Re: “Islamic group in secret plan to recruit UK students”
Independent on Sunday
191 Marsh Wall
5th September 2005
Re: "Islamic group in secret plan to recruit UK students"
I write to complain about yesterday's article entitled "Islamic group in secret plan to recruit UK students" in the Independent on Sunday. The article appeared on the front page and inside page of the newspaper and on your Internet website.
The article claims to 'reveal' how 'banned' militants are going under cover on British campuses" and refers to our organisation, Hizb ut-Tahrir, for which I am the UK media representative.
The article alleges that, "A leading radical Islamist group which Tony Blair wants to ban is recruiting "vulnerable" young Muslim students at British universities under several cover names, The Independent on Sunday can reveal."
The only evidence cited by the newspaper for this allegation is that, "Muslim student leaders warned that Hizb would target "vulnerable" young Muslims when the new university term starts later this month."
The article then gives an alleged quote from Faisal Hanjra, a member of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies [FOSIS], "Before, we could stop the recruitment; we could save vulnerable people?Now, we have no idea who is targeting whom."
Earlier today, FOSIS issued a press release in which Faisal Hanjra, Head of Student Affairs, said: "It is ironic that the apparent quotes used were taken from a conference which specifically emphasised the need for responsible journalism. It is important that we do not get caught up in media hype and conjecture. Hizb ut-Tahrir UK is a non-violent organisation that operates within the law of the United Kingdom. Using emotive terms such as 'banned' and 'militants' leads one to question the intentions of the reporters who wrote this article. Deliberately attributing words to myself, words I did not use and quoting me out of context serves only to drive a wedge between members of the Muslim community and leads to a negatively skewed image of the Muslim population. At a time when the Muslim student community needs to be portrayed in its true light, this is an incredibly irresponsible act." [http://www.fosis.org.uk/sac/independent_onsunday.htm]
This press release throws into question the entire basis upon which the article was written. Faisal Hanjra and FOSIS deny that they have warned about Hizb ut-Tahrir's targeting of vulnerable young Muslims. They say that they have been quoted out of context and that the quotes have been fabricated. Given that considerable doubt has now been cast over the quotes attributed to FOSIS, the entire article sits on very shaky foundations indeed.
Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain denies any suggestion that it has a "secret plan to recruit UK students". We are an open organisation and our non-violent political work is carried out openly and not undercover as your article erroneously suggests. Indeed on the day this article was published, we held an open conference in Central London that was attended by over 1,000 delegates. The BBC website says, "HT is relatively open as radical organisations go. The National Union of Students has banned it among universities – but its members can often be found leafleting Muslims. They also hold fairly regular open meetings, demonstrations and conferences." [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4127688.stm]
Although the NUS has enforced a no platform policy, Hizb ut-Tahrir continues to work to overturn this policy. In places where there is a recent and significant first-hand experience of our ideas there has been weakening zeal for the NUS ban.
Further on in the article the following assertion is made; "Although both deny supporting violence, they are accused of radicalising young Muslims to the point where they attract the attention of terrorist recruiters."
The article fails to point out that Hizb ut-Tahrir categorically rejects the assertion that we radicalise young Muslims in this manner. Our position on this is clearly stated on our website www.hizb.org.uk and has been repeated again and again by our media spokesmen and representatives. The article would have been much more objective if it had identified who accuses the party of this and the proof they cite.
The article incorrectly states that Hizb ut-Tahrir failed to respond when approached for comment. We have records of all communications received by our media office by email, post or telephone, and have not received any request for comment from the Independent on Sunday. Our media representatives give dozens of interviews each week and are accessible 24 hours a day. Over the last week I have personally given interviews to BBC Online, BBC News 24, BBC World, Radio Free Europe, TF1 French Television, the Danish newspaper Politiken, the Times, the Guardian, the Press Association, ITN News, NHK Television, the Sunday Express, the Netherlands Press Association, Danish National Television and AFP. Before printing such serious allegations, we would expect that the Independent on Sunday would have made an effort to contact our media office, which is obviously not much trouble for most other leading media outlets, who regularly contact us for our views.
In conclusion, the article made serious allegations about our organisation on the flimsiest of evidence, which has in itself been called into question. In addition, you did not offer us any opportunity to respond to these allegations.
In the light of the above, we expect a full retraction and apology in the next edition of the Independent on Sunday.
Dr Imran Waheed
Media Representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain