Islamic student group faces ban after unrest

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The Independent Online
London University's School of Oriental and African Studies is considering banning an Islamic fundamentalist group's meetings after mounting criticism and claims of intimidation.

Leaders of the Jewish community have warned the school, which specialises in international affairs, that it risks becoming an unofficial base for the Hizb ut Tahrir by continuing to allow talks by its Muslim society, the 1924 Committee.

Some members of the committee openly admit connections with Hizb ut Tahrir, a group which has been outlawed in some universities because of its extremist views. Jewish campaigners claim its pamphlets and posters have called for the killing of Jews.

Officials at the school have always insisted that the 1924 Committee which meets regularly on campus has never broken the law or the school's rules.

But the mounting tension was evident on Thursday when Jewish students picketed a 1924 Committee talk entitled 'Israel the Apartheid state'.

During the meeting, the chairman, Faisal Muhammad, a member of Hizb ut Tahrir, outraged Jewish observers by paying tribute to the suicide bomber from the Hamas Islamic resistance movement, whose attack in Tel Aviv on 19 October killed 22 people and injured 40. Police were called to disperse the crowd after the Jewish protesters refused to leave without an escort and the Islamic group also refused to quit the building.

Yesterday, Frank Dabell, the school's secretary, said senior academics and representatives of the National Union of Students were meeting on Monday to reconsider the policy. He said: 'We will be reviewing our position in a meeting with academics and the college's student representatives on Monday.

Until then I cannot say whether we will impose a ban or not. My concern is that any institution like ours should be seen to allow academic debate and free speech.'

A rethink would be a victory for Jewish campaigners. The Jewish Chronicle reported this week that community leaders were increasingly concerned about the group's activities at the university school.

A spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews said: 'We believe the school has failed to take any action in the past to stop provocations against Jewish students. Other campuses are imposing strict restrictions or banning these groups, which often use a different name, but which we believe are spreading the message of the Hizb ut Tahrir.'

Burhan Hanif, president of the 1924 Committee and a member of Hitz ut Tahrir, defended the group's right to meet. He said that posters calling for the killing of Jews had not been distributed at the school, and the issue had been taken out of context. 'The word can be interpreted as kill and defeat come judgement day, not today.'

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