Written by Student Rights on 18 May 2012 at 6pm

Challenging Extremists: Practical frameworks for our universities

A new report released today by Student Rights and the Henry Jackson Society has uncovered evidence of Islamist-inspired extremism being promoted to students via social media.

It highlights the extent to which the ideology of groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir remains influential and details practical ways to challenge such ideas.

Co-authored by Student Rights’ researcher Rupert Sutton, the report provides evidence that external speakers continue to be invited to address students.

These include individuals who promote ideas of a Western war against Islam, support for paramilitary violence in Israel, encourage intolerance of non-believers and obligate Islam as a political system for law and governance.

It also demonstrates that some student society social media pages are used to share extremist material, including the speeches of the deceased senior Al-Qaeda operative Anwar Al-Awlaki

In other cases, an external individual shared video of a man designated by the United States government as an al-Qaeda linked fighter, recruiter, facilitator and propagandist, and an audio recording of a speech by Abdul Rahman Saleem, convicted in 2008 of inciting terrorism overseas.

A small number of student activists at London universities, as well as recent graduates that they interact with, also engage in Islamist political activism and disseminate Islamist-inspired material. This is often sourced from Hizb ut-Tahrir, and the report details evidence of students attending Hizb ut-Tahrir rallies and events as well as interacting with senior figures in the party.

However, the report does not just highlight the problems, but also offers policy makers who work in the field a number of workable recommendations that can help address the issue.

Utilising analyses of previous convictions where Islamism-inspired rhetoric has broken the law, it provides universities and student unions with guidelines which would enable them to make informed decisions when authorising speakers, and to ensure that free speech on campus is preserved whilst unlawful intolerance is challenged.

Rupert Sutton has said that “These findings demonstrate that the attempted radicalisation of young students over the internet, and particularly through social media, is an issue that needs to be taken very seriously.

The fact that an external individual has targeted these groups to share material featuring violent extremists is worrying enough, yet in some cases students themselves have introduced similar video, including of a senior Al-Qaeda figure, into these social spaces.

It is important that policy makers recognise that there are ways in which they can challenge such ideas, and the recommendations we have provided here offer practical steps that universities and student unions can take to confront such behaviour”.