UK / Europe — 22 February 2012
Liberal ‘Extremism’ on Campus?

Jamal Harwood

Recent articles in the Huffington Post have argued that Muslim students are dodging issues of ‘campus radicalisation’, because Muslim speakers of various affiliations have been invited to speak on campus. As a member of – Hizb ut-Tahrir [The Liberation Party] – who has been invited to participate in numerous debates and events at universities, I consider such arguments as a clear admission of defeat. Rather than engaging Muslim speakers and students in direct debate, time and again we have seen liberal activists put their efforts into getting talks cancelled and speakers barred.

Last week on Thursday 17th February, I was due to speak at a debate on the financial crisis, however the event was called off by the University of Westminster, who cited the “threat of violence” breaking out due to actions by secular activists, and an inability to protect the speakers and attendees.

If these are the types of tactics that liberal fundamentalists resort to in British universities today, then it’s a poor look out for intellectual discourse on campus – resembling the tactics of fascists who cannot win their case through argument; and who cannot find a legal basis to criminalise the arguments being propagated.
In February 2010 the University of Westminster also decided to cancel a discussion on the “Swiss Minaret Ban” which I had been invited to speak on. On this occasion the other speaker was a respected academic and head of the Swiss think-tank ReligioScope – Jean-Francois Mayer.

Dr Mayer, who had traveled from Switzerland specifically for the event, was surprised that a University would take such steps. Fortunately, an alternative venue was found and the event proceeded successfully, although many Westminster students who planned to attend could not because of the short notice.

The above and this weeks cancelled debate are merely some of those that I personally have been involved in, there are numerous others, sadly too frequent to list here. Ironically the Universities’ Academic freedom working group published guidance notes in February of 2011 which were supposed to outline how universities would minimise their interference student events, in line with their legal responsibilities under the Education Act (1986).

Due to the previous cancellations and interference in past debates, the student society which invited me were scrupulous in following all of the University’s administrative policies. I was given the go ahead to speak, and like the other participants signed the speakers’ guideline document.

Similarly any five minute conversation with the Metropolitan Police could easily confirm that there has never been violence at any of the hundreds of lectures, debates, vigils or peaceful protests organized by, or involving speakers of Hizb ut-Tahrir in the UK over the past 25 years.
It seems ridiculous that a serious debate on a key global topic was cancelled due to a tiny handful of disgruntled secular activists (hardly on the scale of the student demonstrations over university fees).

The title of the debate: Economic Future: The Real Solutions? Capitalism? Islam? Socialism? – indicated that a spectrum of views would be represented on the panel, in order to examine relevant alternatives.
It is not unusual that I was asked to speak since I have just edited a booklet on the Gold Standard as well as edited another three years ago on the global financial crisis. I have also debated with Norman Lamont, Matt Frei, representative of the World Bank and others on issues pertaining to Islam and economics.

In a world in which Western economies have stalled, unemployment is growing, discontent spreading, and bankers still protected and seemingly above the law; surely opportunities to debate the various options open to governments, policy makers and the public must be pursued vigorously? Yet the University of Westminster chose to close its doors. Why?

The only rational explanation for the canceling of this type of event lies with the growing liberal intolerance of alternative thought. Rather than participate and defeat opposing ideas, UK universities are under increasing government pressure to silence Islamic political and economic thought, particularly with interest in real change in the Middle East high on everyone’s agenda.

This is a stance shared by the FBI, who it was recently reported, have decided advocacy of a Gold Standard currency is a criteria for ‘extremism’. So by their standards this would indeed have been campus radicalization, as would have organizing a speech on the same subject by Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul or Lord Rees-Mogg!

Rather than risk losing the game it seems liberal fundamentalists and spineless university administrators have decided to take the ball away. The longer they persist in such tactics, the more they will be ridiculed for their protestations of cherishing freedom for all.

 

Jamal Harwood is a regular contributor to New Civilisation.  He is a lecturer in Finance, and a member of the UK Executive Committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain.

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