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  • By on December 14, 2017 at 10:36 am

    Student Rights submits written evidence to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Freedom of Speech in Universities

    Between November and December 2017, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has held an inquiry into the state of freedom of speech in universities. So far they have received testimonies from a range of expert witnesses who are distinguished in the fields of academia, politics, law, journalism and wider civil society. The scope of this parliamentary inquiry considers whether government policy in this area is coherent. It also examines the Prevent duty’s attempts to balance multiple legal requirements, looks at the role of student unions and the new Office for Students (OfS), as well as reviewing examples of freedom of speech being suppressed on campus. Richard Black, Research Manager of Student Rights, has made a written submission to the inquiry. In it, he argued in favour of the Prevent strategy, outlined cases where freedom of speech has been restricted by students, and called for a robust approach to balanced platforms and instances of extremism in universities. Read more...

  • By on December 8, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    UWE Student Union President legitimises MEND extremists

    MEND has been incredibly active on student campuses in recent weeks, most notably through its leadership of a series of events held across the country, which collectively comprise the ‘Islamophobia Awareness Month’ (IAM) campaign. Despite this title, there are now signs that these efforts leave behind them an ugly trail of extremism. For instance, the IAM events at the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol were organised by Zain Choudhry, President of the UWE Students’ Union. These events featured extremists such as MEND representative Sahar al-Faifi and CAGE’s Outreach Director Moazzam Begg. Choudhry ridiculed criticism of MEND’s ties to extremism on Twitter. However, in recent days, the President himself has been under scrutiny, condemned by fellow students for describing a rival candidate for a student election as a “very Zionist type [of] person”. This incident underscores the dangers of allowing groups such as MEND to engage in de facto campaigning activity on campus, and to do so without challenge. Read more...

  • By on November 15, 2017 at 6:05 am

    ‘Students Not Suspects’ begin new tour with CAGE speaker convicted of terror offence

    As part of ‘Islamophobia Awareness Month’, the NUS have announced that a new ‘Students Not Suspects’ tour will visit campuses across the UK. The first of these speaker events will be hosted by the UCL students’ union on 15 November 2017. The panel discussion will feature CAGE’s International Director Muhammad Rabbani. Disturbingly, Rabbani was recently arrested and convicted of an offence under the Terrorism Act for withholding information on his phone and laptop from counter-terror police. Future ‘Students Not Suspects’ events are due to take place in Manchester (20 November), Sussex (21 November), Bristol (22 November), and Leicester (27 November). We have long written about ‘Students Not Suspects’ and its close links to CAGE and other extreme groups. Like previous tours, these workshops and panel events will most likely spread misinformation surrounding Prevent. In doing so, they ignore the critical safeguarding aspect of the policy, its efforts at challenging far-right extremism, as well as its ability to prevent individuals from being drawn into terrorism. Read more...

  • By on November 2, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    Student unions reveal hypocrisy and absurdity over speaker policies

    Recent news stories have shown that controversial yet mainstream speakers continue to be targeted by speaker policies on university campuses. The latest incidents involve the University of Liverpool, King’s College London, and the University of Sussex. It is notable that in all three of these examples, the student unions have not disclosed what it was that made them consider the speaker events to be medium or high risk. They have not been transparent with the decision making processes that led to these tendentious conclusions. This continuing trend suggests that student unions are not acting in the best interests of the students and societies that they represent. Concerned students have the right to hold them to account for adopting inconsistent approaches. Read more...

  • By on October 27, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    UCL due to host Hamas apologist Azzam Tamimi

    On 10 November 2017, the UCL Friends of Palestine will host an event with Dr. Azzam Tamimi, a Palestinian academic, in conjunction with student Palestine societies at Westminster, Queen Mary, KCL, City University, and Imperial College. Tamimi will speak alongside anti-Israel activist Miko Peled. Given Tamimi’s public support for Hamas, his use of anti-Semitic tropes, and his endorsement of violent extremism, it is highly disturbing that he is being given an unbalanced platform to spread his views on campus. As it stands, the event does not provide a satisfactory forum for challenging extremism or safeguarding the welfare of students. University authorities should intervene so that the event can take place with an independent moderator, a balanced panel, and university and/ or student union staff present. The event should be postponed if these conditions cannot be met. Read more...

  • By on October 20, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    Government announces tough measures against university censorship

    Jo Johnson, the Minister for Universities, has announced that the government is prepared to use fines and other sanctions against universities and student unions that refuse to uphold freedom of expression. Student Rights broadly welcomes these new recommendations. We believe that there has been widespread misuse of ‘no-platforming’ and ‘safe spaces’. We anticipate that these new measures will bring much needed clarity in this area. However, as we have continually stated in our past reports, this policy can only work if student unions and student societies are compelled to make greater use of balanced panels to ensure that extreme or controversial speakers are not left unscrutinised. Read more...

  • By on October 18, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    Extremist group ‘Sikh Youth UK’ targets students with anti-Muslim film

    The extremist organisation Sikh Youth UK has hosted a film demonising Muslims as “predatory sex groomers” at a number of university campuses, including student societies at Coventry, Nottingham, Nottingham Trent, Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield, Brunel, Birmingham City, Birmingham and Aston. The documentary, entitled ‘Misused Trust’, contains the fictional account of a Sikh girl who is seduced by a Muslim grooming gang. The film has been investigated by Ofcom, which received a complaint that it “advocated retaliatory violence as acceptable” and contained “potentially offensive” references to Muslims. Student Rights is deeply disturbed by these revelations. It is especially galling that this group has targeted students on campus and aligned itself with the Far-Right, in this case Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the anti-Muslim English Defence League (EDL). We strongly urge universities and students to monitor future instances of Sikh extremism and anti-Muslim hatred. Read more...

  • By on October 16, 2017 at 9:25 am

    Extremist-linked leaflets distributed at Freshers’ Fairs

    Freshers’ Week is finally over. Freshers’ fairs, usually hosted by student unions at most campuses between the middle of September and early October, allow a range of student societies to hand out promotional literature and sign up new members. It is also a perfect opportunity for extremists to target students. Student Rights has discovered that student societies across London have distributed leaflets promoting organisations with concerning reputations. We also found numerous examples of leaflets promoting extreme individuals. Student Rights is extremely disturbed by the appearance of these leaflets at university freshers’ fairs. We strongly urge the relevant university authorities and student unions to look into these incidents in order to prevent this from happening again. Read more...

  • By on September 15, 2017 at 10:09 am

    SOAS plays host to anti-Israel activist Jackie Walker

    On Wednesday 13 September, the Khalili Lecture Theatre at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) hosted a performance entitled ‘The Lynching’ with controversial anti-Israel activist Jackie Walker. The event was advertised as “a one-woman show” and was co-hosted by SOAS Palestine Society and a group calling itself ‘Free Speech on Israel’. It is concerning that this one-sided event - the premise of which is that the Jewish community is weaponising claims of anti-Semitism in bad faith in order to suppress criticism of Israel - went ahead without balance. We strongly urge SOAS to not host events of this kind in future. Read more...

  • By on September 14, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    ‘Safeguarding Against Extremism in Higher Education’: Conference Review

    Last week, Public Policy Exchange held a conference on extremism at the Strand Palace Hotel. The conference, entitled ‘Safeguarding Against Extremism in Higher Education: Preventing Hate and Protecting Freedoms’, featured distinguished speakers from a variety of fields, including law, academia, and the civil service. It gave an invaluable insight into the current legislation surrounding extremism as well as the debates surrounding Prevent. The conference accurately represented the diversity of views towards Prevent that exist across various sectors of British higher education. There were encouraging contributions that emphasised the necessity of the policy as well as its key successes. However, the number of critical voices reminds us that there still remains important work to be performed in relation to the communications and public relations side of the policy. Definitional clarity towards extremism remains an outstanding concern among many Prevent practitioners. It is absolutely vital that these perceptions and misunderstandings are robustly addressed. Read more...

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