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16 November 2005


Terry Hume

Following the announcement that SOAS are to sell its investments in arms companies, there has been a campaign to form a student activist netork committed to CAAT's Clean Investment campaign, and to raise awareness of the issues raised in the report published by the Scientists for Global Responsibility called Soldiers in the Laboratory. Should you be involved in a campaign or intend to initiate one at your university, please contact the National Union for Responsible and Sustainable Education at [email protected] so that we can establish the extent of awareness and participation. Yours Kindly, Terry Hume


From The Muslim Weekly:

SOAS drops arms investment, 66 other universities still to go

by Fuad Ali

After finding itself up against fierce criticism, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) has announced the selling of all their investment shares in arms companies.

A research by the Committee Against Arms Trade (CAAT) last week showed that at least another sixty six British universities are investing money in the arms trade industry.

The study focused on six arms companies all of which are based in the UK. These companies are BAE Systems - the UK’s dominant arms exporting company, VT Group, Rolls Royce, Smiths Group, Cobham and GKN.

On Tuesday morning SOAS’ Director of Finance and Administration, Andrew Keeble, issued an email to staff announcing that, ‘alerted by an article in the London Student of 1 November...instructions have been issued to dispose of the School’s holdings in defence stocks. ‘He added that SOAS’ investment committee ‘is to consider a draft ethical investment policy at its next meeting’.

CAAT campaigner Tim Street, expressed his delight at the school’s decision and urged others to follow suite by adopting an ethical investing policy. "We’re delighted about SOAS’ decision. Their investments funded a trade fuelling conflict zones across Africa and Asia, threatening SOAS’ reputation as a centre for internationalism and progress in these regions.

"SOAS’ move also presents a major challenge to the 66 other British universities and colleges currently investing in the arms trade: it is becoming harder for them to argue that such divestment is legally difficult - and harder for them to answer the tough ethical questions being asked by staff and students."

Dr Graham Dyer, President of SOAS AUT branch, said: "This murderous trade has ravaged countries across Asia and Africa, with British companies touting some Ј4 billion worth of lethal weaponry around the globe. Universities have no business supporting these killers. SOAS staff and students have played their part in making the arms trade history."

SOAS, in particular, found itself in a more acute position given its specialist standing and bearing in mind the unfavourable treatment handed out to Nasser Amin the SOAS Muslim student who wrote an article arguing the case for Palestinian right to arms.

Amin, who’s awaiting a formal hearing into he’s case, welcomed the decision but still has some reservations "Muslim students welcome SOAS’s decision to end its involvement with these companies. In the Middle East this meant helping to supply weapons to the Israeli army.

"It was the height of hypocrisy for the SOAS authorities to find my article defending the right of Palestinians to resist to be objectionable, while in effect assisting Zionist violence and colonisation. Muslims at the School felt threatened by these financial interests. We hope now that other anti-Muslim actions in SOAS will be taken seriously."

The "shameful" list of investors in the arms trade, which campaigners say sell weapons to some of the worst human rights abusers, is topped by the most prestigious of British educational institutions.

Cambridge and Oxford universities make up the top two investors, respectively. Some of their collages have the largest portfolios of shares in firms such as the BAE Systems and Smith Group both of whom supply military equipments and aircraft components used by the Israeli army against Palestinians.

The UK arms industry is subsidised by the government by around £890m per year. Last year the government licensed military exports to 13 out of the 20 countries it considers to be the worst human rights abusers in the world.



Muslim student forces college boss to back down


Written by Chaminda Jayanetti
Wednesday, 08 November 2006

A Muslim student has forced his university's former principal into an embarrassing climbdown after winning a long-running dispute over freedom of speech.

Following a year of wrangling, ex-SOAS head Colin Bundy has retracted his claim in spring 2005 that he had reprimanded student Nasser Amin over an article Amin had written.

A SOAS statement dated November 6th read: "Professor Bundy sincerely regrets … the reference on the School's website to the author of the article entitled 'When only violence will do' in the spring 2005 issue of the SOAS SU Spirit magazine. He further regrets the use of the word 'reprimand', which he acknowledges was inappropriate."

The row began whilst SOAS was engulfed by allegations of anti-Semitism in early 2005, with the student union barring an Israeli official from giving a speech and electing Ken Livingstone as honorary president in the wake of his verbal attack on a Jewish reporter.

Amin's article argued with regards to Palestinian terrorism that: 'Those that benefit from the immoral actions of a colonial state in which they have chosen to reside cannot be considered as innocent.'

The article sparked thunderous criticism from commentators such as Melanie Phillips, whilst American websites made death threats against him. Labour MP David Winnick called for him to be prosecuted.

Bundy warned Amin that the article may have broken SOAS rules, but no formal sanction or reprimand was ever applied. However, Bundy then secretly wrote to ministers in the Home Office and Department for Education, as well as local MP Frank Dobson, saying that Amin had been reprimanded over the article. SOAS posted a similar statement on its website.

Amin told London Student in March that the episode left him suffering from depression and disrupted his studies. He also suffered racial abuse from other students following the controversy. When his lawyers first asked for a retraction and apology in summer 2005, Bundy replied: "I regret that Mr Amin feels that he has been treated badly by SOAS. However, SOAS has acted at all times in accordance with its disciplinary procedures."

In fact, Bundy had merely given Amin an informal caution, whereas a formal reprimand required a full disciplinary process. Bundy's retraction, following a formal grievance hearing and threats of legal action, represents a major climbdown.

Amin said in a statement to London Student: "I am pleased to say that the dispute between myself and SOAS has been resolved in a way I find to be highly satisfactory. A public apology has now been published on the official SOAS website.

"I hope that lessons have been learnt," Amin added, "and that no student will have to go through a similar ordeal for simply expressing opinions about topical issues which many people in wider society also have views on."

Amin told London Student in March that his article had been a response to a previous article that called on Muslims to 'categorically' condemn Palestinian terrorism in order to counter Islamophobia. He felt such condemnation was as unreflective as supporting a cause just because it affects your own people.

"The problem is these arguments are taken from their academic setting and thrown into the wider community," said Amin. He added that he did not support terrorism, including Hamas suicide attacks on non-combatant civilians.

SOAS' November 6th statement added: "Mr Amin sincerely regrets that his article unintentionally caused offence to certain members of the School and persons outside the School. His intention had merely been to discuss a difficult and controversial issue within the context of the School's Freedom of Expression policy."

SOAS' decision to publicly denounce one of its own students for his views drew strong fire from staff. Amin's tutor Mark Laffey said at the time: "It is part of the job description of an academic institution that you are willing to give offence. Our job is to seek out the truth, no matter how uncomfortable or unpleasant for various groups or interests."

SOAS academic John Game wrote in an open letter to Bundy: "If this student is to be subjected to investigation and harassment then so should I and so should many full time academic members of staff at this institution."

Game also wrote in Spirit: "Islamophobia in the wider society means that SOAS' 'reputation' is under assault. Either one aggressively stands up to such Islamophobia or one decides to sacrifice a few students to it."



Clarification of SOAS Statement on Freedom of Expression

06 Nov 2006

Professor Bundy, the immediate past Director and Principal, sincerely regrets, in the context of allegations of anti-Semitism at SOAS, the reference on the School's website to the author of the article entitled "When only violence will do" in the Spring 2005 issue of the SOAS SU 'Spirit' Magazine. He further regrets the use of the word 'reprimand', which he acknowledges was inappropriate.


Stephen G

Muslim student, Nasser Amin, wins damages from SOAS University after free speech victory

Islamophobic campaign thwarted

by Elinor Zuke
January 29th, 2007

A Muslim student who won a grievance case against the School of Oriental and African Studied (SOAS), London University received thousands of pounds in compensation, London Student has learnt.

Nasser Amin, who won an apology from former SOAS Principal Colin Bundy over false claims that he had been reprimanded over an article published in student magazine Spirit, was paid £5,000 by the School in November last year.

SOAS was keen to keep details of the payment quiet in order to deter similar compensation claims from other students, but was forced to reveal under the Freedom of Information Act that it paid £5,000 to a student following a grievance settlement.

Whilst the details of Amin's settlement remain confidential under the terms of the agreement, the money was paid just days after Amin won his apology, and sources within SOAS confirmed that Amin was the recipient.

The long running case began in spring 2005, when Spirit magazine published Amin's article about the Middle East in which he argued that 'those who benefit from the immoral actions of a colonial state in which they have chosen to reside cannot be considered as innocent'.

Amin argued that he was simply warning of the danger of automatically siding with one's own people when dealing with moral issues, but the article sparked outrage from certain quarters, including commentator Melanie Phillips, who demanded that the police get involved. Amin also received death threats, and went through a period of depression.

Under pressure, SOAS Principal Bundy issued a public statement that Amin had been reprimanded, even though he had not been subject to a formal disciplinary process – necessary for a reprimand to be issued.

Amin pursued a grievance against Bundy, finally winning an apology last autumn. He is still studying for a Masters degree at SOAS, which has been heavily delayed by the case.


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