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Posted on Nov 20, 2013

Controversial Student Leader Speaks at Extremist Event

Controversial Student Leader Speaks at Extremist Event

– Colin Cortbus, Stand for Peace Fellow

Controversial student leader Aaron Kiely, leader of the NUS Black Students Campaign, is to speak at a university society event linked to radical Islamists. Today he will be chairing an event called the “Rise of Islamophobia in Britain” and hosted by SOAS Islamic Society and the  SOAS Stop the War Society.

Aside from Kiely, the event will feature Dr Abdool Karim Vakil, Arzu Merali and Azad Ali as speakers.

Azad Ali, who is linked to the fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe, was once suspended by the civil service for blog posts that appeared to refer supportively to the killing of British soldiers in Iraq. He lost a libel case against the Mail on Sunday in this regard with the judge, Justice Eady, finding that he “was indeed … taking the position that the killing of American and British troops in Iraq would be justified”.  He further described the now dead Al-Qaeda leadership figure Anwar Al-Awlaki as “one of my favourite speakers and scholars” and claimed that, despite some disagreements, Awlaki had “an uncanny way of explaining things to people, which is endearing”. Azad Ali has also admitted to attending “many talks” by hate preacher Abu Qataba. Ali was filmed by Channel 4 undercover reporters saying, “democracy, if it means at the expense of not implementing the sharia, of course no one agrees with that”.

Dr Abdool Karim Vakil, an academic specialising in Portuguese history at King’s College London, is the Chair of the Research & Documentation Committee of the Muslim Council of Britain. The government suspended its links with the Muslim Council of Britain in 2009 after its Deputy Secretary-General, Daud Abdullah, reportedly signed the Istanbul Declaration, which called for violence against Jews and expressed support for Hamas. The Muslim Council of Britain also boycotted Holocaust Memorial Day in 2006 and 2009, although it is now reported to have changed its stance.

Arzu Merali is the co-founder and Director of Research at the Islamic Human Rights Commission, a group that has been accused of supporting the Iranian regime, promoting extremism, and organising the pro-Hezbollah annual Al Qods Day parade in London. Its leader, Massoud Shadjareh, also strongly criticised SOAS for withdrawing an invitation to the convicted French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy in 1999.

Arzu Merali is rather unconventional human rights advocate: she writes about the “problems” of the globally recognised “Universal Declaration of Human Rights, its inherent racism and cultural bias”.  She criticised British Muslim fundamentalists who claim that “homosexuality is a disease” by arguing, “since when did Allah s.w.t. punish someone for a disease rather than a deviation?” Shockingly, she also appears to trivialise child sex abuse, writing:

The fourteen year old girl brought up in social housing, the child of a single parent, and friend of many other single mothers her own age. What rights has she got in this liberal democracy from whence human rights, the religion, was born. In its crudest analysis it is as barbaric as any Pakistani girl of the same age forced into marriage. If the child of liberal democracy decides to run off and marry the Turkish waiter she met on holiday, whatever else we may think or expect, we should understand that she feels she’s escaped an oppressive life. To allow her to be repatriated back to her old world, and then jail her husband for statutory rape, is not just a failure of Muslim vision, but a failure to protect this girl’s dream of freedom”.

Merali has also very recently published an article in an Iranian state-run academic journal, arguing that ,“the claims of women calling for gender justice from Islamist oriented movements, i.e. advocating a traditional or closely textual or re-envisioned or reformed politicized Islamic model, e.g. in Hamas, the Islamic Republic [of Iran] …  have been noted to have increased women’s participation in the public sphere in a way that positivist feminist movements have been unable to; in short, Islamic feminism was subsumed by a counter-revolutionary narrative”.

Aaron Kiely is highly controversial and has featured negatively in a number of newspapers over his record and expenses as a London Labour councillor and his support of certain political causes, including that of Abu Qataba. The Black Students Campaign has also faced accusations of racism from delegates at its own 2013 conference, with one prominent delegate, Samantha Jury-Dada (LSE Labour Students), claiming she was racially abused because of her mixed heritage.



  1. The strange affair of ‘Councillor’ Aaron Kiely | The Heckler - […] of speakers such as Azad Ali linked to Islamic fundamentalist groups. See here for the full story: Quite…

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