Annex C: Note of SOAS meeting |
We met with around 15 students from SOAS, including
the Student Union officers, on 6 December 2011 to discuss radicalisation
at British universities and student responses to the Prevent Strategy.
A summary of the main issues raised follows.
Drivers of radicalisation
- Young Muslims were disenfranchised
from mainstream culture. Although the UK was less anti-Muslim
than most other Western countries, Islamophobia was growing, with
David Cameron's speech on multiculturalism in Munich a turning
- Individuals did not behave in a vacuumdisenfranchisement
was also driven by the closure of youth services and a feeling
that Muslims were disproportionately targeted by police during
legal protests, for example.
- There was a link between radicalisation and UK
- Radicalisation was linked to individual vulnerabilities,
and could be countered through the development of critical analytical
- Radicalisation took place behind closed doors,
with the internet playing a large role.
Scale of radicalisation at university
- Universities were not a major
forum for radicalisation. Muslims students had not encountered
anyone supporting terrorism at Islamic societies or elsewhere
- The statistic that around 30% of terrorist offenders
attended university should not be used on its own to imply cause
and effect between university attendance and support for terrorism.
- Extremist preachers were a "novelty"
for Muslim youth, which had now largely worn off, particularly
since people had been killed. Radicalisation had decreased as
- To the extent that there was a problem, it was
in London and linked to the fact that universities provided "free
space" whose use was difficult to regulate.
Attitudes towards Prevent
- Many students were unhappy
with the definitions of radicalisation and extremism and the negative
connotation given to the word radical in the Prevent Strategy.
- The perception was that Prevent was clearly targeted
at Muslims, which would lead to further radicalisation.
- Universities were places of challenge for extremist
ideology and should be defended as such. Community cohesion occurred
through discussions between groups with conflicting ideas.
- Students Unions distrusted Prevent because it
appeared to deal with the symptoms rather than the causes of radicalisation.
It was viewed as a sophisticated intelligence-gathering structure.
- SOAS Student Union had never been approached
by Prevent police officers but believed this practice was counter-productive.