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Universities hit back at false claims on 'extremist' speakers

Universities hit back at false claims on 'extremist' speakers

Categories: Latest News

Friday September 18 2015

The Independent reports on reactions by London universities to their “naming and shaming” in yesterday’s announcement by the Home Office about “hate preachers” on campus and the new guidelines on external speakers which come into effect next Monday as part of newly enacted counter terrorism legislation.

SOAS has responded to its listing among universities which have hosted “most events” featuring individuals the Government claims “promoted rhetoric that aimed to undermine core British values”.

SOAS have pointed out that only one of the six speakers mentioned by the Prime Minister yesterday has actually spoken on its campus.

According to the Independent, Laura Gibbs, SOAS registrar, said: “We were disappointed to see that the announcement… by the Prime Minister’s Office includes some inaccuracies. We have not hosted any extremist speakers in the last year, or indeed the recent past…. We take our duty of care to our community and our legal obligations very seriously.”

SOAS stated that Shaykh Haitham Al-Haddad visited the university in February 2014, to speak to the Islamic Finance Society, on why the charging of interest is prohibited by Islam. Given the Government’s fulsome backing to the launch of the UK’s first ever sukuk bond, its championing of shari’ah compliant mortgages and its efforts to introduce shari’ah compliant student loans, it can perhaps he safely assumed that Shaykh Haitham’s talk to SOAS Islamic Finance Society was not in breach of ‘British values’.

Professor Simon Gaskell, principal of Queen Mary College, another university singled out by the PM, is quoted in the Independent too.

He told the paper: “We find it difficult to respond to these assertions when the extremism analysis unit has not requested any information”, adding that the university would “welcome sight of their definitions for ‘hate or extremist speakers’.””

Indeed, the work of the Extremism Analysis Unit is so shrouded in secrecy, that its work, staff and methods are not open to any sort of public scrutiny if this Freedom of Information response is anything to go by.

Given the public “naming and shaming” of universities by the PM and the Home Office, would it be too much to ask that universities and the public at large be given sight of what definitions and evidence the Government is acting on?


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