Friday, September 16, 2005

Unibombers?

Wahey! Turns out that my alma mater is not the apolitical desert that I once thought it was. Pity it's for all the wrong reasons, though. According to a report published in the Guardian today (loving the new look, but going through a nostalgic phase for the old masthead), City University falls into a list of 30 universities across England, Scotland and Wales that house 'extremist organisations' that 'pose a serious threat to national security', apparently unbeknownst to the teaching staff. City, it seems, has a small squadron of Islamist subversives (the Guardian's words, not mine) operating on campus, as do the majority of the other universities on the list. Here it is in full, with related offences alongside. You'll no doubt find it unsurprising that the only animal rights extremists are based at Oxford.
  • Birmingham (Islamist)
  • Brunel (BNP, Islamist)
  • Cambridge (BNP)
  • City (Islamist)
  • Coventry (Islamist)
  • Cranford Community College (Islamist)
  • Derby (Islamist)
  • Dundee (Islamist)
  • Durham (Islamist)
  • Greenwich (BNP)
  • Imperial College (Islamist)
  • Kingston (Islamist)
  • Leeds (BNP, Islamist)
  • Leicester (Islamist)
  • LSE (Islamist)
  • Luton (Islamist)
  • Manchester (BNP, Islamist)
  • Manchester Metropolitan (BNP)
  • Newcastle (Islamist)
  • Nottingham (Islamist)
  • Oxford (Animal rights extremists)
  • Reading (Islamist)
  • Salford (BNP)
  • South Bank (Islamist)
  • SOAS (Islamist)
  • Sussex (BNP)
  • Sunderland (BNP, Islamist)
  • Swansea (Islamist)
  • Wolverhampton (Islamist)
  • York (BNP)
Personally, I feel bad for the kids stuck at places like Leeds, Manchester and Sunderland. Imagine having "Islamofascists" (I hate that word) and the BNP battling it out in the corridors. There are probably whole sections of the university that are off limits for one group or the other. Turf, you might say.

I personally never noticed any Islamist subversives during my time at City, but then it's not as though I was looking for them in the first place. So who are these people, and what do they do? Apparently they are members of Hizb ut-Tahrir and al-Muhajiroun, albeit with varying levels of organisation.

For me, this compares interestingly with the first university I attended, famous (in Canada) for its politically charged student body. Things descended into violence in 2002 after Benjamin Netanyahu was scheduled to make a speech there. In recent years, Concordia has made headlines for its Israeli-Palestinian divide, with the student union joining forces with something called the Society for Palestinian Human Rights on one side, while Concordia Hillel took up the opposing position.

Obviously the fight or 'cause' was different; last I checked, neither side wanted to install a new religious regime in Ottawa. But perhaps another important reason they were less of a threat is that they were easier to keep tabs on. Everybody knew who the leading student voices were on both sides. Concordia had not one but two weekly student newspapers when I was there, and both regularly chronicled the ins and outs of the political debate. Letters-to-the-editor pages were often full to bursting with angry exhortations, barbed retorts and impassioned manifestos. Put simply, there was a forum for these people to express themselves and to engage in debate. I can't speak for the other universities, but at City, there was no such forum. Student politics didn't exist, and a typical student body president's platform ran something along the lines of, "I will work hard to get more money for the Ents committee and cheap drinks in the student bar!!!!!" You get the drift. The idea of adopting or supporting an actual cause or an issue was never discussed, and as a result, most politically minded students felt completely disconnected from the union. Our "student newspaper", Massive, came out only once every few months, sometimes twice a year at most, and was rarely more than a series of lifestyle features and CD reviews.

So I wonder: is the presence of covert extremists, Islamist or otherwise, on campus a by-product of a failed communication system? Surely the point of university (apart from drinking oneself into the ground and surviving on tinned beans) is to share ideas and promote democracy in learning... isn't it? Maybe if these people had a vehicle for sharing their idea with others, there would be enough of an outcry from the more moderate and liberal of the student body to cause them to continually reassert and reassess their political beliefs. Just a thought.

4 Comments:

At September 16, 2005 4:36 pm, Blogger Deaglan said...

"University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small" - Henry Kissinger

 
At September 19, 2005 7:00 pm, Anonymous Neville said...

I can understand the problems of universities trying to tackle extremism, but should we be fighting the real extremists, Bush and Blair, for ideological reasons have made the world a more dangerous place.

 
At September 20, 2005 9:25 am, Blogger Lady M said...

Er.... what? Please, please tell me you're joking, Neville. Bush and Blair may be many things, but "extremists" and "the cause of all the world's evil" they're mosat certainly not.

 
At September 21, 2005 2:12 pm, Anonymous pangloss said...

I have happy memories of al-Muj at City. The Fresher's Fayre where they set up a stall without permission and then proceeded to spend the afternoon haranguing the gay+lesbian society, until eventually the police had to be called to remove them, was a particular highlight.

 

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