Challenging Extremists: Practical Frameworks for Our Universities

By Hannah Stuart

Islamism-inspired activism and extremism on UK university campuses receives increasing policy and media attention in the wake of the 7 July 2005 London bombings. Freedom of speech has special legal status at universities, and must be upheld for students, lecturers and any visiting speakers. However, universities also have a legal duty of care to students. The question of how to address extremism on campuses is highly emotive and characterised by competing rights and obligations.

This report demonstrates that Islamist ideology is promoted to students in three ways. It focuses on the role of external speakers invited to address students and occasions when student society social media is used to share violent or extremist material. It also profiles a small number of students and recent graduates across London who promote Islamist political activism and disseminate Islamist or Islamist sympathetic material.

The report goes on to provide universities, student unions, relevant government departments and student societies with practical recommendations for challenging the types of extremism highlighted while preserving an open environment on campuses.

Based on analyses of convictions when Islamism-inspired speech and conduct has fallen outside of the law, the recommendations account for stakeholders’ legal and regulatory duties. They consider the requirement under charity law that student unions must preserve their charitable reputation. They also emphasise collaboration, information-sharing and transparency when challenging extremism on British campuses.

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