In the news: Basheer Nafi

February 28, 2003

Colleagues of Basheer Nafi say he "encourages critical thinking about religious issues and academic balance in his students and thus encourages social responsibility". But last week, the US attorney-general charged him with 50 counts of supporting and financing the Palestinian terrorist group Islamic Jihad. The Home Office has yet to receive an extradition request.

Dr Nafi - who said the charges were "nonsense" - lectures in Islamic studies at Birkbeck College, London, and at the postgraduate Muslim College in Ealing. He was born in Egypt and came to Britain in 1983 as a postgraduate student to King's College London, where he did a PhD in microbiology, before becoming a postdoctoral student at St George's Hospital Medical School, London.

In 1990, he decided that his true academic interest lay in history. He began a PhD at the University of Reading and worked as a writer and translator to pay his way. While doing this PhD, he became involved with the World and Islamic Studies Enterprise think-tank, where he worked alongside Sami Al-Arian, a professor at the University of South Florida.

Professor Al-Arian was arrested last week.

The think-tank had been suspected of being a front for Palestinian Islamic Jihad, but it was cleared by a US judge in October 2000. Dr Nafi believes the charges were brought after Professor Al-Arian was suspended from his job.

"I have never spoken on behalf of Islamic Jihad or represented Islamic Jihad or recruited anybody for Islamic Jihad or raised funds for Islamic Jihad," Dr Nafi told The THES .

Indeed, he has used his weekly column in the London-based Arabic-language daily newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi to question the morality of suicide bombing.

The US indictment details numerous alleged phone conversations between Dr Nafi and Professor Al-Arian about PIJ finances over a number of years.

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