But there are none so deaf as those who refuse to hear. Just a few days ago, Nicola Dandridge, the head of Universities UK, told The Daily Telegraph that there was “no evidence” to link student radicals with violent extremism. She even claims that MI5 and the police back up her assertions.
No evidence? Within a couple of years of leaving Leeds Metropolitan University, Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the group responsible for the July 7 bombings, began training for terror. Since then, virtually every major British terrorist attack has been led by students or graduates. The list of universities they came from makes horrifying reading: Leicester, Luton, Brighton, Glasgow Metropolitan, UCL, the LSE, the University of Westminster, Brunel and others.
In short, this isn’t about a lack of evidence; it’s about a lack of courage in confronting reality. There is a consensus within British universities that makes many lecturers all too willing accomplices to radicalisation: dons’ own political preferences, combined with a desperate wish to retain their cushy jobs, mean they are quick to produce research that substantiates the theory that radicalisation doesn’t exist.
And despite claiming to support free speech, they tend to despise those who don’t agree with them. Ever since I pointed out, in a piece of research in 2005, that a significant number of those convicted of terrorist offences or blown up in the commission of them were students or recent graduates, it has been an uphill task to convince universities to take the matter seriously. In fact, the air thickened with libel writs; one vice-chancellor called me “widely discredited”; another implored my vice-chancellor at Brunel University (who robustly supported my work) to stop me from researching; and immediate colleagues simply refused to work with me.
if Prof Dandridge can’t distinguish between free speech and incitement to terrorism, or thinks that campus extremists are like members of a college debating society, she is in the wrong job. Indeed, incitement has been a crime since long before anyone had even heard of Islamism. To use campuses to undermine democracy through violence so as to bring about an Islamist regime is not about upholding free speech: it’s about working for its destruction. And if MI5 and the police really do agree with her line, then they, too, are confused: as recently as January 2010, they identified 39 campuses that were at risk from Islamism, and offered extra funding to encourage them to address the problem.
This, however, pales beside the vast amount that universities have received from Arab and Islamic sources – perhaps as much as £500 million over the past decade. This has, inevitably, rendered our cash-strapped vice-chancellors unwilling to speak out.
What should universities be doing? The answer is really simple: they should be doing what they are meant to do. That means teaching their students by working with them, knowing them, guiding them and ensuring that they keep to the basic values which have made this country a decent mature democracy. They need to keep extremists out and let MI5 and the police in. And instead of pretending their universities are in the business of money-making, and taking money from all-comers, our vice-chancellors need to remember that they are, first and foremost, the teachers and guardians of our
Professor Anthony Glees is director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham.
This is the sort of thing that is cause for concern. From elsewhere in today's Telegraph
An Islamic preacher told students it was difficult to argue with the views of Osama bin Laden and said “terrorism works” in a speech at the university attended by the Detroit bomber, it can be disclosed.
Abdur Raheem Green, a Muslim convert and former public schoolboy, told students at University College London that a “permanent state of war exists between the people of Islam and the people who opposed Islam”.
He gave the speech, seen by The Daily Telegraph, to the university’s Islamic society while Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, the Detroit bomber, was a student there in 2005. “His (Osama bin Laden's) rational [sic] is … we are going to keep on killing your women and children until you stop killing our women and children. How do you argue with that? . . . The other thing is that it seems that terrorism works. We certainly have precedent.”
A review by UCL into the Abdulmutallab case failed to analyse speeches made by the preacher and other visitors. It concluded that “speakers with controversial but not illegal views were welcome to the extent that they could be expected to stimulate debate”.
Qasim Rafiq, a spokesman for the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, invited Mr Green to speak at UCL along with two speakers from the extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir and another who has supported the Taliban. Since then, Mr Green has been invited to give lectures at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies, Queen Mary and Bart’s and at UCL.
A spokesman for UCL said the inquiry had been aware of the speech but added: “Provided the law is observed, we do not operate a 'no platform’ policy in relation to speakers with controversial, distasteful or even repugnant views.” Unless they are the BNP of course.