Middlesex University bans Hizb ut-Tahrir

Middlesex University 'bans' Hizb ut-Tahrir

Middlesex University has suspended Student Union president Keith Shilson and revoked his studentship indefinitely because he refused to cancel a debate with Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Statement from the Islamic Human Rights Commission

The Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir had been invited by the Student Union of Middlesex University to take part in a Question & Answer meeting next Wednesday 28 September 2005. Last week, the Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Michael Driscoll, ordered the Student Union to cancel the invitation to Hizb ut-Tahrir. The Student Union was told that if it did not cancel the invitation, the meeting would be "banned". Student Union President Keith Shilson refused to cancel the invitation arguing that it should be allowed on the ground of freedom of speech.

Due to this refusal to cancel the invitation, Mr Shilson was yesterday suspended from the university, had his studentship revoked indefinitely and was escorted from campus by university security. Hizb ut-Tahrir has not been banned by the Government or on campus in Middlesex University and promotes a non-violent approach to political change. It has repeatedly condemned acts of terrorism such as the London bombings as having no justification in Islam.

The Vice Chancellor’s decision to suspend Mr Shilson is a clear sign of the new form of McCarthyism currently at play both on university campuses and in the wider British society. We have reached a stage now where not only Muslims are being persecuted for their beliefs but also members of other communities who may defend Muslims against such persecution or simply seek to understand their beliefs.

Statement from SACC

The government's proposal to outlaw organisations like Hizb ut-Tahrir that have no connection with violence is a disturbing new development. It's even more disturbing to find institutions like Middlesex University acting in a way apparently designed to build a mood favourable to this highly controversial proposal.

SACC has always argued against the powers to ban organisations contained in the Terrorism Act 2000. In many cases the banned organisations are connected with armed struggle in a foreign country, often against regimes recognised as oppresive by almost everyone. Their activities are arguably no less valid than the armed actions of the states concerned - states with which Britain maintains diplomatic relations and in some cases enjoys warm relations. Some of the banned organisations - for example the PKK and the Tamil Tigers - were engaged in peace processes at the time of their banning. Banning them has tended to either destabilise these peace processes, or confer a negotiating advantage on the governments with whom they were in dispute. People associated with these organisations often suffer gross human rights abuses in their own country and need to seek refuge in countries like Britain. Making membership of these organisations a criminal offence in Britain has put many asylum-seekers in a desperate catch-22 situation, and has the effect of criminalising entire refugee/emigre communities.

For all these reasons, SACC continues to oppose widened definitions of "terrorism" that include armed and unarmed resistance to overseas governments, and to oppose the blacklisting of organisations connected with resistance movements. But the government's latest proposals extend the blacklisting still more widely, to include organisations whose only offence is to promote political views that Tony Blair finds distasteful. This is absolutely unacceptable.

SACC does not support organisations that promote racial hatred; we support the use of existing laws against racial hatred. We have campaigned successfully on a number of occassions to prevent the BNP spreading their message of hate. So we find it deeply offensive that Blair and his media fellow-travellers are using terms like "preachers of hate" against anyone who expresses a dislike of imperialism. Many of our supporters would differ sharply with Hizb ut-Tahrir on a number of important matters. But Hizb ut-Tahrir does not engage in activities that are currently illegal and does not spread racial hatred; we defend its right to participate in public discussion.