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"University campuses 'hotbeds' of Islamic extremism"

"University campuses 'hotbeds' of Islamic extremism"

Categories: Latest News

Tuesday May 03 2011

  Front page news in the Daily Telegraph on Friday was the All Party Parliamentary Group on Homeland Security inaugural report, “Keeping Britain Safe: An Assessment of UK Homeland Security Strategy” under the headline “University campuses are “hotbeds” of Islamic extremism”.

Among recommendations contained in the report in a section on Counter-terrorism is this in relation to the Government’s Prevent strategy:

“The Coalition Government’s new approach to Preventing Violent Extremism is a constructive adjustment to CONTEST policy. The Government must ensure that these directives are adopted and implemented throughout the relevant departments and  must further ensure that all personnel leading, or engaged in, the development and delivery of  CONTEST are acting in line with its directives. “

The report elaborates:

“Serious questions were raised however both over constituent parts of CONTEST as well as the OSCT’s role in shaping and delivering the strategy. A major focus of concern were disagreements over strategies  against radicalization and resultant decisions over the parameters government  should adhere to when identifying community groups and external actors for engagement, as well as calibrating the wider rules of participation in public debate by those whose stated  aims are not conducive to social cohesion and our  homeland security.

“These concerns focus in particular on the Preventing Violent Extremism part of the CONTEST strategy where there exists a deep gulf between the current and previous governments in approach.  The Home Secretary’s new guidelines, which call for a shift in focus  from combating  extremists who engage specifically in violence only  to a much broader conception of  the threat of  extremism to the UK both  from UK citizens  and residents  as well as  from  foreign visitors, is  a  welcome and overdue development.  Other parts of the strategy are also in the process of being streamlined, though it is too early to pass judgement on their resultant calibration.”

The report goes on to cite the work of Shiraz Maher and Martyn Frampton to illustrate the “disagreements over strategies against radicalization and resultant decisions over the parameters government should adhere to when identifying community groups and external actors for engagement”.

Maher and Frampton wrote in their report for Policy Exchange, “Choosing our Friends Wisely“

“[t]he central  theoretical flaw in [Prevent] is that it accepts  the premise that non- violent extremists  can be made to act  as bulwarks against violent extremists” and that  “[n]on-violent extremists have consequently become  well dug in as partners  of national and local government and the  police [and] some of the government’s  chosen collaborators in ‘addressing grievances’ of angry young  Muslims are themselves at the forefront of stoking those grievances against British foreign policy; Western  social values; and alleged state-sanctioned ‘Islamophobia.”

The APPG HS report continues with a recommendation on university campuses and radicalisation, from which the Telegraph headline is drawn:

“The Government must finally tackle the serious problem of radicalization on university campuses with utmost urgency. The situation that has been allowed to develop is unsustainable. It endangers our security at home and has international implications that are serious enough to threaten our alliance relationships.  We are concerned that despite damning evidence of a problem, little progress has been made in developing an effective programme to address this issue.”

The report states:

“In their evidence to  the APPG HS, several witnesses flagged up serious problems  evident in universities, as exemplified  among others by the  case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, noting  that some universities and colleges have  become  sites  whereextremist views  and radicalization can  flourish beyond the sight of academics. Radicalisation on UK campuses is a major concern. It was also noted that there was a reluctance to cooperate with the police on the part of some universities that did not want to be seen to be ‘spying’ on their students.

“The problem of universities as places of radicalization requires urgent and sustained attention by the new Government. Some aspects of  the problem – such as instances  of extremist preachers   being invited onto  UK  campuses –  will likely fall under the Government’s pledge to reassess  Prevent policy and actively prevent the import and  dissemination of  extremist written material  and speech which promotes hatred. These are welcome initiatives that must be implemented forcefully. However, universities present a unique definitional and operational challenge as part of preventing extremism, and in some cases evidently struggle to establish the correct balance between academic freedoms and university authorities’ responsibilities as part of ensuring UK Homeland Security. This complex subject requires further attention.  It has been an obvious and neglected problem for too long and must be tackled as a matter of utmost urgency. “

Professor Anthony Glees is cited as warning that “universities and colleges have allowed themselves to become sites where extremist views and radicalisation can flourish beyond the sight of academics.”

What is most striking about the APPG HS report is the bizarre omission of the findings of the select committee inquiry into Prevent, particularly its conclusion that “There is a sense that Government has sought to engineer a ‘moderate’ form of Islam, promoting and funding only those groups which conform to this model. We do not think it is the job of Government to intervene in theological matters…”

No reference either to the recent report by Universities UK, nor submissions from members of the working group of the UUK report (chaired by UCL provost, Professor Malcolm Grant) or the Caldicott Inquiry on the radicalization of Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab.

See also BBC News.


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