By Jonathan Hoffman
January 16, 2010
The alleged Christmas underpants bomber Abdulmatalab was formerly President of the Islamic Society at UCL. He is the fourth President of a London student Islamic society to face terrorist charges in three years.
Now Universities UK – which represents the heads of British universities – is setting up a group to tackle extremism on campus, to be chaired by UCL Provost Malcolm Grant. This is "taking the mick". First it is four years since the Parliamentary All-Party Inquiry into Antisemitism recommended this move. Why has it taken Abdulmatalab's suspected atrocity attempt to prod them into action? Second Grant, in a recent article in the Times Higher Education Supplement, suggested that only badly educated people from poor families become terrorists, thus proving that he hasn’t a clue about what motivates extremism:
What induced this behaviour remains a mystery. He [Abdulmatalab] has not emerged from a background of deprivation and poverty. He came from one of Nigeria’s wealthiest families. He was privately educated, and to a high level. He gained admission to University College London, where he studied mechanical engineering with business finance between 2005 and 2008, and was president of the UCL student Islamic Society in 2006-07.
Self-regulation has demonstrably failed. When that happens it is time for government to step in. All university society meetings where there may be hate speech should be videoed and the videos looked at by the Crown Prosecution Service. If there is an offence under the Public Order Act (or another law), the University should be prosecuted as well as the offending individual who was at the meeting. And the Society that organised the meeting where the offence took place should be closed down for two years. The CPS also needs to be much more willing to recommend prosecutions for hate speech. I am still waiting for a response from the CPS about an antisemitic meeting I attended at Goldsmiths in November 2008.
Denis MacShane MP had the following letter in The Times on 31 December:
Sir, In 2006 an all-party parliamentary commission I chaired reported on rising anti-Semitism on university campuses and the support for Islamist ideology, including appeals to jihad, which are widespread in students circles. University vice-chancellors and the university lecturers’ union pooh-poohed our concerns. Might they now have the intellectual honesty to admit that this is a serious problem, or do we have to wait until some student radicalised by campus Islamism succeeds in killing hundreds before our university elites realise what is incubating on British campuses?
It is blindingly obvious that the university heads have woefully failed to address this problem. Government action is way overdue.