| ||Nabil Ahmed, head of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies has warned the government against linking university attendance with terrorism. |
He made the comments in response to evidence given by Hannah Stuart of the Henry Jackson Society to the Home Affairs select committee’s conference at De Montfort university last week, part of the committee’s inquiry into The Roots of Violent Radicalisation.
The Times Higher Education supplement states that Stuart told the inquiry that “Students' unions should introduce tougher rules to keep "hate speakers" off campuses and stop the spread of Islamist extremism”. From the Times Higher Education Supplement:
“Hannah Stuart, co-author of Islam on Campus: A Survey of UK Student Opinions and Islamist Terrorism: The British Connections, made the suggestion in evidence to the Home Affairs Committee's inquiry into the roots of violent radicalisation.
“The committee held a day-long session at De Montfort University last week, including a workshop titled "How can we best counter radicalisation in universities?"
“Nabil Ahmed, president of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, rejected many of Ms Stuart's arguments, countering from the audience that it was "upsetting and hurtful for Muslim students to be caricatured as potential extremists, potential radicals, when none of this is applicable to 99.9 per cent of not just Muslim students, but all students".
“Islamist Terrorism analysed 138 cases of individuals convicted of "Islamism-related offences" and found that 30 per cent "had at some point attended university or a higher education institute".
Stuart stated that the study was not “suggesting that 30 per cent were radicalised because they attended university", but that “it did find that "schools and universities were definitely involved in that linking-up of individuals".
"In terms of that politicisation and militarisation of faith - particularly I'm thinking of external speakers and hate speakers in universities - that is an important area and we should be focusing on it."
“She added that while "we should not be policing campuses", one solution was that any organisations "affiliated to students' unions would need to present any external speakers publicly on a website a week before the event", allowing students' unions to decide whether it should go ahead.
“In response, Mr Ahmed pointed out that more than 30 per cent of young people in the general population go to university, "so this link between (university attendance and Islamist terrorism) is dangerous".
“He added that while "it is not necessarily my view", the Turkish prime minister recognises Hamas as a political party.
"Don't call that an extremist view - that is a legitimate view," Mr Ahmed said.
“Anthony Richards, a terrorism expert at the University of East London, said from the audience that the government's Prevent strategy - revised to cover "extremism" rather than just "violent extremism" - risked having "indeterminate scope" because it ignored the question "as to what we mean by radicalisation".”
Several prominent figures in education have been outspoken critics of the idea that there is a direct and causal link between university attendance and radicalisation amongst Muslim students. The Chief Executive of Universities UK, Nicola Dandridge has dismissed claims that universities are sites of radicalisation or that the presence of offensive speakers at campus events is a risk factor in producing extremist views amongst students. Moreover, Professor Malcolm Grant, the president and provost of University College London has criticised calls for restricting speakers on campuses. Professor Grant chaired the Working Group responsible for the Universities UK report entitled ‘Freedom of Speech on Campus: rights and responsibilities in UK universities’, which advocates the right to freedom of speech on university campuses.
Furthermore, the APPG on Homeland Security’s report on ‘Keeping Britain Safe: An Assessment of UK Homeland Security’, for which the HJS is the secretariat, relied almost exclusively on the testimony of professor Anthony Glees of the University of Buckingham in its recommendation on tackling the ‘urgency’ of campus radicalisation.
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