With the identification of ‘Jihadi John’ this week as one Mohammed Emwazi, much focus has been given to his numerous apologists. Not least have been the representatives of the ‘CAGE’ activist group. As Maajid Nawaz and Mehrdad Amanpour have both complained, this platform given to them by journalists effectively normalises jihadist narratives in the media and wider society.
There is however another massive normalising entity for these barbarians – the UK’s University sector, and it fails to receive anything near the scrutiny it deserves.
Hot on the heels of Mohammed’s unmasking, we find out that he graduated from the University of Westminster. The University issued a statement shortly after, claiming the institution was “shocked and sickened by the news” and that it is “working…to tackle extremism”.
Which is interesting. As on the very same day this news broke, an Islamic hate preacher was due to speak at the University. Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad is a lovely chap – “kind, gentle” just like his co-religionist Mohammed. He believes that homosexuality is “criminal”, a “scourge” and “evil”. He also provides advice on the correct way to hack a girl’s genitals to pieces. Oh, and of course, the obligatory “hating the Kuffar”.
Students presented the university with a petition containing over 2,000 signatures against al-Haddad’s talk being allowed to go ahead. The University’s initial response was stunning. They said they were “committed to maintaining freedom of speech and a diversity of views as set out in the Education Act 1986” but that “[a]s a diverse community of local and international students of many faiths, respect and tolerance is our foremost concern”.
This is simply beyond belief in the kind of environment where the most minor infraction, or even perceived infraction (whether intended or not) of the groupthink speech codes can lead to excoriation, banning, or even sacking. Robin Thicke’s excellent ‘Blurred Lines’ is banned from campuses across the UK for allegedly inciting and fuelling “rape culture”, but speakers promoting criminalisation, or even murder, of homosexuals and promotion of the permanent sexual maiming of prepubescent girls is, apparently, acceptable.
The University of Westminster has form on this issue, and were a league table of jihadi-factory Universities ever created it would surely feature within the top ten for the UK. They officially express “shock” and surprise, yet have no grounds for either. The institution’s disingenuous platitudes dramatically increase its culpability. It has had an Islamist problem for years.
In 2011, one Tarik Mahri, a member of Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, was elected as the Union President. That’s right – the Union President – the public face of the students! Not only was he elected with a comfortable majority but another Hizb ut-Tahrir member was elected as vice-president. It is no wonder that, in the Harry’s Place reporting on al-Haddad, a quoted LGBT student from the university wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.
And yet such stories are not incredibly rare exceptions. They have become commonplace for institutions across the country. Michael Adebolajo, one of Lee Rigby’s murderers, converted to Islam and was radicalised whilst attending the University of Greenwich and its student Islamic Society. Both the university and Lee Rigby’s murder occurred just a few miles away from where I live now. Unlucky, right? No. The preponderance of Islamist coddling institutions is much higher than you might think.
I returned to London having lived for many years in Sheffield, where each University in the city – the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University – had an Islamist problem at the time when I left. Both student Islamic societies at each institution regularly hosted Islamist speakers. Worse, Rashad Ali, an ex-member of Hizb ut-Tahir (them again) admitted that they had used Sheffield Hallam’s Islamic society as a recruiting ground. He also confessed that they had control of the student Islamic societies at both Bradford and Birmingham universities.
How is it possible that such activity could become so widespread and tolerated in our higher education sector for so long? Especially as campuses have now become breeding grounds for Offendotrons as well as Islamists?
A substantial part of it is the white hot hypocrisy, double standards and cowardice of the student left. I will get onto that in another piece. Beyond the student bubble though, surely we see grown-ups in charge who should be responsibly stamping down on this?
Rashad Ali gives us a disturbing insight into the processes within the University that facilitate their Islamist recruitment outside of the purview of student union politics:
“We had Hizb people delivering sermons every Friday and influential lecturers stayed on as PhD students and then lecturers at universities. These were people whom the university had confidence in and would not doubt.”
Such infiltration into the very ranks of the University staff themselves can be seen materially at the University of Westminster. Who was responsible for “vetting” al-Haddad’s suitability for speaking on campus? Step forward “Interfaith Adviser” Yusuf Kaplan. Kaplan was previously a student of al-Haddad. What a pretty little circle.
Seeing such a blatant infiltration and conflict of interests, one starts to wonder at the behaviour of other higher education institutions and their related bodies. In 2013, UniversitiesUK, the premier advocacy organisation for British Universities, issued guidance stating that sex-segregated meetings were absolutely fine on campus. Their only stipulation is that the separate groups of men and women are seated side by side. Oh, that’s OK then. Whilst in the face of opposition they were forced to recant this position, that such an obviously sexist and offensive policy would be recommend by such an august body boggles the mind and shows how far the university sector has fallen, both in terms of its capacity to issue collectively wise judgements and its submission to cultural relativism.
Both websites of the National Secular Society and Harry’s Place routinely document the ongoing attendance of hate preachers at university campuses across the UK. They tend to do so wearily though, and who can blame them, because the pattern has been set now that whilst institutions express “shock” and “sickness” when such events are in the public eye, once the attention of the media has passed on they are quick to resume turning a blind eye – until the next time, when the cycle just rinses and repeats. This is exactly what has occurred at the University of Westminster – under the intense gaze of public scrutiny, al-Haddad’s talk has been “postponed” (but not cancelled).
Indeed, the National Secular Society’s assessment of the current state of play is grim:
“There’s no doubt that the influence of political Islam in British universities is growing and with Islamic societies frequently hosting extremist preachers, universities need to be mindful of the effect that such speakers are having on young British Muslims.”
They go on to advocate that “the best response to their poisonous narrative is open discussion and debate, where it can be systematically exposed, ridiculed and defeated.” Yet such an approach is difficult to take even once, never mind consistently. And let us be clear, consistent and continual exposure of such individuals, groups and their sponsors within Universities is what is required. Those who try are routinely targeted by the left’s Useful Idiot contingent on campus and intimidated into silence.
It is an utterly despicable and shameful state of affairs and both the Higher Education sector itself and the student left have an awful lot to answer for. I will address the deficiencies of the latter in the next part.