| ||A week on from the Daily Telegraph interview with Universities UK chief executive, Nicola Dandridge, today’s DT publishes a front page interview with Home Secretary, Theresa May, outlining the Prevent review’s focus on tackling radicalization on university campuses. |
The interview and the imminent publication of the Prevent review features in many of the papers (The Guardian, Mail on Sunday and today’s Daily Mail, Sunday Express and today’s Daily Star) and on the BBC.
The Home Secretary accuses universities of adopting a complacent attitude towards so-called hate preachers on university campuses and calls on the higher education institutions to play a more active role in denying such speakers a platform.
From the Daily Telegraph:
“I think for too long there’s been complacency around universities,” she said. “I don’t think they have been sufficiently willing to recognise what can be happening on their campuses and the radicalisation that can take place. I think there is more that universities can do.”
She also criticised the Federation of Student Islamic Societies for not challenging extremism sufficiently.
“They need to be prepared to stand up and say that organisations that are extreme or support extremism or have extremist speakers should not be part of their grouping,” Mrs May said.
The Mail on Sunday claims that radicalization on university campuses is a key prong of the revised Prevent programme with a government spokesperson saying that “Universities wouldn’t tolerate racists and fascists on campus and they need to take a similar attitude to Islamist extremists.”
Except that universities have invited the likes of Nick Griffin, Thilo Sarrazin and Professor Benny Morris to speak to student audiences so the claim that racists and fascists are not tolerated is hardly accurate.
Today’s Daily Mail headlines a report: “40 universities are now breeding grounds for terror” citing statistics from the Prevent review that claim that ‘more than 30 per cent of people convicted for Al Qaeda-associated terrorist offences in the UK... are known to have attended university or a higher education institution.
‘Another 15 per cent studied or achieved a vocational or further education qualification. About 10 per cent of the sample were students at the time when they were charged or the incident for which they were convicted took place.’
The Daily Mail also cites concerns raised in the strategy document over FOSIS claiming “The document raises particular alarm about the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS).
“It says there are ‘several examples of students engaging in terrorism or related activities while members of university societies affiliated to FOSIS.
“Such extremists must have no part in any organisation that wishes to be recognised as a representative body.’”
The paper goes on to cite the cases of:
“Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, studied mechanical engineering at University College London between 2005 and 2008” – but the paper fails to cite the conclusions of the Caldicott Inquiry which found that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was not radicalized during his time at UCL.
“Two of the fanatics convicted of the transatlantic liquid bomb plot – ringleader Abdulla Ahmed Ali and Assad Sarwar – attended City and Brunel Universities respectively” – and again, the paper omits details of the prosecution cases of Ali and Sarwar in which the jury was told that their radicalization occurred during a trip delivering aid to refugees on the Af-Pak border. BBC reporter Dominic Casciani wrote at the time that "Ali and Sarwar went to deliver aid to the refugee camps - and their experiences radically altered their world view.
"Abdulla Ahmed Ali, the ringleader of the group, was shocked by the appalling conditions. His anger was compounded by the failure of the 2003 mass protest against the Iraq war.
"The anger felt by men like Ahmed Ali turned him against the UK and America and he turned to radical Islamists who were increasingly calling for attacks on Britain."
And then the Daily Mail refers to the infamous Easter bomb plot claiming that “Ten of the 11 Pakistani nationals seized on suspicion of plotting an atrocity in the North-West in 2009 had student visas.
“The alleged ringleader of this plot – Abid Naseer – was a computer studies student at Liverpool John Moores University” – no further elaboration on the spectacular debacle of the so-called bomb plot and the shameful deportation of the men, many of whom had invested heavily in their education courses in the UK, to save Her Majesty’s Government and police forces any embarrassment over the cock-up.
The Guardian meanwhile reports that the Prevent review “is likely to redefine extremists as those who hold "un-British" views, such as intolerance of equal rights for women, because ministers believe there is a link between non-violent extremism and violent acts of terrorism.”
A point underscored by Theresa May. She tells the Daily Telegraph that the Government will define as extremists anyone who “does not subscribe to human rights, equality before the law, democracy and full participation in society”, including those who “promote or implicitly tolerate the killing of British soldiers”.
The list is indeed interesting for being a no-brainer. The Gallup Coexist survey of 2009 demonstrates the high degree to which the vast majority of British Muslims do subscribe to “human rights, equality before the law, democracy and full participation in society” with their identification with the nation and state institutions surpassing that the average for the rest of society.
As for equality before the law – the obvious question that comes to mind is the different levels of protection granted to minority groups under the law with incitement to racial and religious hatred law being just one clear example. A further interesting example is covered elsewhere in the pages of the Telegraph with yesterday’s edition containing a report on legal case mounted by Christians at the European Court of Human Rights:
“European judges have ordered ministers to make a formal statement on whether it believes Christians' rights have been infringed by previous decisions in the British courts, which have repeatedly dismissed their right to dress and act according to their beliefs.
“The move by the European Court in Strasbourg is because Christians who believe they have suffered discrimination for their beliefs are taking a landmark legal fight the court.”
And then there’s the curious case of the Daily Telegraph editorial today which combines its disdain for multiculturalism and the new fees structure, with Theresa May’s comments on campus “complacency” asserting:
“In an interview with The Daily Telegraph today, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, says that British universities are “complacent” on the subject of Islamic extremism and unwilling to recognise “what is happening on some campuses”.
“Mrs May is absolutely right; indeed, she could have gone further in her criticisms. Last week, Nicola Dandridge, the chief executive of Universities UK, said that there was no evidence to link “student radicals” with violent extremism, or even that extremist speakers at universities caused radicalism. This sort of naive political correctness helps explain why, in the words of Ron Prosor, Israel’s outgoing ambassador to Britain, hardline Muslim speakers are hosted with impunity in many universities, encouraging “visceral hatred for Israel”, as well as contempt for civil society. It also highlights the urgent need for the Government’s forthcoming revision of counter-terrorism strategy, which will take into account “non-violent” extremists. “
“Multiculturalism is more than a failed ideology: it threatens our safety. “
“We need a change of culture in our universities, some of whose vice-chancellors turn a blind eye to Muslim anti-Semitism rather than compromise their liberal credentials.”
One wonders whether the Daily Telegraph is more concerned with stifling critical engagement with views on the Israel-Palestine issue than it is with advancing freedom of speech on campus. It is an ironic tendency because Charles Moore, a columnist for the paper, argued strenuously in favour of Geert Wilders citing the importance of free speech in a liberal democracy.
The paper claims university vice-chancellors “turn a blind eye to Muslim anti-Semitism rather than compromise their liberal credentials” – but says nothing of the presence of the likes of Thilo Sarrazin and Benny Morris on campuses. Men whose anti-Muslim prejudice is every bit as abhorrent as alleged “Muslim anti-Semitism”.
The Home Secretary tells the Daily Telegraph that through the Prevent review the Government is “… looking at a set of values we believe we have here in the UK and [that] those people opposed to those values are people who the Government won’t be funding or engaging with.”
Questions, however, that remain unanswered are: the role of empirical evidence in making a causal link between “extremist views” and “violent extremism” considering that UUK argue no such evidence exists; the definition of “extremist”; and, significantly, the exhortation of the “a set of values we believe we have here” when these values appear not to be equally applied.
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