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Former Islamic radical claims ‘talk of jihad’ common at Queen Mary University Friday prayer

07:45 06 August 2015

Student Sohail Ahmed, who is a former Islamic radical, outside Queen Mary University of London

Student Sohail Ahmed, who is a former Islamic radical, outside Queen Mary University of London

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Former Islamic radical Sohail Ahmed paints a deeply troubling picture of extremism on campus at Queen Mary University of London.

Queen Mary University of London has been criticised for not doing enough to challenge extremism on campusQueen Mary University of London has been criticised for not doing enough to challenge extremism on campus

Over the last five years physics student Sohail Ahmed claims to have witnessed fiery speeches about jihad during Friday prayer at Queen Mary University of London, clandestine talks at the homes of “brothers” from the Islamic Society, and one student disappearing to reputedly join Isis and fight in Syria.

The 23-year-old former Islamic radical has spoken out as fears have been voiced about a “culture conducive” to non-violent extremism on campus at Queen Mary - as it is named in a new list of “worst offenders” for hosting radical preachers.

“It poses a very serious risk,” said Mr Ahmed. “I know a good few people who were not radical at all when they entered the university but they end up talking about some very radical views once they’ve listened to a few talks and got riled up and impassioned by fiery speeches.

“There would be discussions about jihad, about fighting the kuffar and establishing the khilafah (Arabic for caliphate), talk about ‘the West is evil and is trying to destroy Islam with their evil secularism’, really fiery speeches during Friday prayers.”

Mr Ahmed, born to Pakistani parents in east London, grew up in a household that believed in the extreme Wahhabi Salafi interpretation of Islam and he was radicalised at an early age.

Already with a deep hatred of the UK and a firm belief that he was living in “enemy territory”, he claims he considered carrying out an attack on home soil when he was 16 or 17-years-old by placing a bomb at a high profile location. He says he never went beyond “scoping out a few places”.

On arrival at Queen Mary in 2010 to study medicine he found little evidence of his extremism being mirrored at the Whitechapel campus.

“I was the most radical guy there in probably the entire medical school,” he said.

But when he transferred to study physics at the university’s main campus in Mile End in 2012 he experienced a sea-change.

“That’s where the proper radicalism was,” he says, “I wasn’t alone anymore. There were lots of people like myself who agreed with my mode of thinking.”

This thinking included discussion about jihad, fighting the ‘kuffar’, and establishing a caliphate.

Mr Ahmed, who has since left Islam and come out as being gay, has grave concerns about the influence of Queen Mary’s Islamic Society, of which he was a member.

“If I were in charge I would most definitely break up the Islamic Society,” he said.

“Right now, everyone that runs the Islamic Society, they’re all Salafis, radicals, that’s not in question. I’d either completely get rid of the society or put people that are less radical in charge.”

But he says the problem has grown from a wider failure to engage with and tackle the threat from radical Islamism.

“When I was in school no one was radical,” he said. “People used to look down on me, I was ostracised. But over the years that I’ve been at university everyone was radicalised like me.

“That didn’t happen in a vacuum. That happened slowly with the innovation of Saudi Wahhabi literature backed by the influx of Saudi preachers. All of that stuff hasn’t happened by itself.”

Queen Mary Student Union and the university’s Islamic Society did not comment when contacted by the East London Advertiser.

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