Monday, August 04, 2008

Rage on campus

I'm a little bit late to the party, but toward the end of July the Centre for Social Cohesion published a report looking at the views of both Muslim and non-Muslim students at Universities in Britain.

Like a spate of previous survey results, the findings should be shocking but sadly they just seem to fall into a long pattern of radicalised views of Muslims in the West. (See executive summary here) To be sure, most Muslim students don't want to stone all the gays, or overthrow Democratic traditions or kill in the name of Islam, or believe that women are inherently inferior, but a significant disturbing minority do. And apparently, that number (mostly) rises when survey respondents were active members of Islamic societies on campus. Actually, active members of clubs or societies were more likely to feel that Islam and Democracy were compatible, which can be interpreted in more than one way.

Kids will be kids. Young adults seem more likely to hold extreme views on a number of things from the unalloyed good of the "free market" to environmentalism to Islamism. Pragmatism and moderation and nuance can often increase with age and experience.

In a Times online article, it's reported that the full report (which caused my browser to fall over when I tried to download it) focuses on Queen Mary university, located in East London.

The researchers highlighted Queen Mary college, part of London University, as a campus where radical views were widely held. Last December, a speaker named Abu Mujahid encouraged Muslim students to condemn gays because “Allah hates” homosexuality. In November, Azzam Tamimi, a British-based supporter of Hamas, described Israel as the most “inhumane project in the modern history of humanity”.

James Brandon, deputy director at CSC , said: “Our researchers found a ghettoised mentality among Muslim students at Queen Mary. Also, we found the segregation between Muslim men and women at events more visible at Queen Mary.”

A spokesman for Queen Mary said the university was aware the preachers had visited but did not know the contents of their speeches. “Clearly, we in no way associate ourselves with these views. However, also integral to the spirit of university life is free speech and debate and on occasion speakers will make statements that are deemed offensive.

I used to be a fairly regular visitor to this campus and their views surprise me not at all. Over the course of time when I did visit, the tone of the local community changed. It became an increasingly hostile place. During the build up to the Iraq War, as an American, I no longer felt safe there. I don't know for certain, but I think the University is fooling itself by throwing up its hands and saying "Well, sometimes speakers say offensive things." I don't think the University would allow the student arm of the British National Party (should it exist) to host events on campus and spew hatred of this or that group. I don't think that the University would allow a group that segregated its black and white attendees (blacks in the back) to rent its halls and rooms. And the same standards should apply to Muslim groups.

In many ways, I think Universities abet the most vocal and most radicalised. In one "diversity" leaflet I've seen from another London based universities, it states in bland and matter-of-fact language that Muslim women are under obligation to cover their hair. Not all Muslims scholars agree with this and certainly not all Muslim women agree with this. This would be a little like saying "Christians must not eat meat on Friday" or "married Jewish women must cover their hair." To be sure, some do believe such a thing, but by no means all. And blanket statements like that inculcate a belief that Muslim women who do not wear the hijab are not "real Muslims" and their views on Islam is not really worth listening to.

Instead of denying these findings, as the National Union of Students seem wont to do....

Wes Streeting, president of the National Union of Students, condemned the study. “This disgusting report is a reflection of the biases and prejudices of a right-wing think tank – not the views of Muslim students across Britain,” he said. “Only 632 Muslim students were asked vague and misleading questions, and their answers were wilfully misinterpreted.”

...Universities should take these findings as a warning and proactively seek to promote a civil discourse on campus and perhaps also help their students understand statistics and a valid sample size.


Sam said...

I've spent some time in Britain, enough to have develop a deep and abiding affection for the people and culture. When I read reports like yours, of the widespread unwillingness to confront violent extremism, whether from the likes of the BNP or the HT wack-jobs, I despair that the Britain I'm so fond of is doomed. Do you think something fundamental is changing for the worse, or are the accommodationist policies a transient fad? Will the government ever really crack down the seditionist extremists?

Vol-in-Law said...

"Do you think something fundamental is changing for the worse?"

Speaking personally, I'd have to say yes, I think there has been a sea change in the years after 9/11. Britain is regularly described by others as the most 'accommodationist' country in Europe, both by those who disapprove (eg US conservatives) and those who approve (eg EU 'human rights' bodies). Although 9/11 proved a catalyst, I think the primary impetus came from the 1998 Human Rights Act. English/British Common Law legal system has proved completely unable to cope with the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights' purposive approach. Where other countries' courts have usually been able to apply the ECHR in a balanced way, weighing individual rights against competing interests, the English-law adversarial approach has made this impossible. I don't think Tony Blair and co fully appreciated the impact of what they were doing.