U.K. Student Societies Tied to Muslim Brotherhood; Members Most Likely To Hold Intolerant Views


In a report on extremism among U.K. university students, the Center for Social Cohesion, a U.K. NGO, has outlined the Muslim Brotherhood ties of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies in the U.K. and Ireland (FOSIS), described as an umbrella grouping of most major university Islamic societies in the UK founded in 1962. According to the report:

Charities endorsed by FOSIS include Muslim charities such as Muslim Hands, Muslim Aid, Islamic Relief and Islamic Aid, as well as non-Islamic charities including Human Appeal International, Helping Hands Worldwide, Human Relief Foundation and Cancer Research UK. In addition, FOSIS promotes fund-raising by ISOCs for the charity Interpal, whose stated aim is to raise funds for projects delivering humanitarian aid to both Palestinians within territories under the control of the Palestinian Authority, and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. FOSIS has strong links with a variety of national Islamic organisations including the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), Jamiat Ihyaa Minhaaj Al-Sunnah (JIMAS), the educational foundation Utrujj and the Islamic Foundation (IF). Hanjra says: “We have a good working relationship with all the major Muslim organisations in the UK, in a variety of deals, be it encouraging people to get democratically involved, be it to invite issues etc.” The group’s website suggests that such links to national Islamic organisations make FOSIS “one of the largest, if not the largest representative organisation of Muslim youth in the UK”, which, by extension, “represents the views of Muslim students to the media.” Islamic societies nationwide are at least nominally affiliated, via FOSIS, to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), a registered charity and umbrella group which claims over 400 affiliates and describes itself as the largest Muslim organisation in the UK. Since its 1997 founding, the MCB has sought to position itself as the main voice of British Muslims. Yet, according to a 2006 Dispatches poll, ‘What Muslims want’, for Channel 4, less than 4% think that the MCB represents British Muslims. In addition, many of the group’s leaders and founders such as Khurshid Ahmad were formerly affiliated with Islamist parties in Pakistan such as Jamaat-e-Islami. FOSIS – and by extension ISOCs – also enjoy strong ties with the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), widely considered a British branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. A 2005 FOSIS publication claims these links help to foster greater tolerance within such organisations: “The involvement of many former FOSIS activists has helped in establishing an inclusive and broad-based ethos within other organisations such as the Muslim Association of Britain and the Muslim Council of Britain.” However, FOSIS and its constituent Islamic societies regularly book MAB leaders and activists, many of whom publicly support the Muslim Brotherhood, to speak on university campuses. One such speaker, Azzam Tamimi, a Hamas supporter, said in a BBC interview in 2006, “if I can go to Palestine and sacrifice myself I would do it.

Almost all of the organizations identified above are associated with the U.K. and global Muslim Brotherhood.

The report concludes that ISCC’s (campus Islamic societies) and FOSIS members are more likely to hold intolerant views:

Significant minorities of Muslim students – and particularly younger ones – support violence in the name of Islam, endorse punishing Muslim apostates “in accordance with the Sharia” and believe that men and women are not equal in the eyes of Allah and should not be treated equally. Comparable minorities, around 10 percent of Muslim students, also have little or no respect for Jews, atheists or homosexuals and support Islamist proposals such as re-creating the Caliphate, introducing Sharia law to Britain and establishing an Islamic political party. Sizable numbers, between 20 and 30 percent of Muslim students, also hold intolerant attitudes towards minority forms of Islam such as Shi’ism and Sufism. The report additionally suggests that active members of Islamic Societies are more likely than other Muslim students to hold such intolerant views – notwithstanding that active ISOC members are also more likely to believe that democracy and re-interpreting the Sharia are compatible with Islam. ISOC leaders and former members make up the membership of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS). However, as only a minority of Muslim students are active members of ISOCs, FOSIS’ claims to represent British Muslim students should be treated with caution. Treating FOSIS as representative of all Muslim students risks disproportionately empowering a small number of highly conservative, and sometimes Islamist, individuals at the expense of ordinary Muslims. At the same time, a significant minority of non-Muslims polled had a hostile view of Islam, being less respectful towards Muslims than towards other minorities such as Jews, homosexuals and atheists. Non-Muslims are also more likely to believe that the narrow and intolerant interpretations of Islam promoted by Islamist and conservative groups represent the “true” Islam: for example, more than half of non-Muslims polled believe that Islam favours inequitable treatment of women and is incompatible with secularism. This strongly suggests that Islamist groups and the ideas they promote are partly responsible for the intolerance found on campuses towards Muslim students and their religion. The poll results also indicate that a large proportion of Muslim students, up to 40 percent depending on the question, are undecided on key issues such as the legitimacy of religious violence, respecting others and whether Islam is compatible with secularism.

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