Ex-Islamist radical says extremism rampant in British universities
He even planned a bomb attack on Canary Wharf
Until he was 21, Sohail Ahmed preached downfall of Western civilisation and the urgent need for an Islamic Empire.
He spent years turning naïve Muslim pupils to embrace a fanatical worldview, spewing hate and fire, justifying murder and oppression and glorying in jihad and theocracy.
But the 23-year-old reversed his extreme and reactionary views two years ago while coming out as gay.
His hatred ran so deep, at 16 he even scoped out the best places in London to carry out an unspeakable atrocity.
He told The Tab: “I’m ashamed and embarrassed to admit I was responsible for radicalising a lot of people – a close friend of mine even went to Syria to fight jihad.”
The Queen Mary Physics first year gives a deeply worrying insight into creeping radicalisation on British campuses.
A recent study by research group Student Rights said Queen Mary was the second-worst UK university for hosting firebrand hate-preachers.
From 2012- 2014 they claim the uni held 24 events giving a platform to extreme Islamist speakers who openly justify the killing of apostates and homosexuals, believe adulterers need stoned to death and thieves should have hands amputated.
After dropping out of medicine in 2012 and coming to the Mile End campus to study physics, Sohail found ideological bedfellows everywhere.
He told The Tab: “I was raised a Salafi Wahhabi ( A Saudi Arabian literalist strain of Islam) and the people who ran the Islamic Society all shared my views.
“Preachers at Friday prayers would talk about the evils of secularism, fighting the kuffar and the need for violent jihad to establish Sharia.
“They then stopped saying that stuff publicly, but still would in private. They want to win over moderate muslims – the majority on campus – for Dawah purposes, to proselytise.”
Born to Pakistani parents in London’s East End, Sohail was raised in an ultra-conservative Islamist family who have now completely disowned him.
At the age of 16, he became: “Very serious about carrying out an attack, specifically I had Canary Wharf in my sights.
“I was told Iraq was about killing Muslims, so I felt I had a duty to protect my brothers and sisters. I looked for a place to leave a package so I could then detonate it remotely.
“I was a radical but i still didn’t want to die and because I was repressing my homosexuality I thought I might go to hell.
“Trust me many Islamists are doing the same – they’re not all straight!”
He went on: “Another group on campus called ‘The Ideological Society’ is essentially just a front for the student wing of Hizb ut-Tahrir. They pose as a debates and discussions group.
“But once someone is presented as a religious authority, with no opposition speaker, you don’t question them as much.
“If we go to these meetings, the moderators won’t choose us to ask questions, how are we meant to challenge these views?”
Radical speakers like Dilly Hussain, Abdullah al-Andalusi, Haitham al-Haddad and Moazzem Begg have all appeared at Queen Mary events.
Sohail claims he was told to visit Imran Ibn Mansur, the so-called Dawah Man to ‘cure’ his homosexuality – someone who said being gay is a “disease.”
The former Islamist fears impressionable Muslim’s are constantly at risk of being turned: “If someone experiences racism and feels a bit isolated that’s when Wahabbists can say to them ‘look, they don’t like you, we’re your friends’ then slowly groom them.
“These societies aren’t representative of Muslims on campus, but the Salafis are in charge and making others look bad.
“There are so many Muslims who are proud to be British but they’re afraid to speak out and their voices aren’t loud enough, because there is a real risk to their safety.
“I’m not an atheist, but an agnostic Muslim deist. Islam can be a very beautiful religion, which is why I feel a connection to it.”
First year Wahid Rahman, 21, is an atheist who is setting up the Queen Mary former Muslim society with Sohail.
He said they had to have police on campus last year when hosting an event: ‘Ex-Muslim stories.’
He went on: “Haitham al Haddad went to an Ideological Society event on Islamophobia when he wasn’t advertised as a speaker because they knew it would get shut down.
“I saw him again weeks later at Friday prayers, and there are videos of him lecturing on how killing apostates is necessary.
“Now, we’re going to have an Ex-Muslim society, how can it be someone comes onto campus who openly incites and justifies the killing of people like me?”
Student Rights have previously been accused of ‘Islamophobia’ by the NUS.
Rupert Sutton, Director of Student Rights, who carried out the study told The Tab: “This has provided clear evidence of the scale of the issue, and shown universities have to take the challenges posed by campus extremism seriously.
“The large number of events recorded at Queen Mary in comparison to other universities, as well as the evidence of students being targeted by extremists both on and off-campus, suggests the university faces a greater challenge than many other institutions.”
A spokesman for Queen Mary said: “QMUL takes extremely seriously the safety and security of our students and staff. With regard to external speakers, we have in place policies which go beyond our legal requirements and are aligned with best practice as set out by Universities UK (UUK).
“While we defend as a matter of principle freedom of expression within the law, we balance this commitment with our responsibility to protect the safety of our students and staff.
“The university has in place a series of measures to align its event policies with the national Prevent strategy, including a robust venue booking policy and an external speaker policy which adheres to the full legislative framework.
“We are also enhancing our training for relevant colleagues. We reserve the right to cancel an event without notice if it is deemed to pose a threat or risk to the safety of our students or staff.”
The Ideological Society said: ” The term ‘extremism’ is very subjective and none of the speakers that have been invited by the society formed any threat to students or society.
“We have the best interests of students in mind and we will not sacrifice intellectual discussion and debate (which requires people of different views) in order to suit the tastes of a few people.”
Queen Mary Islamic Society said: “We stand against all forms of extremism and radicalisation. The society actively works with the Students’ Union in facilitating for the needs of its members and maintains a great relationship with the SU and the university senior leadership.
“Our main focus is ensuring a great university experience for our members, contributing to the wider university community, and building ties with other religious and non-religious student societies.
“We welcome with open arms students of all faiths and none to attend our events and activities in order to clear misconceptions and create an atmosphere of better understanding.”