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A panel of four was put together to investigate the Islamic Students’ Society at Westminster University in 2015, following complaints about the society’s conduct. Some of these complaints were made by other Muslims and the report found that complaints were often underplayed or ignored through fears of being seen as Islamophobic. The panel included Lord Kenneth Morgan, a historian, and Fiyaz Mughal, who runs the Faith Matters think tank and is a former adviser on interfaith matters to Nick Clegg. In the PDF attachment you can find out more about the work of Faith Matters.

Report Commission

The report found that attitudes deemed as sometimes being intimidatory or hostile to women were often tacitly tolerated on campus by university officials, which was called unacceptable. Members of the Islamic society committee were discovered to have refused to engage with Muslim staff who were female, obliging those female members to seek help from other men in order to communicate with the society.

Mohammed Emwazi, known in the media as Jihadi John, was found to have been a former Westminster University graduate. Emwazi became known to the public as the masked figure featured in the Isis series of videos in which hostages, including citizens of the United Kingdom and the United States, were beheaded. The report was commissioned by Westminster following this revelation, looking at the balance between diversity and free speech on campus.

Ultra-Conservative Views

The report was initially commissioned due to fears that the society was fomenting hatred and extremist views. Fiyaz Mughal, who served on the inquiry panel, concluded that this was not the case, although it was revealed that the society was dominated by ultra-conservative Muslims espousing views that held very strict codes in terms of matters such as faith and correct dress. He also called out such practices which restricted the rights of young female Muslim students to study and enjoy the freedom to be a student, without misogynistic and patriarchal views being hoisted on them by young students who thought it was their moral duty to act as ‘guardians’ for the morality of women. This, Mughal concluded, was not only perverse, it acted against the pastoral requirements of societies and made them akin to being ‘the morality police’.

Mughal further asked how healthy this is in a modern society with pluralistic communities where the way in which we think is rapidly being changed by increased access to information. There was no evidence found of hatred or extremist views towards other groups within the university, such as the LGBT community or those of the Jewish faith. Faith Matters, an organisation founded by Fiyaz Mughal, upholds the tenets of the Equality Act 2010, which you can read more about in the infographic attachment.

Controversial Speaker Cancelled

A planned address to the society by Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad was cancelled following the identification of ‘Jihadi John’. Sheikh al-Haddad is reported as having described homosexuality as a criminal act and a scourge and has been recorded talking about a future time in which Islam would become a world superpower.

New Regulations

New regulations were due to come into force just after the findings of this report were published, which prevent higher education establishments from allowing extremists on campus to speak to single-sex only audiences or to attempt to radicalise students. Westminster University’s response to the report was to tighten rules relating to speakers coming from external organisations and to work harder to promote mutual respect and diversity within the student community. You can find out more about the history of Westminster University in the short video attachment.

Fiyaz Mughal was honoured in the Queen’s 2009 birthday honours list with an OBE for his charitable work promoting social cohesion and combatting hate crime and extremism. As well as Faith Matters, Mughal also founded Tell MAMA, an anti-Muslim hate crime reporting service operating throughout the UK. He has personally raised funds, established policies and provided leadership to both of these non-profit organisations.