By Paul Goodman
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I wrote recently that the Government continues to engage with the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), although its Prevent Review said: "We judge that FOSIS has not always fully challenged terrorist and extremist ideology within the higher and further education sectors. FOSIS needs to give clearer leadership to their affiliated societies in this area".
I haven't studied FOSIS, and consequently have no view on whether Ministers' decision is right or not. There has certainly been a problem with a small number of college Islamic Societies. Five people who have held senior positions in University Islamic Socities have committed acts of terror or been convicted for terror-related offences.
But whatever one's take on the organisation, it would run counter to the warning words of the review were the Government to offer FOSIS special favours. Yet this was the case until a few days ago. Civil Service Fast Stream was due to hold a skills workship next Tuesday in association with FOSIS for people interested in applying.
Of the 26 people who said earlier this week that they were interested in attending, eight had Facebook avatars supporting Babar Ahmad, an alleged Al Qaeda operative who Ministers want to extradite to the United States. The Cabinet Office have overall responsibility for the civil service and was thus responsible for the event.
I hear that Theresa May was furious when she found out about it, and that soon after she heard the news it was cancelled forthwith. But it isn't necessary to believe that Ahmad should be extradited – the case is controversial – to ask: what on earth was going on? How can one part of government be seeking to recruit from a body about which another part has grave concerns?
Civil Service Fast Stream is apparently "a talent management programme for graduates who have the potential to become future leaders of the civil service". The flyer for the event listed defence and foreign affairs as "just some of the areas where graduates on the civil service fast stream get to put their ideas into practice".
A source admitted to me that: "The system needs a thorough shake-up so that it works properly." Officially, the Secretaries of State bear responsibility for the implementation of Prevent. However, no-one seems to have day-to-day oversight, and the Home Office scrambles to play catch-up. As I've written before, this is what's bound to happen without an enforcer.