Student extremists face government scrutiny

| Feb. 15, 2010 |

Published by Student Direct: Mancunion

Following the recent attempted terrorist attack in Detroit by a London student, the government has deployed Special Branch officers to universities it believes may be targeted by Islamic extremism.

Alleged bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was a member of the Islamic Society at University College London and it is thought that it was here that he was radicalised.

“We have identified universities for whom the risk is greater and they have to work closely with Special Branch, and so I think it is a partnership between leadership at universities and the police,” Higher Education Minister David Lammy told the BBC.

Lammy was keen to point out that he did not believe it to be “a caricature” of significant risk across the country, however added: “We do recognise that threat levels have been raised and that this is an extremely serious issue and that there are particular institutions … where the risk is greater and those institutions are working very closely with the police and are working closely with Special Branch.”

He confirmed the presence of police and Special Branch officers on campuses across the country, though did not go as far as to name the institutions.

Abdulmutallab is the sixth member of a UK student Islamic Society to be arrested for suspected terrorism offences.

Qasim Rafiq, of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies told the BBC: “There is no evidence or no substantial evidence to suggest there is a radicalisation of extremism taking place on campus, as people have suggested.” He added that students would more likely be radicalised when watching “bombs fall on Iraq.”

However, Ed Husain, head of a counter-extremism think tank, is concerned at the extremism he has witnessed in many Islamic societies across the country. He said: “I am not saying it supports terrorism but it clearly does provide extremist mood music to which suicide bombers dance.”