Written by Student Rights on 7 January 2011 at 3pm

Media: Times Higher Education, 'Contravene or Intervene?'

mast_blank6 January 2011

Freedom of speech is passionately defended in UK education, but when Islamic extremism and even terrorism have emanated from some of our campuses, should institutions step in? Matthew Reisz weighs up the hands-on and hands-off approaches... [Read the full article by clicking here]
Student Rights are mentioned three times:
Raheem Kassam, national director of Student Rights - which was set up in 2009, he says, "in response to students' anger at disruption to their lives" - prefers to speak of "Islamism" rather than "Islamic extremism". Although his organisation is "opposed to all forms of abuse on campus", it is the Islamic variety that "comes up most often and leaves the clearest paper trail, since the events are openly advertised".
"Much of the rhetoric coming from vice-chancellors is dismissive and therefore dangerous, because they don't want to acknowledge that extremism is a problem on their campus," he says. --- "Some academics don't want to speak out," says Student Rights' Kassam, "as they are worried they would be seen as supporting a government that launched a War on Terror.
This can lead to an attitude towards Muslims of 'Your frustration is understandable - have a racist outburst'. Sympathy with the grievances of British Muslims often leads to indulgence or fingers in the ears." --- Although he "respects student democracy", Kassam believes there are not enough checks and balances in the booking of speakers.
He calls for "balancing the panels in debates or moving events off campus, so they are not using taxpayer resources. That's much better than outright banning. We need an intelligent discourse about contentious issues alongside activism. It is the responsibility of student unions to get the best out of their debates."
In this, Kassam is strongly opposed by the authorities at UCL who refuse to operate a "no platform" policy.