In March this year, it was reported that a number of students and lecturers had come out in criticism of the Prevent counter-terrorism strategy, arguing that it was "open to discriminatory interpretations" and that it unfairly singled out the risk of Islamist extremism as a threat.
Over the last month however, research by Student Rights has uncovered a number of disturbing videos that have been shared on the Facebook page of the Islamic Society at the University of Westminster which demonstrate the danger posed by such extremists.
Posted by an account claiming to be based in Somalia which uses the war flag of the militant group Al-Shabaab as its profile picture, and called 'The Names of Aweys' in reference to the Somali jihadist Hassan Dahir Aweys, these videos glorify violence and encourage support for terrorism.
The damaging effect that this can have was demonstrated all too well in the case of Roshonara Choudhry, the King's College London student who told police interviewers after she attempted to assassinate Stephen Timms MP that she drew her inspiration from sermons and lectures that she had watched on the internet, as well as video of the 'resistance' in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of those posted, it is a video called 'What is the least we can do for the Mujahideen', posted on 5 April, which is the most serious. It features a slide show of photographs showing insurgent fighters posing with weapons, and a voiceover by Abdul Rahman Saleem, who was convicted of inciting racial hatred in 2007 after he was filmed shouting "UK, USA, 7/7 on its way. UK you will pay, Bin Laden is on his way" at a march against the publications of cartoons of Muhammad.
In the video he can be heard saying that Muslims should "Ask Allah to remove those Kuffar from our lands, ask Allah to let their blood run on the streets of Fallujah, let their blood run in the mountains of Afghanistan, let the Mujahideen kill them and destroy them one after the other". He also states that they should pray that Coalition soldiers "women become widows, like our women become widows" and "their children become orphans, like our children become orphans".
He also tells listeners that "There is nobody like them today, the Mujahideen. When we speak about them, when we hear about them, we walk with our heads up high" and that "we should make dua [pray] for them, that's the least that we can do, for those who can't go and fight. And know that if you don't go and fight you're not going to be following the shahada [expression of faith]".
In another video posted called 'Is the Ummah living in the new Gold Rush', a voiceover by the Al-Qaeda affiliated cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki states that that "we just need to realise it, realise how much ajira [life after death] is out there waiting for us if we just go and do something" and that "you can't even imagine how much ajira is out there to be handed out...we don't want to be waiting on the sidelines when all this is happening. People are going and making millions and you're sitting at home doing nothing".
This is accompanied by another slideshow of insurgent pictures, including Chechen militant Shamil Baseyev and the Palestinian Abdullah Azzam, seen by many as one of the most influential jihadist figures of the 20th Century.
As well as these two videos, this poster has also shared footage of a German insurgent in Afghanistan saying that "If the Arabian peninsula, the blessed land of Muhammad, continues to be occupied by the polytheists and apostates then it is upon us to expel them".
There is not just one profile posting these videos though, as other individuals have also shared extremist material, frequently involving Anwar Al-Awlaki, a known terrorist recruiter and ideologue who was killed in a drone strike in Yemen last year. These have included video of his lectures and sermons, as well as a deeply creepy tribute video which received six 'likes' and a comment saying "very inspirational brother...may Allah grant him jannatul firdous [highest level of paradise]. I recommend everyone to watch his talk the battle of hearts and minds".
This encouragement to watch more extreme videos, such as 'The Battle of Hearts and Minds', which states that "the fundamentalists and extremists, whom they [the West] despise, are not only going to win in Afghanistan and Iraq, but they will continue their march, until they drag your people, the Jews, out of the Holy Land and plant their black banners on the roof tops of Jerusalem", is a clear example of radicalisation at work.
These videos have been removed by the Islamic Society since Student Rights first wrote about them on 16 April but the issue cannot be hidden that easily. They can be interpreted as glorifying violent terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in their implication that participation in such activity is a religious duty, attempt to recruit young men and women in the most insidious way. Given that Roshonara Choudhry is now behind bars after falling prey to such encouragement, these videos must raise further questions about the risks of other students being radicalised on campus.
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