“Islamic extremists ‘infiltrate Oxbridge’,” by Roya Nikkhah for the Sunday Telegraph:
Leading universities including Oxford and Cambridge have been targeted by Islamic extremists who remain widely active on campuses, a prominent academic is warning.
The claim calls into question the Government’s attempted crackdown on Islamic extremism in universities and casts doubt on claims by Bill Rammell, the Higher Education Minister, that the problem is not widespread.
Prof Glees will warn the Association of University Chief Security Officers (Aucso) next month that the disbanded extremist group, al-Muhajiroun, claims to have infiltrated “the main campuses such as Cambridge, Oxford, the London School of Economics and
His speech on “radicalism in universities” also states that at its peak before
the July 7 bombings in 2005, al-Muhajiroun had a presence at “more than 48 universities and
faculties”, and that Omar Bakri Mohammed, the group’s founder, claims it is “still operational” in several campuses.
Prof Glees, the director of Brunel University’s Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, said: “We must accept this problem is widespread and underestimated. Unless clear and decisive action against campus extremism is taken, the security situation in the UK can only deteriorate.”
Following a report from Prof Glees showing that 31 universities and colleges had hard-line Islamic groups within their campuses, the Department for Education and Skills last year issued guidelines on dealing with any extremism.
Student Islamic societies have faced growing scrutiny after it emerged that one of 12 men charged in connection with the alleged plot to blow up transatlantic airliners was president of the Islamic Society at London Metropolitan University. Last year, Aucso launched a “counter-terrorism” group to tackle the spread of Islamic fundamentalism on
Prof Glees called on the Government to provide extra investment in campus security and urged university officials to interview undergraduates to ensure that they were bona fide students.
A spokesman for Oxford University said: “We always take any extremism seriously and work closely with the police on any form of extremism that might affect our students or staff.” A Cambridge University spokesman said he was not aware of any current extremist activity but that the university “remained vigilant”. The Government’s controversial guidance asked university staff to “monitor” student Islamic societies and report any
“Asian-looking” students they suspected of extremism to the security services. Student groups attacked the move as “bearing on the side of McCarthyism”.
Other critics suggest that the guidelines are widely ignored. Chris Pope, an associate fellow of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, said: “My understanding is that this problem is ongoing and expanding in some campuses.”
A spokesman for Universities UK, the umbrella group for British vice-chancellors, said: “In the rare event of such problems, universities work very closely with the police and other authorities.”
In a recent report from a London-based Arabic newspaper, Anjem Choudary, the former head of al-Muhajiroun in Britain, who joined the group as a student at the University of Surrey, confirmed that while the movement officially disbanded in 2005, “the students of Omar Bakri continue to preach on campuses”.
Last year, Dhiren Barot, said to be al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s “UK general”, was jailed for 40 years for planning terrorist attacks. Barot, 34, faked his identity in order to study at Brunel University.
The London School of Ecomonics and Imperial College were unable to comment.
Mr Rammell said: “Our assessment has not changed. Violent extremism in the name of Islam is a real, credible and sustained threat to the UK and there is evidence of a serious, but not widespread risk of violent extremism in the name of Islam on our university campuses.”
Hmm. Define “widespread.”