Universities ‘should employ watchdogs against discriminatory extremism’

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Universities should employ watchdogs to guard against religious extremism, a report has said.

According to a report from the Quilliam Foundation, student unions should be responsible for hiring someone to discourage religious societies from booking extremist speakers, managing disputes between different student groups and challenging “sub-criminal extremism”.

The report uses City University in London as a case study, citing incidents in the last academic year.

It accused some members of the Islamic society of intimidating gay, female and Jewish students, as well as those who worked on the student newspaper.

Last November, the institution’s Islamic society was visited by a Birmingham-based imam who has said gays should be killed.

Abu Usamah was secretly filmed for the Channel 4 programme in January 2007 saying: “Take that homosexual man. . .and throw him off the mountain. . . If I was to turn around and I was to call homosexuals perverted, dirty filthy dogs that should be murdered, that’s my freedom of speech isn’t it?”

The Quilliam report quoted a senior member of City University’s LGBT society who said he believed that the Islamic society had contributed to a rise in campus homophobia in the last year.

The student said he was “scared” by the Islamic society. He added that some LGBT Muslim students had enquired about joining the LGBT society but did not come to meetings and theorised that the atmosphere on campus left them feeling unable to be open about their sexuality.

The Quilliam report said that some members of the Islamic society had allegedly described women as “deficient” and had called for those who do not pray to be killed.

It recommended that student unions should hire a watchdog to check the activities of societies, as some US universities do. Student unions should employ a “horizon-scanning” approach and research possible society speakers, the report said.

A Quilliam society spokesman said: “University campuses have been recognised by policy-makers as key places where Islamist ideologies can spread, but the processes of radicalisation involved have often remained unclear.”

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who called for the vice-chancellor of City University to resign after Abu Usamah’s visit, said that the report had exposed homophobia, anti-semitism and sexism on campus.

He said: “This report is a wake-up call to complacent university authorities and student unions. They too often look the other way while Islamists foment hatred and intolerance among the student population.”