The Extreme Speakers and Events: In The 2017-18 Academic Year report is an annual report published by the Henry Jackson Society’s Student Rights Project. It is the most complete compendium of events promoted to university students published.
This year’s edition finds:
Extremist hate preachers, pro-jihad activists, and avowed anti-Semites have “near-unfettered” access to students. It catalogues 435 events promoted to students held over the last three academic years featuring elements of extremism – 16% of which took place at just one university. The nationwide league table identified events promoted by university groups that have included: extremist or extremist-linked speakers, those that fundraised for extremist organisations, or included extremist content.
In September 2015 at a speech in Birmingham, then Prime Minister David Cameron ordered universities to stop providing extremists with “the oxygen they need to flourish” by hosting extreme speakers. He cited 70 events featuring extremist-linked speakers that had occurred on campuses the previous academic year. In spite of his warning, the University Extreme Speakers League Table discloses that more than 100 such events have been targeted at students in each and every year since. In the 2017-18 academic year, the number of publicly promoted events increased by 87%, with 200 such events. The report warns that the true figure could be much higher, given it lists only publicly promoted events.
Over the last three academic years, SOAS is the university which has hosted the most events promoted to students which feature extremist groups or speakers. The university has repeatedly disputed that it is in breach of its Prevent duties and has seen 70 events promoted by student groups that feature extremist groups or speakers – 43 of which took place in the last year alone. In the 2017-18 academic year, over 20% of all events featuring elements of extremism took place under its auspices. SOAS, hosted over four times as many events as its closest rivals; King’s College London, Birmingham, and Queen Mary University.
Among the extremist speakers identified by the Henry Jackson Society are:
- 35 events featuring speakers from the pro-Jihad lobby group CAGE. CAGE speakers include: Moazzam Begg who has praised Al-Qaeda figures and encouraged Muslims to travel to Syria; Shaker Aamer considered an Osama Bin Laden affiliate by the US Government; and Asim Qureshi who has promoted violent jihad, called Jihadi John a “beautiful young man”, and refused to condemn female genital mutilation.
- 4 of the 6 extremist speakers David Cameron warned universities not to host in 2015 have continued to speak at student events collectively making appearances in 54 student events over the past three years. They are Hamza Tzortzis, Uthman Lateef, Haitham al-Haddad and Alomgir Ali.
- Other radical Islamists among the almost 100 speakers identified include: Yahya al-Raaby who has called Shia Muslims “devils” and “rafida”; Yusuf Chambers who has advocated death for homosexuals;and Muhammed Taqi Usmani who has claimed that Islam allows slavery under certain conditions.
- 140 events featuring representatives of organisations linked to Haitham al-Haddad. Al-Haddad is one of Britain’s most notorious extremist hate preachers who has sanctioned forms of female genital mutilation, child marriage, death for apostates and adulterers, and said that men who beat their wives should not be questioned.
The rankings also include appearances by the far-right extremist Tommy Robinson and noted anti-Semites including Jackie Walker, the former Vice-Chair of Momentum.The report argues that universities’ protocols for upholding the Government’s prevent strategy are “not fit for purpose”.
Warning of an “industrial-scale failure by universities to apply their Prevent duties”, the report’s author highlights the apparent disparities between universities’ obligations under the law and the reality on the ground. Universities have an obligation under the ‘Prevent duty’ enacted by the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act (2015) to protect students from extremist speakers. The rules were instituted by Theresa May during her tenure as Home Secretary. The Government’s guidance on the duty states:
“…when deciding whether or not to host a particular speaker, [universities] should consider carefully whether the views being expressed, or likely to be expressed, constitute extremist views that risk drawing people into terrorism or are shared by terrorist groups. In these circumstances the event should not be allowed to proceed except where [universities] are entirely convinced that such risk can be fully mitigated without cancellation of the event.”
The league table reveals the universities with the most extreme events to be:
- SOAS, 70 events.
- King’s College London, 16 events.
- University of Birmingham, 15 events.
- Queen Mary University, 15 events.
- University College London, 15 events.
- Kingston University, 13 events.
- Cardiff University, 12 events.
- Brunel University, 11 events.
- Manchester Metropolitan University, 9 events.
- University of Bristol, 9 events
- University of Kent, 9 events.
- University of Essex, 9 events.
- LSE, 8 events.
- University of Sussex, 8 events.
- University of Leeds, 8 events.
Emma Fox, the report’s author commented:
“These findings reveal an industrial-scale failure by universities to apply their Prevent duties. Many of the worst offending universities were warned by Prime Minister, David Cameron, to sort out their act but have instead played host to more speakers than ever before. Theresa May instituted rules on balanced panels that are now being wholly ignored. It is my view that these universities’ statements about extreme speakers have been wholly disingenuous and that their lack of action over these events is so severe that it amounts to a self-evident failure to uphold the Prevent duty.
The individuals revealed to be speaking on UK campuses have included some of the most insidious hate preachers in the country. A significant number of the speakers, who spoke unopposed, have been linked to those who have gone on to commit terrorist offences and have made well-publicised extremist remarks. There should not have been any opportunity for them to secure near-unfettered access to students.
The Office for Students’ claim that 97% of universities are complying with their Prevent obligations bears no resemblance to the reality on the ground. The Office for Students must take enforcement action against the worst offending institutions. The OfS’ near singular focus on checking paperwork leaves its monitoring incomplete at best and its misinterpretation of Government guidelines risks enabling British extremism. The Office for Students’ monitoring of the Prevent duty is not fit for purpose.”
The University Extreme Speakers League Table
|Rank (Overall)||Institution||Total number of events||Number of events 2015/16||Number of events 2016/17||Number of events 2017/18|
|2||Kings College London||16||6||2||8|
|3||University of Birmingham||15||3||2||10|
|4||Queen Mary University||15||2||4||9|
|9||Manchester Metropolitan University||9||3||1||5|
|10||University of Bristol||9||3||2||4|
|11||University of Kent||9||2||4||3|
|12||University of Essex||9||3||3||3|
|14||University of Sussex||8||0||4||4|
|15||University of Leeds||8||3||2||3|
|16||University of Portsmouth||8||5||1||2|
|17||University of Leicester||7||1||2||4|
|18||University of Bradford||7||2||2||3|
|19||University of Warwick||7||2||2||3|
|20||University of Sheffield||7||3||1||3|
|21||University of Manchester||7||3||2||2|
|24||University of Nottingham||6||2||1||3|
|26||University of Oxford||5||1||3||1|
|27||University of the West of England||4||0||0||4|
|29||University of Exeter||4||1||0||3|
|30||Leeds Beckett University||4||1||1||2|
|32||University of Westminster||4||1||2||1|
|34||University of Bath||4||0||4||0|
|35||University of Southampton||4||0||4||0|
|36||University of Surrey||4||1||3||0|
|37||De Montfort University||3||0||0||3|
|38||University of Wolverhampton||3||0||0||3|
|39||University of Roehampton||3||0||1||2|
|40||University of Strathclyde||3||1||0||2|
|41||University of Aberdeen||3||1||1||1|
|42||University of Salford||3||1||1||1|
|43||University of Hull||3||1||2||0|
|44||Cardiff Metropolitan University||2||0||0||2|
|45||Sheffield Hallam University||2||0||0||2|
|46||University of Cambridge||2||0||0||2|
|47||University of Greenwich||2||0||0||2|
|48||University of Sunderland||2||0||0||2|
|49||University of Coventry||2||0||1||1|
|50||University of York||2||0||1||1|
|51||University of East London||2||1||0||1|
|52||Birmingham City University||2||1||1||0|
|54||Oxford Brookes University||2||1||1||0|
|55||Sheffield Hallam University||2||1||1||0|
|57||Queen Mary School of Medicine and Dentistry||2||2||0||0|
|58||University of Lancaster||2||2||0||0|
|60||Glasgow Caledonian University||1||0||0||1|
|63||Nottingham Trent University||1||0||0||1|
|65||University of Edinburgh||1||0||0||1|
|66||University of Glasgow||1||0||0||1|
|67||University of Northumbria||1||0||0||1|
|70||University of East Anglia||1||0||1||0|
|71||Heriot Watt University||1||1||0||0|
|72||London South Bank University||1||1||0||0|
|73||University of Brighton||1||1||0||0|
|74||University of Huddersfield||1||1||0||0|
|75||University of Liverpool||1||1||0||0|
|76||University of Newcastle||1||1||0||0|
|77||University of Northampton||1||1||0||0|
|78||University of St Andrews||1||1||0||0|
|Total (inc off-campus student events)||435||128||107||200|
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the standard for a speaker’s inclusion as ‘extreme’?
The report relies upon the Government’sof extremism. The report uses the High Court’s decisions in Shakeel Begg v British Broadcast Corporation (2016) and Salman Butt v Secretary of State for the Home Department (2017) for further clarification in interpreting the Government’s definition. In the case of both speakers and organisations, past comments and associations are judged against this standard. Speakers representing organisations with an ongoing history of extremism are considered to be extreme speakers for the purpose of the report. Where retractions by speakers are known to the author, they have been recorded.
How is the data collected?
The Henry Jackson Society, through its ‘Student Rights’ programme, maintains a list of events related to universities that feature or risk featuring extremism. The list is then compiled annually and each event is re-assessed according to the peer-reviewed methodology and used to populate this report and its included league table.
Why do you refer to events ‘promoted’ to students? Do all events take place on campus?
In order to be included within the report, events had to have been organised by, or targeted at, students or student groups. Like any student organisation, some events organised by student groups take place off-campus but are coordinated under their auspices and/or promoted to its members.
The report utilises records from online channels, including social media groups and student union event listings, to gather the data. HJS or Student Rights staff do not attend all events but list occasions for which an online or published record of promotion by or to students exists.