The Centre for Social Cohesion has made a press release available on the relationship between the government and Muslim students in the UK. They have placed special emphasis on the Federation of Students Islamic Societies in the UK and Ireland (FOSIS), which is worth printing out in full:
From November the UK government will begin working with the Federation of Student Islamic Societies in the UK and Ireland (FOSIS) to try to better understand Muslim students. This policy is likely to backfire given that FOSIS are unrepresentative of Muslim students and regularly give a platform to extremist speakers.
The Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) has announced plans to “commission a study exploring the views and attitudes of Muslim students in England” involving a poll of 1500 Muslim students and focus groups, overseen by a steering group consisting of representatives from the National Union of Students (NUS), the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and FOSIS.
FOSIS leaders are influenced heavily by a narrow form of political Islam, inspired by Islamist parties such as Jamaat-e-islami and the Muslim Brotherhood, and the group regularly gives a platform to extremist speakers at British and Irish universities.
In November FOSIS will give a platform to Dr Azzam Tamimi at universities in the UK and Ireland on at least three separate occasions. Tamimi will speak at the FOSIS Palestine Conference 2008 at Nottingham University on 1st November and two events at Trinity College in Ireland on “Islamic Revivalism in the 20th Century” and “Chronicles of Islamic Political Thought” on 7th and 8th November.
Azzam Tamimi is a senior member of the Muslim Association of Britain, the British wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, who has been criticised for his alleged links to Hamas and his public comments justifying suicide bombing and inciting jihad against non-Muslims. In 2006 he told one BBC interviewer: “if I can go to Palestine and sacrifice myself I would do it.” Tamimi is also an opponent of Muslim integration. Speaking at an event in Manchester in August 2006 he told the audience, “We are Muslims in Europe, not European Muslims.”
Contrary to government beliefs, FOSIS is not representative of Muslim students. FOSIS represents and is made up of – as its name makes clear – Islamic Society (ISOC) members. A poll carried out by YouGov and the Centre for Social Cohesion of over 600 Muslim students earlier this year found that those active in their campus ISOC only make up 11.25% of Muslim students. The survey also found that active ISOC members are more likely to subscribe to Islamist beliefs as well as being more likely to support religious violence, punishing Muslims who convert to other religions and the introduction of a worldwide caliphate based on Sharia law.
Douglas Murray, the director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, says:
“The government is right to identify the need to better understand the Muslim student population. Muslim students hold a diverse and broad range of beliefs and opinions. However, relying on FOSIS as a consultative body and treating them as representative of all Muslim students, risks disproportionately empowering a small number of highly conservative, and sometimes Islamist, individuals at the expense of the majority of Muslims.”
“The government should treat Muslim students as full, equal and diverse individuals, rather than as a bloc who can only be addressed and understood through self-appointed representatives such as FOSIS.”
This is congruent with a survey the CSC has commissioned: Islam on Campus: A survey of UK Students opinions. An executive summary of which can be found here (PDF).
And here are some of the worrying results:
Support for Sharia law in the UK and a worldwide Caliphate:
- Two fifths (40%) of Muslim students polled supported the introduction of Sharia into British law for Muslims.
- A third (33%) of Muslim students polled supported the introduction of a worldwide Caliphate based on Sharia law. A majority (58%) of active members of campus Islamic Societies supported this idea.
Islam as a political project:
- Over a sixth (15%) of respondents said that Islam as a religion and Islamism as a political ideology were part of the same thing, and that politics is a big part of Islam. A quarter of active members of campus Islamic Societies agreed.
- Over half of Muslim students polled (54%) were supportive of an Islamic political party to represent the views of Muslims at Parliament. By contrast, over half (61%) of non-Muslims poled were unsupportive.
Views on women:
- Almost a quarter (24%) of Muslim student respondents do not feel that men and women are fully equal in the eyes of Allah.
- Female students (38%) were also more likely than males (27%) to perceive inequitable treatment of men and women in their local communities. While 37% of male Muslim students felt men and women were treated equally, only 26% of females felt the same.
- The majority (89%) of Muslim students polled said that men and women should be treated equally, 5% said they should not and 6% were unsure.
- Nearly three fifths (59%) of Muslim students polled felt it was important to Islam that Muslim women wear the hijab.
- Active members of university Islamic societies (51%) were over twice as likely as non-members (25%) to agree that “women should wear the hijab â€“ female modesty is an important part of Islam.”
Isolation on Campus:
- 8% of Muslim students agree that “Most of my friends at university are Muslim because I have more in common with them than I do with non-Muslims”. However, this rises to 25% when active members of campus Islamic Societies are asked.
- 40% of Muslims said that they thought that it was unacceptable for Muslim men and women to mix freely.
- Nearly a third (30%) of non-Shia respondents agreed that minority Shia Muslims are not true believers in Islam, as compared to 15% of non-Sunni students who were hostile to the notion that majority Sunnis are true Muslims.
Students tend to be politically idealistic at university but ardour dies away soon after they graduate and leave college or university and find themselves face to face with gritty realities beyond the leafy campuses. The question is, will most of these Muslim students lose their Islamist tendencies when they leave university? Or are these ideas and attitudes carried on by a fair number of Muslim students well after graduation?
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Filed in: Muslim,Organisations