On 25 November 2021, a coalition of Manchester student groups hosted an online event, backed in part by a UK government-funded group, that featured a book by a controversial British Muslim activist who has supported “Jihad” in Muslim conflict zones. According to a post on the blog of Foreign Policy:
November 14, 2021 Policy Exchange’s Understanding Islamism project has exposed an event scheduled for the 25 November to discuss the book ‘I refuse to condemn’ by Asim Qureshi of CAGE.
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According to the post, the online discussion was co-organized by three initiatives:
- Decolonise University of Manchester (UoM), a collective of UoM staff and students aimed at “decolonizing” the university’s curriculum
- Our Shared Cultural Heritage (OSCH), a youth-led project dedicated to exploring “the shared cultures and histories of the UK and South Asia.”
- Radical Readers, a reading group set up by OSCH
OSCH is a project of the British Council (BC), a non-governmental educational charity that received a 2018 grant of more than £868,000 from the government’s Heritage Lottery Fund to support the project. The BC has said it did not provide individual funding for the book event itself.
The event’s organizers also advertised the sale of the book, providing discount codes to potential buyers. The book was made available to read free of charge for Manchester University students and staff. Mr. Qureshi himself did not speak at the book discussion..
Asim Qureshi serves as Research Director of CAGE, a controversial UK Muslim advocacy group tied to the Global Muslim Brotherhood in the UK. According to British media, during a 2006 protest, Qureshi advocated supporting violent Jihad overseas in conflict zones involving Muslims, saying:
When we see the example of our brothers and sisters fighting in Chechnya, Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan, then we know where the example lies. When we see Hezbollah defeating the armies of Israel, we know where the solution is and where the victory lies. We know that it is incumbent upon all of us, to support the jihad of our brothers and sisters in these countries when they are facing the oppression of the West.
In 2015, he gained notoriety for describing the IS executioner Mohammed Emwazi as a “beautiful young man.”
Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani has criticized the National Lottery for indirectly funding OSCH, saying that it could bring the organization into disrepute. Labour MP Khalid Mahmood joined Ghani in criticizing the Lottery, claiming that CAGE and Qureshi have “consistently shown themselves to be some of the worst [of Britain].”