- Egyptian cleric Fadel Soliman told students to do the hitting with a stick
- Preacher's one of many extremists permitted to voice views unchallenged
- Universities are legally required to stop extremists radicalising students
- Up to 19 universities could now face an inquiry by education watchdog
An Islamic cleric who defends domestic violence is among a string of extremist speakers touring British universities unchallenged, the Mail Investigations Unit can reveal.
Egyptian cleric Fadel Soliman spoke at five such events last year, using them to refer Muslim students to an online lecture series in which he speaks in favour of hitting women and outlines the Islamic case for sex slavery and polygamy.
Mr Soliman told students at Sheffield University that watching his lectures could be ‘a turning point’ in their lives.
In his extraordinary videos, he advises physical punishment for wives who have displeased their husbands, saying ‘the hitting must be done with a small stick’.
Egyptian cleric Fadel Soliman (pictured) spoke at five such events last year, using them to refer Muslim students to an online lecture series in which he speaks in favour of hitting women and outlines the Islamic case for sex slavery and polygamy
Explaining why it is necessary, he says that when a husband is unhappy with the behaviour of his wife, ‘after passing through two stages of non-physical interaction, the next stage must involve something physical, in order to escalate the intensity of the warning’.
The preacher is one of several extremists being permitted to espouse their views unchallenged at Britain’s universities – in a possible breach of the Government’s counter-extremism strategy, Prevent. Since September, universities and colleges are legally required to have policies to stop extremists radicalising students on campus. This includes an obligation to ‘ensure those espousing extremist views do not go unchallenged’.
The Mail revealed yesterday how CAGE – the notorious organisation which called Islamic State killer Jihadi John ‘a beautiful young man’ – has participated in at least 13 university events
since September, calling on students to sabotage Prevent.
Another group, MEND, an Islamist organisation whose director has condoned the killing of British troops, appeared in at least ten events on campuses across the country last term.
And a speaker from an organisation which mocked last year’s Charlie Hebdo terror attack in Paris spoke at a student event despite having being refused permission, using the platform to tell students the State was ‘fundamentally racist’ and they should oppose Prevent.
Home Secretary Theresa May said the revelations show universities need to do more to stop ‘damaging, extremist rhetoric’ going unchallenged on campuses.
Up to 19 universities where the Mail identified extremist-linked speakers or events could now face an inquiry by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, it is understood.
Lord Carlile, one of Britain’s top legal experts, said last night that universities that allowed Mr Soliman to speak unchallenged had ‘failed in their duty of care’. He said: ‘This is a person who has given at least tacit approval to what sounds like criminal behaviour. Universities really should not be permitting people like this on to their campuses.’
Mr Soliman is thought to have spoken at Nottingham, Leicester, Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield universities. He urged young Muslims to watch his disturbing 30-part video series endorsing violent and extreme practices.
In one, he suggests it is acceptable for a man to hit his wife, if she repeatedly ‘goes out and refuses to say where she’s going’. He says: ‘The hitting must be done with a small stick’ and ‘should not be painful’, adding: ‘The true implication of the spanking is to sound an alarm that the husband has passed to a new stage of serious displeasure.’
The preacher is one of several extremists being permitted to espouse their views unchallenged at Britain’s universities – in a possible breach of the Government’s counter-extremism strategy, Prevent. Mr Soliman explained the hitting of wives should be carried out with a small stick (pictured)
WHAT IS MUSLIM ENGAGEMENT AND DEVELOPMENT (MEND)?
In another video he says it is forbidden for men and women to ‘engage in frivolous talk’, that ‘men and women should lower their gaze and avoid unnecessary eye contact, especially with lust’. He says Muslims should avoid interacting with members of the opposite sex, even at work, and women should not wear perfume as it ‘arouses men’. In other videos, he outlines the Islamic case for sex slavery and polygamy.
At an event at the University of Sheffield on December 3, Mr Soliman urged 120 Muslim students: ‘Put these videos on your Facebook pages, share it with people.’ He was also allowed to speak at the University of Manchester last month, despite concerns being raised by university staff. At the event, the cleric said: ‘They told me not to say anything controversial.’
Mr Soliman denies he supports domestic violence. He said: ‘I have provided the Mail with a detailed response to the allegations which are published in this article and informed them in detail why I am not guilty of the things which they allege against me. Once the paper is published, I will respond to the allegations on my own website.’
He has a strong following among young female students. The Sheffield event – which was not formally segregated but at which men and women sat on opposite sides of the hall – had an audience of more than 100 students, mostly female.
Beforehand, groups of young women could be heard discussing how much they ‘love’ Mr Soliman – even making swooning gestures and fanning themselves. One woman in her early 20s, who travelled from London, told others how excited she was to see the cleric in person.
Debora Green, Head of Student Support and Wellbeing at the University of Sheffield, said: 'External speakers play a central role in university life and allow students to be exposed to a range of different beliefs, challenge other people’s views and develop their own opinions.
'Like all universities, the University of Sheffield adheres to UUK guidelines and we have our own protocols and procedures that have to be satisfied before external speakers are given the green light to speak at campus events. This event was no exception.
'The University takes its role in preventing people being drawn into terrorism extremely seriously and is committed to protecting the safety of our staff and students. We are actively involved in the Government's Prevent strategy and have had strong partnerships with the police and security services for a number of years.'
Another organisation allowed to speak unchallenged at recent university events is MEND – a radical Islamist group that has been associated with a number of extremist statements. MEND’s head of community development, Azad Ali, has suggested the killing of British troops can be justified.
He has also said that the 2008 Mumbai attacks, in which a gang of Islamist militants slaughtered more than 160, were ‘not terrorism’ and that implementing Sharia law was more important than democracy.
Last year MEND supported hardline Indian preacher Zakir Naik – who claims that ‘every Muslim should be a terrorist’ – calling on the Government to revoke a ban on him travelling to the UK. Despite this, it was permitted to host ten university events last term.
SUPPORTERS OF THE NOTORIOUS BLIND SHEIKH: WHAT IS THE ISLAMIC HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION?
At one MEND-linked event, at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, speakers suggested the treatment of Muslims was akin to Jews under the Nazis. They also suggested IS had been created by ‘power structures’ in the West. One speaker, Sahar Al Faifi, said: ‘It’s within their interest to fuel Islamophobia. It’s within their interest to sell more weapons. It’s within their interest to make the Middle East unstable.’ These views went unchallenged at the event, entitled Muslim Women In The West.
Another group given platforms at student events is the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC). It is notorious for bestowing an ‘Islamophobes of the Year’ award on the murdered staff of Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Like CAGE and MEND, IHRC has been involved in the Students Not Suspects university movement, which campaigns against Prevent. An advocate of IHRC, Lena Mohamed, was invited to lead a talk at SOAS in September, where she encouraged students to sabotage counter-extremism measures at universities.
At an event in Manchester, Mrs Mohamed denied extremism was an issue at universities and said the State was ‘fundamentally racist’. Yesterday a SOAS spokesman said the school was confident it upheld its duties under Prevent, adding: ‘We provide a forum for speakers who ... represent different viewpoints. We encourage open debate and aim to create an atmosphere where all perspectives can be aired and challenged.’
MEND said there had ‘never been any substantiated links’ between it and extremism ‘and all allegations to the contrary are false’. It denied it had any role in organising the Muslim Women In The West event at SOAS.
IHRC said: ‘Our opposition to Prevent is well documented and our views are shared by many individuals and organisations, from unions, teachers, lecturers, students, lawyers and academics to some politicians. As a human rights organisation, we support everyone’s rights, regardless of whether we agree with them.’
Students are at greater risk of being radicalised by Islamic State as a result of CAGE’s campus campaign, warned former reviewer of UK terror legislation Lord Carlile (pictured)
Mail is praised for exposing how our students are at risk
Students are at greater risk of being radicalised by Islamic State as a result of CAGE’s campus campaign, a former reviewer of UK terror legislation warned last night.
Lord Carlile said universities, including King’s College London, SOAS, Manchester and Birmingham, that allowed representatives from the controversial group to speak unopposed at student events last term had been irresponsible.
CAGE is ‘helping the propaganda’ put out by IS by misleading students into believing they were being spied on and victimised, he said.
He led a furious reaction yesterday to the Mail’s revelation that extremists have been allowed to spout their views unchallenged at UK universities. Students attending the talks would be more vulnerable to being radicalised as a result of such messages and CAGE was unwittingly helping the IS cause, Lord Carlile said.
‘Somebody convinced by CAGE that the West has it in for Muslims, and that it treats them in a seriously discriminatory and unjust way, will be low-hanging fruit when it comes to Islamist recruitment. Apologists for what happened in Paris – for example on the basis that no children were killed – are misleading students.’
He called on the universities involved to investigate the events concerned. ‘The universities revealed in the Daily Mail investigation are extremely reputable… I would expect them all to re-examine their policies as to what is permissible on their campuses,’ he said.
Other experts also criticised universities for not doing more to hold extremist views to account.
Terror expert Professor Anthony Glees said CAGE were ‘craven apologists for terrorism’ and exactly the kind of ‘non-violent extremists’ the new Prevent rules for universities were supposed to crack down on.
‘This is very disturbing. Universities are providing a safe space for CAGE to brainwash young people,’ he said.
‘I hope that the outcome will be the exclusion of CAGE from our campuses and particularly from Islamic student societies.
‘The Mail is doing us a huge national service by exposing the activities of CAGE in such detail.’ Rupert Sutton, director of Student Rights – run by the Henry Jackson Society think-tank – said: ‘Extremism on university campuses remains a serious issue.
‘The sheer number of events logged last term where extreme or intolerant speakers spoke without challenge suggests too many universities are not properly enforcing their own speaker policies.
‘Groups like CAGE have sought to undermine counter-extremism work for years, so it is no surprise to see them now targeting students.
‘The toxic message of persecution and oppression spread at these events risks driving anger and misplaced grievance in students, while urging those best-placed to notice the signs of radicalisation in vulnerable individuals to boycott policies designed to ensure those people get help is disgraceful.’
Last night Birmingham University said CAGE ‘had not been referenced’ on the application or the promotional material for the event it hosted, adding it ‘takes the threat of extremism on campus very seriously’.
King’s College London said it had not been aware of all the speakers in advance of a CAGE event held there but added that it did not consider they had incited hatred or violence.
Manchester University said a senior representative was at the event it hosted and ‘we do not believe extremist views were espoused’.