Six British universities are facing an inquiry after the controversial human rights group Cage used meetings on campus to encourage the “sabotage” of the government’s official anti-extremism programme.
Moazzam Begg, the former Guantánamo Bay detainee who is director of Cage, told students “any right-minded person” would oppose the Prevent strategy, likening it to the methods of the Stasi secret police in the former East Germany. He also told audiences they should have sympathy for jihadists killed fighting with Al Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda.
The universities now face accusations that they failed to comply with the legal requirement set out by Prevent that they must ensure extremist views do not go unchallenged, in other words making sure panels have people with opposing views.
Universities that fail to comply with their legal obligations under the Prevent strategy, set out in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, can ultimately be ordered to comply by ministers and will be taken to court if they refuse.
Cage attended nine talks at six British universities between September and November 2015, eight of which included Mr Begg.
The University of Manchester, the University of Birmingham and King’s College London, all members of the he Russell Group of elite universities, allowed Cage on campus four times between them; London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) had three Cage events and Bradford University and East London University had one each.
Mr Begg spoke at four Students Not Suspects events organised by students at the universities involved, but the NUS said it did not approve. Megan Dunn, the President of the NUS, said: “NUS does not work with Cage. Individuals associated with Cage have made comments which contradict NUS’ policies, on anti-Semitism and violence against women, and we draw the line at working with an organisation which does not reflect our values.”