The Jewish Chronicle
By <!-- Author Start -->Marcus Dysch, April 22, 2010
An anti-extremism campaigner has attacked the Union of Jewish Students and claimed that it bowed to pressure from Islamic students by withdrawing an invitation to him to appear in a panel debate.
Douglas Murray, director of the Centre for Social Cohesion think tank, was expected to take part in a UJS-organised discussion on hate speech at the National Union of Students conference in Gateshead last week.
But UJS dropped him after the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) refused to share a platform with him.
Mr Murray has regularly criticised FOSIS for its stance on tackling extremism on campus and for hosting speakers such as Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical Muslim cleric linked to a series of terrorist attacks.
Following the fringe meeting, Mr Murray said: "This was the perfect demonstration of how things go wrong. If you have an opponent who regularly hosts speakers calling for your death, then there's not much to discuss with them.
"FOSIS has presented itself as being a mainstream body, while hosting these speakers. If that changes as a result of the event, that would be terrific, but that is not what happens. FOSIS will see this as a great victory."
He said he was still waiting for UJS to explain exactly why it had withdrawn his invitation.
"It's generally not the right way to deal with people who should be on your side. It's very foolish. I've broken my back for UJS over the years and cancelled two events to go to Gateshead. I would quite like an apology."
It was the first time UJS had shared a platform with FOSIS at NUS conference.
UJS chair Adam Pike defended the decision to cancel Mr Murray's appearance and said the Islamic group had been "put on trial" by Jewish students.
He said: "We acted pragmatically, prioritising the welfare of Jewish students above the fear of offending Mr Murray, and in so doing exposed FOSIS in front of 200 student leaders.
"FOSIS had no answer. They are guilty as charged for inviting antisemitic and homophobic hate-speakers on to campus. They are now under the close scrutiny of NUS and university authorities to show leadership, regulate their local Islamic Societies and take responsibility for their actions."
UJS said it had not withdrawn the invitation "under the illusion that FOSIS would do the same in times to come" and that FOSIS' refusal to share a platform with Mr Murray was "conspicuous and showed that their commitment to freedom of expression stretches only to those who preach hatred".
Support came from the European Union of Jewish Students, with its president Benjamin Zagzag saying UJS had acted "in the exact manner in which any organisation who is concerned with the welfare of its Jewish students should, and we stand solidly with them".
FOSIS did not respond to requests to comment on its role at the fringe event or Mr Murray's claims.