Campus radicals 'serious threat’ in UK
Union officials have warned of a 'Muslim McCarthyism' Universities and colleges in England are being urged by the government to take seriously the problem of Islamic extremism on their campuses.
Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell has issued practical guidance about tackling the promotion of "extremism in the name of Islam".
Officials believe there is a serious although not widespread threat of violent extremism on campuses. The government says the guidance is not about targeting Muslim students. The Department for Education and Skills decided the guidance was necessary after discussions with universities, Muslim students and law enforcement agencies.
Entitled Promoting good campus relations dealing with hate crimes and intolerance, it aims to promote safety in educational institutions and ensure that staff and universities are taking the matter seriously.
Students should be interviewed in order to make sure that they are committed to academic study Professor Anthony Glees, security expert
The guidance includes scenarios based on real-life examples of how violent extremism in the name of Islam may occur on campuses. It suggests issues to consider if staff suspect the circulation of violent extremist literature or if they are worried about extremist speakers or groups visiting the campus.
It will also:
Point out universities responsibilities within the law and clarify the legal position Encourage staff to become more vigilant and take preventative action to tackle violent extremism in the name of Islam
Make a clear distinction between those who promote violent extremism in the name of Islam and the faith they might claim to be associated with or represent.'Serious issue'
Mr Rammell said there was a real and serious threat but that he did not want colleges to start spying on students.
"There is a serious issue here, we do have to face up to it, but this is also about building community cohesion on our campuses," he told the BBC.
"This is about talking to them, it is about listening to their concerns and it is about working with the vast majority of all students, Muslim and non-Muslims alike, who oppose extremism."
Intelligence and security expert Professor Anthony Glees, who published a report last year warning of the risks of students being radicalised, said he believed there should be far more checks on students from abroad.
"Students should be interviewed in order to make sure that they are committed to academic study," he said.
"We can't be sure of the extent of the problem and indeed we can't be sure of the precise way in which campuses and colleges and possibly schools feature in this deadly activity." In October, the BBC reported that the radicalisation of students by Islamist groups was a growing problem on some university campuses.
Senior academics warned that the authorities were doing little to tackle the problem. 'Exaggeration' One London university has appointed a moderate Muslim cleric to steer a small number of students away from extremism.
But the Federation of Student Islamic Societies insists radicalism is not widespread.
Head of student affairs Faisal Hanjra said he believed such a step was not generally useful because it tended to exaggerate the threat and blow the issue out of proportion. He is also worried that university and college authorities will start to look for things that are not there.
When a draft version of the guidance was leaked in October, representatives from the University College Union accused the government of wanting college authorities to engage in "anti-Muslim McCarthyism".
The group representing university vice-chancellors, Universities UK, also warned of the danger of targeting a particular group.