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Written by Student Rights on 18 March 2011 at 3pm

A Disregard for Morality at Exeter University?

steveby James Gourlay

The recent scandal regarding the dubious case of the Gaddafi regimes’ funding of the LSE has lead to other institutions ending up with mud on their faces as more links are exposed. One such institution is Exeter University. The Vice-Chancellor of Exeter University, Steve Smith, visited Libya in 2003 as the president-elect of the International Studies Association.  

Smith’s meeting occurred with the aim of cementing “Exeter’s role as the lead academic advisor to the Libyan National Programme for Postgraduate Development”, and to setup an “Exeter Centre for English in Tripoli”. Further to this, a “wider deal-expected to see several British universities providing PhD places for Libyan academics” was proposed. The Exeter University Senate meeting minutes from March 2003 state that the deal involved “several British universities, including Exeter, Lancaster and Warwick”.

The deal with The Gaddafi regime never came to fruition as, according to a statement released by Exeter University, “the initial proposals just fizzled out”. The fact that the deal was not completed does not absolve Exeter University and Steve Smith of culpability in anyway. The crucial detail is the intention of the parties involved. They intended to take large amounts of money and didn’t make a moral judgement on where this money was coming from.

There was an attempt to justify the actions by stating that Smith visited Libya at the “request of the British Council and the Government”. This is all well and good but doesn’t take away from the fact that this action has and is doing damage to the integrity of Exeter and British universities as a whole. Universities are supposed to be a bastion of enlightenment, well-debated thought and morality. Does the decision to take funding from and support Gaddafi show any of these qualities?

NO.

Thus, all it has done is damage the integrity of the university. Another feather in Exeter’s cap is its European Muslim Research Centres’ heavy involvement with purported Islamists and Islamist organisations. Anas-al-Tikriti, who is a member of the advisory board at the ERMC, is also a director of both IslamExpo and The Cordoba Foundation. Both these organisation have highly questionable links.

The Cordoba Foundation sponsored an event in tandem with the EMRC which hosted Azad Ali. Ali, a member of the Islamic Forum Europe and is known for his “apparent support for jihadist attacks on British troops in Iraq and his praise for Abdullah Azzam, Bin Laden’s mentor”.  In another example, The Cordoba Foundation organised an event in 2009 which Anwar-al-Awalaki, the “leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula”, was scheduled to speak. 

IslamExpo in 2006, another event which Al-Tikriti helped to organise, hosted Jamal Bawadi who has strong ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and has called a book written by Hasan-al-Banna (a founding father of Islamism) “the most inspirational book” he has read. Another Individual on the advisory board at the ERMC is Muhammad Abdul Bari, the former secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain and Islamic Forum Europe, organisations both highly criticised for their Islamist tendencies. Funding has also been another issue of contention at the EMRC. In 2009-2010 the entire funding of the ERMC came from both The Cordoba Foundation and IslamExpo

In a rather telling coincidence, The Cordoba Foundation was required to return a portion of the funding it had received from the PREVENT strategy as a result of its decision to allowing Hizb-ut-Tahrir to have platform at one of their events. Ultimately, the ERMC at Exeter has to ask itself if this is really the type of people that they want to help them achieve their aim of combating the idea that “Islam and strict adherence to Islam poses a threat to the safety, cohesion and well being of communities and countries in Europe”?