Once again, the London School of Economics continues to embarrass itself and its reputation with an unequivocal defense of Reza Pankhurst. The Islamic Society and countless others have sprung to his defense, and Pankhurst himself has denounced the “McCarthyite witch-hunt” of recent disclosures of his membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir. However, the only reason the story broke in the national press was because the LSE Islamic Society failed to address the concerns of some members over Pankhurst’s affiliations.
Those few students who have bothered to criticize the school for its recent failings have been dismissed as “pro-Israeli loons” and “morally blinkered propagandists.” I know at least one has received a number of threats from those who disagree with him. Whatever happened to respectful debate? There is nothing ‘illogical’ with concerns over an academic institution lending a member of an extreme organization a platform and respectability, especially when the individual holds private indoctrination sessions with selected groups of students.
The mind reels on a number of levels, but I’ll try to categorize my thoughts in a fairly logical order.
To begin with, Hizb ut-Tahrir is undoubtedly an extremist organization (though HT would seek to do away with the ‘extremist’ and ‘moderate’ labels). It’s true that they have renounced violence, but nevertheless the goal of the organization is a “restoration of the Islamic caliphate.” It does not allow for a dual identity or full integration into the West. A promotional video told Muslims to ask themselves: “are they British or are they Muslim?” No hyphenation allowed.
Other Muslim organizations, such as the anti-extremist Quillam Foundation, have condemned HT and its “destructive, confrontational message.” It is banned in Germany and Russia, and an attempt to do so was made by the National Union of Students in the 1990s. The issue with Pankhurst’s membership is not, as he assumes, that one might presuppose “a move towards terrorism.” It is in fact a disagreement with the aims and methods of Hizb ut-Tahrir itself.
In Copenhagen, a leaflet was passed out by HT members exhorting Muslims to: ”‘kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have been turned you out.’ The leaflet also said, ‘The Jews are a people of slander…a treacherous people… they fabricate lies and twist words from their right context’.”
Which of course brings us back to the incredibly subtle and insidious streak of antisemitism on campus. Somehow the mere fact that the Islamic University of Gaza is a ‘university’ defends it from any criticism. Not the case. IUG has a long track record of radicalism, anti-semitism, and support for terrorism. It is renowned as a Hamas stronghold (and not just by “IDF sources,” as some would claim).
The school’s reputation is at stake here. So is any claim it may have to respectability and being taken seriously. David Harris uses the old term “useful idiots” to describe the defenders of Pankhurst and the general extremism at the school, and a more appropriate one would be hard to find. Naturally, Harris was immediately ‘discredited’ thanks to his membership on the American Jewish Council. Are Jews not allowed to defend themselves anymore against a backlash of hate?
And now the school is even providing financial support to IUG. As one commenter asked, “Is £433.20 the price of LSE’s reputation as a liberal institution?” Of course the answer is no. We didn’t have to spend a dime.