A new report reveals the extent of extremism on UK university campuses.
Across British universities, the government’s counter-radicalisation strategy, Prevent, is being prevented from functioning effectively due to widespread student opposition, reveals Preventing Prevent? Challenges to Counter-Radicalisation Policy On Campus. This is in part influenced by the narrative of extremist groups targeted by the policy, with over 40 student union leaders signing an open letter attacking Prevent organised by the pro-terrorist group CAGE on 11 July.
Recording over 100 on-campus events hosting speakers with extreme views or a history of involvement with extremist organisations each year since 2012, Student Rights’ latest report shows the alarming reach of extremism on UK campuses. The report also highlights how a number of those convicted of terrorist offences have passed through Britain’s higher education institutions.
By providing an in-depth analysis of Prevent and the criticisms levelled against it, the publication shows that the strategy is frequently misunderstood by those who oppose it and in fact uses a range of targeted and accountable measures that could effectively curb the influence afforded to extremists in the UK.
Further findings include:
- Student Rights logged 132 events in 2012, 145 in 2013, and 123 in 2014. The speakers featured have suggested that there is a Western war against Islam; supported individuals convicted of terrorism offences; expressed intolerance of non-believers and/or minorities; and espoused religious law as a method of socio-political governance – opposing democracy in the process.
- Despite this evidence, student activists have claimed Prevent is a racist policy; that lecturers spy on students; that vulnerable people will be stigmatised; and that the expression of controversial ideas will be suppressed.
The report also seeks to provide policy makers and practitioners with a set of recommendations which can ensure that civil society actors who seek to challenge extremist influence on our campuses are supported, and that universities and student unions are aware of their responsibilities to those vulnerable to radicalisation.
Rupert Sutton, Student Rights Director, commented:
“The evidence presented in this report shows that extremism on university campuses remains a serious issue while the dominant narrative is one which draws on extremist campaigning to undermine attempts to challenge the problem.
As such, it is vital that the government works to increase support for those challenging extremist narratives about Prevent, and that any guidance for university staff addresses fears driven by these narratives.
Universities should be the best place to challenge extremist ideas, yet at present this is simply not happening – something that must change if we are to successfully oppose on-campus radicalisation”.
EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of a protester with her face painted in the colors of the Palestinian flag chants during a pro-Gaza demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in London. Photo credit:REUTERS.