Outrage as SOAS invites Hizbollah-linked speaker

By Marcus Dysch, February 19, 2009

Jewish groups have attacked plans to bring a Hizbollah-linked journalist to Britain for a conference on Islam.

Ibrahim Mousawi is expected to speak at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) next month, after a similar appearance in November.

He edits Lebanese newspaper Al Intiqad and previously worked for the Shi’ite TV station, Al Manar.

The Board of Deputies and the CST said that his presence would cause great concern to the Jewish community.

But Professor Paul Webley, SOAS director, said Mr Mousawi would not be given a platform to air his personal views and that Jewish students should not be worried about his attendance, though he admitted some concerns had been raised within the school’s Israeli and Modern Jewish Studies department.

Mr Mousawi’s proposed appearance contrasts with Britain’s banning of controversial Dutch MP Geert Wilders last week. He was deported after defying a Home Office ban in an attempt to present his film Fitna, which criticises the Koran, at the House of Lords.

Board of Deputies spokesman Mark Frazer said: “We have seen very recently that the government is willing to take a stand against extremists who seek to bring their hateful agendas to the UK and we have been very clear that Mousawi, Yusuf al-Qaradawi and others should fall into that category.

“We have made our concerns very clear to the Home Office in the past and we will certainly do so again.” Home Secretary Jacqui Smith can exclude or deport non-British individuals if she feels their presence in the country is not conducive to the public good.

Mr Mousawi has visited Britain a number of times in the past two years for conferences and to give speeches arranged by the Stop the War Coalition.

Mark Gardner, CST director of communications, said: “There is no doubt that if Mr Mousawi were to be admitted then we would have to ask some very serious questions indeed about the fairness of the visa exclusion process.”

Mr Mousawi’s last visit was said to have caused divisions in Whitehall, with the Home Office, Foreign Office and immigration officials apparently at odds over his admission.

Last updated: 10:56am, February 19 2009