Thu, 09/06/2011 - 12:08
The government has identified 40 universities which it believes could be breeding grounds for Islamic extremists - and Kingston could be one, according to the university's chaplain.
Stan Brown, Kingston University chaplain, said the university did not tolerate extremism but could be on the list based on its location and demographic breakdown.
He said: “It would not be surprising if Kingston University featured among the 40 universities to be detailed.
“This number represents around a third of the higher education sector, so most, if not all, the major metropolitan universities are likely to feature on the list simply because of their demographics.”
Rev Brown's remarks came as a response to the publication this week by the Home Office of their revised counter-terrorism strategy. The Prevent report reveals that the government asked selected universities to assess their strategies in 2009 but not all responded. The government has so far refused to publish the names of all the suspected universities.
It warns universities that Islamic extremists may be abusing their freedom of speech policies to preach radical ideas and target particularly those with large numbers of Muslim students.
KU has been host to three radical speakers since 2009, according to the Centre for Social Cohesion.
The latest appearance, Murtaza Khan, caused a controversy in February after he reportedly abused student Mojtaba Masood during his speech.
The university said it upheld freedom of speech but would act immediately on incitement to racial hatred and breaches of the equality policy.
It pointed to the response of the Vice Chancellors body, Universities UK, to the Home Secretary's comments on Tuesday, which denied any shortcomings of universities in tackling extremism.
CEO Nicola Dandridge said: “We must draw a fine line between unlawful speech, which should be banned, and views we don’t agree with. Students should be encouraged to take on, challenge and debate these views.”
But KU student Mojtaba suggested the message of extremist preachers was often difficult to detect and vulnerable students were at risk: “Guest speakers are very careful in what they say. They don't directly preach extremism; instead they throw little comments here and there. Overall the message is clear and even though most people are not influenced by the talks, a minority, usually those with personality flaws, begin to become extreme in their views.”
In its revised strategy, the Home Office recognises universities’ commitment to protecting academic freedom but highlights their duty to safeguard vulnerable young people from radicalisation.
It pledges to address the perceived lack of engagement of some universities, which it has targeted as hot spots since 2008.
Theresa May, Home Secretary, said she aimed to establish a closer working relationship between universities, local communities and the police to counter the problem of radicalisation among young people.