Today, the Daily Mail published a four page investigation into extremist speakers on campuses, focusing on the pro-terrorist group CAGE’s campaign to undermine Government counter-radicalisation measures.
The Mail reported that there were at least 13 on-campus events last term which featured officials from CAGE; most often the group’s Outreach Director Moazzam Begg.
They argue that Begg has been given “extraordinary access to students”, which he used to suggest that the public were hypocrites for focusing on Western victims of terrorism, as well as defend men convicted of travelling to fight in Syria with Jabhat Al-Nusra.
The investigation also highlighted the link between “key hard-Left figures in the NUS” and CAGE, detailing their joint efforts in encouraging students and staff to sabotage the Prevent Strategy.
The Home Secretary Theresa May responded to the Mail’s investigation, reaffirming the Government’s commitment to dealing with campus extremism in saying:“This investigation highlights exactly the sort of damaging rhetoric which none of us should allow to go unchallenged. Our universities have a proud tradition of championing free speech – but this should never be at the expense of giving extremist vies the oxygen they need to flourish.”
The events highlighted by the Mail all featured platforms with no opposition speakers, and all allowed the claims of CAGE officials to go unchallenged.
Students should be having an open discussion about Prevent, and our campuses must always remain places where people are able to robustly criticise government policy.
However, if this is to involve extreme or controversial voices, it must also involve hearing all sides of the argument, and not allow extremist narratives to dominate the discussion.
Here at Student Rights, we believe universities should insist on balanced platforms in these cases, and help create an environment where students feel able to challenge speakers.
Last term we attended numerous events featuring speakers from extremist organisations, including CAGE, and have also followed the NUS’ ‘Students Not Suspects’ campaign – frequently reporting on student attempts to undermine the Government’s counter-radicalisation strategy.
At these events we consistently saw speakers spread misinformation about Prevent as well as making baseless claims which repeatedly labelled Prevent as ‘racist’ and an attempt to criminalise Muslims.
This inflammatory language is not only inaccurate, but also risks sowing division between Muslim communities in this country and public institutions, spreading a culture of victimhood which extremist recruiters prey on.
As such, it is encouraging that the Daily Mail has been able to shine further light on this issue, and that the divisive narrative spread by CAGE and NUS officials is coming under increased scrutiny.