This is a guest post by Tiki
“Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army” Edward Everett a former President of Harvard and US secretary of State said. However, since former UCL Islamic society president Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s failed attempt to blow up a plane bound for Detroit on Christmas Day, it is the level of liberty allowed to radical ideologues by Universities in Britain, institutions which are seen as the pinnacle of the British Education system, which has come to be questioned.
Last night’s episode of Radio 4’s ‘The Report’ featured an anonymous member of UCL Isoc who spoke of the totalitarian and intimidating culture within the group. Her criticism was countered by a spokesperson for FOSIS (Federation of Student Islamic Societies), a former head of UCL Isoc, who retorts that UCL Isoc and Isocs in general have a policy of inclusiveness and a “get involved” spirit. The man from FOSIS’s arguments are supported by UCL Provost Prof. Malcolm Grant who inevitably channels the discussion onto “freedom of speech,” arguing that Universities should act as “observers” as opposed to “policemen” and that the prohibition of radical speakers from appearing on campus would not prevent the radicalization of students. Quite why these radical speakers appear on campuses if they don’t expect to have any influence there clearly hasn’t occurred to him.
His reassurances appear even more complacent when we learn that UCL recently gave a platform to none other than the media renowned (yet, in reality, barely supported at all) ANJEM CHOUDARY. Anjem chaired an event held in a UCL lecture theatre on the 11th December under the banner “Prisoners of War against Islam” and used the platform to broadcast an address via video conference from Lebanon – a video link straight from exiled leader of the now-banned Islamist group, OMAR BAKRI MOHAMMED. Is this what Professor Grant is “observing”.
The hypocrisy is rank, those who argue that a platform should be granted to the likes of Anjem Choudry tend to be the very people who simultaneously stand aghast at the prospect of BNP appearing on campuses. Radical groups cannot be allowed to propagate their prejudiced and divisive messages hidden behind a cloak of political correctness. Instead, we must not be afraid to penetrate the cloak and stand up to champion the principles of liberal democracy, the very principles which in many cases have allowed some of these radicals refuge and safety.
UPDATE: This is what “Rashida” tells the BBC about UCL’s Islamic society:
Rashida: From the beginning I felt put off by the Islamic society. I felt that unless someone was seen to be living their version of Islam, they weren’t really welcoming. So for example on the sisters’ side, if a sister was to walk into the prayer room without a hijab, they would just get lectured in a very patronising way to the extent that they would probably never come to the prayer room again.
Even say, for example, you’re praying slightly differently to them and they’d have to correct them. To the extent that someone might be praying and they would come and they’d, like, move their feet. It’s basically like someone really looking down on someone, you know, and saying “well you’re inferior because you don’t do this”.
They also teach them political ideology which they say is the same as Islam and which they masquerade as Islam. So, for example, according to them you cannot possibly be a good Muslim if you don’t support their viewpoint on Palestine and you have a different viewpoint. You cannot be a good Muslim if you don’t have the same viewpoint as them on the Iraq war, for example. Things like that which are political things at the end of the day, right? So if you are a moderate Muslim it is very difficult.
Interviewer: So it‘s an intimidating atmosphere if you don’t follow their way of thinking.
Rashida: Yeah. You could never really be part of the ISOC. You’d definitely be sidelined. Your views won’t be heard.
Interviewer: What if you have friends who are non-Muslim?
Rashida: This is something that I noticed right at the beginning which really, really put me off. When I first went to UCL, obviously I had a hijab on. Other hijabi girls were fine with me, they were smiling, they were talking. But as soon as they realised that I had non-Muslim friends, I don’t think it matters if it’s non-Muslim male friends or non-Muslim female friends, they just stopped being as welcoming and friendly towards me. It was kind of like “oh, you are either with us or you are with them”.