‘In 2007, Yassin Nassari, the president of the University of Westminster Harrow Campus ISOC was arrested at Luton airport, when security staff found blueprints for military rockets in his luggage.’ Two years ago, the Global Ideas Society invited Jamal Harwood, a member of Hizb ut Tahrir‘s Executive Committee, to speak in an event. Just before this event took place, the university cancelled it, stating that it would, indeed, adopt the NUS No Platform Policy. This policy literally allows no platform to be given to extremist groups such as Hizb ut Tahrir and the BNP. Universities can choose whether to adopt this policy or not.
The University of Westminster made headlines last year for electing two alleged members of Hizb ut Tahrir as President and VP Education. Although an investigation was supposed to have taken place, I am dubious to whether it was. In the same year, the Global Ideas Society held yet another event giving platform to a Hizb ut Tahrir member.
Now this year the Global Ideas Society has yet again attempted an event featuring Jamal Harwood. On the day of the event, it was cancelled, with the Students’ Union releasing this statement:
Several students, a lecturer and Peter Tatchell, according to the University, who opposed the appearance of a Hizb ut Tahrir member, posed a violent threat to the event. They had planned to disrupt the event, though all were unsure whether it would escalate to violence or not. The University was unable to ensure the safety of both speakers and attendees; therefore the university decided to cancel the event.
I was personally involved in raising awareness with Student Rights and speaking to them about what should be done about it. During my correspondences I never heard of people planning on violence in protest to this event. I knew of people who were planning on attending to ask questions to trip up Harwood, but that was the extent of the ‘threat’. Unless by violent they meant anyone who disagreed with Harwood.
I was intrigued by their allegations that Peter Tatchell was involved in this apparent ‘violent threat to the event’. Peter Tatchell is a long time political campaigner who is particularly interested in LGBT rights. He has peacefully protested extremism in the past, though also has a record of condemning Islamophobia. Naturally, under such allegations, I decided to email him in hopes he would respond. A few hours later, he emailed me back. This is an excerpt of his response (emphasis my own):
It’s all lies.I had no knowledge of this event at all. I did not seek its cancellation or threaten to disrupt it. If I had known about the Hizb ut-Tahrir speaker, I would have protested peacefully against him (as I have done in the past). I have a long history of non-violent direct action. I have never in my 45 years of human rights campaigning committed any violent acts, even when violently assaulted myself.
In 1994, I was subjected to death threats from members of Hizb ut-Tahrir. They explicitly threatened to track me down and kill me.
Obviously, someone is lying. Considering Mr. Tatchell has been campaigning for 45 years and has a good reputation among honest people, I’m going to side with Peter.
I am a student at the University of Westminster. I am disgusted by the obvious scapegoating going on in my Students’ Union; this ‘union’ is meant to represent everyone, not scandalise innocent people. I am passionately against Islamophobia, and any sort of discrimination, but I am also against extremists targeting others in their strings of lies. I did not want to jump to conclusions about the status of my university. I love what I’m learning; my department is amazing. The Students’ Union, however, has been infiltrated by lying extremists. That much is clear.