UK: State declares war on student Muslims
- While toning down the rhetoric of earlier statements, this latest announcement simply compounds the attack on free speech and on Muslims.In fact the government is engaged in doublespeak - simultaneously advocating that people debate "extremists" in a climate of "free speech" and that "extremists" be barred from expressing their views, making the debate pretty much impossible.The idea of coordinated "blacklists" of speakers is reminiscent of the American Cold War McCarthyite scare which led to purges of suspected "communists". These blacklists are not only abusive in themselves, in trying to preclude people on the basis of controversial views, but are open to further abuse by interpretation and extension. Some lobbyists for instance will try to have all advocates for Palestine classified as extremists.For Muslims to want prayer rooms, just like Christians, Jews and others already have, is nothing whatsoever to do with "extremism". It is about basic religious liberty and the equality of different religions. Most universities in Britain with significant Muslim student populations do in fact have Muslim prayer rooms. The government "guidance" is actually an attack on already-recognised liberties and amounts to an attack on Muslims as such.I have recently heard by word of mouth that a Kuwaiti student fled Britain after being wrongly reported near Hull; he was registered for a PhD at the university and was raided because like many students he was up late at night with his light on, which a neighbour decided was suspicious. He is seeking to recover his laptop, which police stole, through the university, but will not be returning to Britain and reportedly, his Kuwaiti supervisor who regularly sent students to Britain, is now recommending against doing so. The level of fear gripping Britain today is comparable to totalitarian regimes.
Crackdown on extremism
LONDON: British Government has launched a crackdown against Islamist extremism on university campuses with instructions to Vice-Chancellors to monitor students for signs of extremist behaviour and report them to the police.
They were also told to vet external speakers invited by student groups, and ban those who are likely to promote hatred.
Information about such speakers should be shared with other institutions, said the government hinting at the idea of a national blacklist of preachers of hate.
In a tough message that universities would not be allowed to become religious ghettos, the government made clear that Muslim students had no right to demand special treatment such as separate prayer rooms or washing facilities.
The guidelines, issued by Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell, followed reports that university and college campuses were becoming recruiting grounds for extremist groups but critics accused the government of forcing universities to spy on their students.
Mr. Rammell said the threat of violent extremism from universities was real and serious but not widespread.
The Director-General of the security services said there were about 200 groups encompassing 2,000 people engaged in promoting and organising terrorist activity.
Denying criticism that government was muzzling academic freedom, he said: We prize academic freedom and freedom of speech as the most effective way of challenging the views which we may find abhorrent but that remain within the law.
The document said there was no single profile of potential recruits but they were likely to be young generally younger than 30 and male. It warned that increasingly women were being groomed by extremist groups with the number of women who support and participate in violent extremism on the rise. Student groups said the guidelines were an improvement on the 2006 guidance that the government was forced to review after widespread criticism. But they had reservations about lecturers spying on students.
'Free debate' to combat extremism
Radical scholars should be allowed on campus to tell students how acts of terrorism are understandable, a minister has said.
Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said freedom of speech was the "most effective" way to challenge extreme views that do not break the law.
The minister was speaking as he toned down Government guidance on how universities should tackle the "serious but not widespread" threat from violent extremists.
Mr Rammell said it was "critical" that universities promote a culture of "openness, free debate and tolerance".
This culture "will enable us to seek to convince via rational argument those who hold the sorts of extremist tendencies that are the enemies of rational argument".
He went on: "We prize academic freedom and freedom of speech as ends in themselves and as the most effective way of challenging the views which we may find abhorrent but that remain within the law."
As an example, Mr Rammell added: "It is legitimate and permissible for people to research the origins of violent extremism, even in some circumstances to say that actually we can understand how that leads people to certain courses of action.
"But I think it is very clear when you look at what people put forward, the views that they articulate, there is a line at which you move from analysis and understanding towards outright advocacy of violent extremism.
"It is that that we are concerned about."
The guidance toned down the Government's previous advice, removing many references to extremism "in the name of Islam" and focusing on the importance of academic freedom.
Q&A: Campus extremism - the new guidance
Anthea Lipsett explains the new guidance released by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills on targeting extremism
Tuesday January 22, 2008
What did today's guidance recommend?
It suggested universities with large numbers of Muslim students should try to avoid creating religious segregation on campus by considering rejecting demands for separate prayer and washing facilities.
They should also consider sharing information on violent Islamist speakers who should be banned from addressing students on campuses.
Students should also be allowed to debate and research violent extremism but only if they do not cross over a clear line into perpetuating violence.
Not entirely. It updates guidance issued by the government in 2006, after the prime minister called for a new debate among universities last November about how to reconcile academic freedom with combating the threat of terrorism.
What's the background to the guidance?
Shortly after the London bombings on July 7, 2005, higher education minister Bill Rammell told vice-chancellors they would have to root out extremism in Britain by tackling the influence of Islamist groups on campus justifying terrorism.
That September, the then education secretary Ruth Kelly ordered universities to clamp down on student extremists.
Guardian research revealed that security services had barred more than 200 foreign students from the UK between 2001 and 2005 for fear they presented a terrorist threat.
What have vice-chancellors done?
Vice-chancellors' group Universities UK published its own advice in November 2005.
What evidence is there to suggest terrorism goes on in universities?
Research published by the director of Brunel University's centre for intelligence and security studies, Prof Anthony Glees, in 2005 suggested that extremist or terrorist groups existed at more than 30 institutions, including high profile universities.
And 14 cases of known terrorism were linked to activities on British campuses.
What does the sector make of the guidance?
It has been accepted as necessary by most vice-chancellors but several people raised concerns that the guidance would restrict freedom of speech on campus.
The University and College Union said it feared staff would be expected to spy on students.
The National Union of Students said the guidelines focused disproportionately on Islamic groups and risked encouraging universities to treat Muslims with suspicion.
What's the legal situation?
The 2006 Terrorism Act came into force in April of that year, updating the 2000 Act. It made it illegal to: publish statements encouraging terrorism; disseminate terrorist publications - including by email; prepare to commit an act of terrorism; or give or receive terrorism training.
The Act also increased the maximum period a person can be held after arrest before charge from 14 days to 28 days.
In the 2006 guidance, the government said there were opportunities for students in universities and colleges to be manipulated to commit offences - for instance, by using their IT systems to circulate material encouraging terrorism or using facilities to carry out terrorist training.