London universities ‘failing to tackle extremist speakers’

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Originally published in The Evening Standard.

Universities in London were today accused of failing in their legal duty to combat extremism on campus amid an increase in events involving radical speakers.

A report found 27 events featuring speakers with extremist views during the first four months of the academic year — a rise of seven in 12 months.

Most went ahead with no one on the platform to offer an alternative view, said the Henry Jackson Society’s Student Rights project.

Participants included speakers who have stated homosexuality is “unnatural” and those who “fight against community … should be killed”.

One was invited despite saying previously that “the Jews are evil” and that a man wanting to marry Muslim women “should be executed” if he did not pray.

The findings come despite the introduction last year of new legislation requiring universities to comply with the Government’s “Prevent” programme for tackling extremism.

The legislation was prompted by the terror activities of ex-London students including Mohammed Emwazi, dubbed “Jihadi John”, before a US air strike killed him and “underpants bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Student Rights said: “Too many institutions are still allowing events that feature extreme or intolerant speak- ers to go ahead without ensuring adequate challenge.”

Those it named as having held in- appropriate events include London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, King’s College, Kingston University, the Institute of Education and University College London.

The report says claims by speakers included assertions that the “Prevent” policy was part of a “racist white supremacist agenda” and that terrorist atrocities had been fabricated.

It says one campus speaker accused the security agencies of harassing Muslims, using the cases of Emwazi and Lee Rigby’s killer Michael Adebolajo to support his allegation.

Another was South African politician Julius Malema — convicted of hate speech for saying a rape victim must have had a “nice time” and for his campaign song “Shoot The Boer”.

Speakers have also included former Guantanamo detainee Moazzem Begg, now a director of the campaign group Cage which opposes the Government’s counter-terrorism programme.

The report says campuses have begun to respond to the legal duty but warns that progress is “frustratingly slow”.

Student Rights director Rupert Sutton said: “Given the history of UK campus radicalisation, university action hasn’t been good enough. Institutions must ensure at minimum that any extreme speakers invited there face balanced platforms and robust challenge.”

The Higher Education Funding College for England is responsible for monitoring universities’ compliance with their new legal duty to prevent extremism.

It has given most institutions until today to submit the policies and procedures they will use to achieve this.

Any university which fails to comply can be referred to the Home Secre- tary, who has the power to order it to obey the law.

Campus chiefs today said they comply with the new law and are committed to protecting students from radicalisation while maintaining open debate.

HJS



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