Extreme speakers and events: in the 2017/18 academic year


This report catalogues 204 events promoted to students in the academic year 2017/18 featuring speakers with a history of extreme or intolerant views, or representatives of extremist-linked organisations. It subsequently compares these findings to those recorded in the previous two academic years. The majority of events promoted in 2017/18 were associated with Islamist or Salafist networks in the UK, and a small number of activists and groups dominated the scene with recurrent events, courses or campaigns. Some of the speakers’ views include: supporting convicted terrorists; animosity towards Jews, minority Muslim sects and “disbelievers”; advocating for an intifada [violent uprising] in America; the use of sharia-sanctioned slaves and strict hudud punishments such as stonings, amputations and capital punishment for homosexuals; the establishment of an Islamic caliphate; defending Hamas’ employment of suicide bombings; and promoting violent jihad. One speaker was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing. Several events acted as fundraisers for charities with past extremist associations, such as the Ummah Welfare Trust (UWT), Human Relief Foundation and the Al-Muntada Trust’s affiliate Muntada Aid. Charities that sponsored events include Interpal, which is a US-designated fundraising body for Hamas, and Human Appeal, whose ‘field offices’ have been linked to Hamas and Al-Qaeda associates. Preachers representing the charity iERA, institutionally associated with extremism, represented 15.3% of all recorded activity in 2017/18, while Haitham al-Haddad’s Muslim Research and Development Foundation (MRDF) was linked to two events across the 2017/18 academic year. It is evident that extremist-linked charities are able to raise funds, sponsor events and promote speakers to students without contest, likely evading risk-assessment escalation at universities due to their charitable status. In order to reduce the impact of extremist groups and narratives within institutes of higher education, a number of policies ought to be developed by practitioners in the sector. Dedicated Prevent and Safeguarding leads should review their procedure for determining external speaker risk, develop a detailed case report for escalated events and be given specialised Working to Raise Awareness of Prevent (WRAP) training, with a focus on local risk. Safeguarding leads should also work closely with the Charity Commission to ascertain risk with regard to registered charities previously investigated for, and currently associated with, extremism or terrorism overseas. Moreover, risk assessment criteria used by universities must adapt to the changing methodologies of extremist groups who target UK campuses. This includes prohibiting the promotion of events without an identified speaker and considering the contextual factors that surround events. Such influences include the exposure and socialisation with extremist speakers and groups, the dissemination of extremist literature, and off-campus advertisements of meetings with speakers’ more extreme affiliate partners.

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