabele. I have a great deal of sympathy to what your saying but it can do without the juvenile remarks.


    Your a nasty piece of work so what if he is a cultural muslim, so am I

  17. khan says:

    Keyser -‘Khan Your a nasty piece of work so what if he is a cultural muslim, so am I’ Keyser you and your ilk are the real enemies of the muslims.The ‘look at me i am so moderate i drink alochol and dont pray, i hate the fundamentalists’ wankers.Scum like you need to change your religion because there is no such thing as cultural muslims.You are either a muslim (one that follows the tenets of islam) or you are not.A muslim can be of any ethnic group and colour but what all muslims have in common is they pray 5 times a day, fast etc etc. You and your secular friends like Ali Baba Brown and the Quillam lot do not have any support or influence in the muslim community.I as a muslim do not need or want your support.I used to see your ‘lot’ at university and the work place trying so hard to play the ‘i am one of you please let me into your club’.In one instance one particular individual who use to try to keep up with and outdo the other traders on the desk in their drinking outings was constantly ridiculed and humiliated to his face and behind his back and then he was fired after he won the previous night drinking marathon.One of the guys came to me one day and he said that the’guys dont like that you dont drink or engage with their social events but they respect you that at least you stick to your religion’.I am a muslim by act and conviction.There is no such things as a cultural muslim.You are a muslim if you practise Islam. So keyser jog on and go and cry in your pint because i dont give nats chuff for you or your ilk.

  18. LeedsLad says:

    lol, would you believe me if I said I was a Quran Muhafidh?

    Although I am learning the guitar having hit 30, it is no mistake for a Quran muhafidh like me to notice the people mostly at risk are those who just don’t measure up to Islam. Islam has standards, and it is not a simple case of putting the clothes, shouting profanities like “kill infidels” to impress some crazy girls, or growing beards.

    If Mohamed PBUH was alive today in the UK, he would have advised Muslims to not grow their beards as only such beards are common with tramps. Now explain the spirit of such Hadith in this common sense, and you get a riot of “Infidel” from all directions.

    The ideas behind the prayers is for man to respect the need to have rituals, and it is not to downgrade other Muslims or non-Muslims who do not pray or are not aware of Islam. The Muslim is not special in Allah’s book, and no better than his creations including the pigs, dogs, and monkeys.

    During the early days of Islam, there were men who would utter the Ashahada at the point of death(mostly when a Muslim was about to hand out a deadly strike to him/her having been in a violent dual). Obviously, if you were the one trying to disable your opponent you would kill them, and many Muslims did just that. However, they brought this up with the prophet PBUH suspecting foxiness on the part of those who uttered the Ashahada only for the prophet to curse them and asked “have you opened their heart”(to find out whether it was true or not).

    Now compare the prophets spirit to these “Muslims” who cheaply throw “infidel” word at anybody they don’t like including the rival grocery shop from next door. What did “infidel” do to you to deserve the needless contempt. Isn’t it all counter productive to peace; Islam.

    If the prophet was that much concerned about the enemy’s welfare and their Ashahada to join Islam, what do you want from the wayward persons who choose to lead a life unaccustomed to the Islamic rituals?

    The world is full of alcohol drinkers, and you need to keep these alcohol drinking Muslims to fight the other drunkards. I will advocate the same to unleash the Muslimahs to counter terrorists like that Melanie Philips. Viva Alcoholics Jihad!

  19. Keyser says:

    Big LOLZ Khan, here have a tissue wipe the froth of your face and calm down there’s a good chap.

    Let me correct some of your asinine assertions to which I will blame on your having a brain the size of a pea that is if your aforementioned brain has any capacity to appreciate nuance.

    1) I have never had a drop of alcohol in my life and never intend to so there is just as much risk of you crying over a pint as me, I suspect that’s an experience you have.

    2) A Muslim is not necessarily only someone who prays 5 times a day as you assert. A Muslim is someone who believes in the literal truth of the shahadah, granted if you do not pray 5 times a day that you’re probably not a good Muslim but a Muslim nonetheless.

    3) Thirdly do not associate me with Alibhai Brown and Quilliam I actually deplore them and their opinion on this matter in actual fact not that facts seem to matter to you not when you have silly assumptions.

    4) I could not give a tu’penny damn about your little tale at whatever polytechnic lowered its standards to let you in, where you met “one of my lots”. I am not stupid enough to take general points about whole swathes of people based on my perceptions of on isolated event in some pub somewhere, try to appreciate a bit of nuance.

    5) I don’t need to change my religion as I do not have any religion I just know and cherish the atmosphere and culture from which I was born, nurtured and raised upon.

    6) You are wrong there is and can be a cultural Muslim and it varies between people but I would define it as follows. Someone who is born to Muslim ancestry and actually celebrates, appreciates and cherishes that heritage and does not belittle or disassociate themselves from it. Someone who loves fellow people who also identifies with people, who call themselves Muslim, hurts when they are hurt and will do anything in their power to alleviate that suffering. Someone who shares the dreams and aspiration of those billion people in their search for justice and freedom from both internal and external oppression. A person who appreciates the beauty and goodness in Islam and does not automatically call it evil because they no longer have any faith. Someone who appreciates that theological believer must be allowed to practise their beliefs as they interpret their faith and I have no right to tell them which is the truth.

    You see Khan ultimately there are Cultural Muslims because we self identify as that and actually there are a growing numbers of us and we are skilled and intelligent. We would be a powerful asset in ensuring the prosperity of our community its traditions and faiths BUT only if sour hearted people like you don’t try to pour scorn and hatred on us at every turn, thereby ensuring an enmity and resentment forms and they totally leave and thereby weakening an already weak community. But I don’t suppose any of this will penetrate the poison that has infected your synapses. But whether you like it or not we are and we will call ourselves what we like. Please don’t suppose for a minute you speak for everyone because other people recognise we are your sons and daughters and they treat us accordingly.