British students are being targeted online by Islamist extremists using social media, a new report has shown.
‘Challenging Extremists‘, a report by Student Rights and the Henry Jackson Society, shows how individuals invited to address students on UK university campuses have promoted fear of a Western war against Islam, support for paramilitary violence in Israel, intolerance of non-believers and Islam as an obligatory political system for law and governance.
There is evidence of individuals targeting student social media pages to share extremist material:
- One individual targeted students via social media to share a video of Abu Ibrahim, designated by the US government as an al-Qaeda linked fighter, recruiter, facilitator and propagandist;
- Also posted was an audio recording of Abdul Rahman Saleem, convicted in 2008 of inciting terrorism overseas during a speech at Regent’s Park mosque;
- In some cases, students themselves have shared extreme videos of deceased senior al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
The extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, identified by the British government as targeting specific universities, continues to infiltrate campuses and remains influential among some students:
- The University of Westminster Student Union President and Vice President for Education have both been ‘No-Platformed’ by the National Union of Students and are not allowed to attend conferences after they refused to comply with an investigation into their links with the group;
- A small number of student activists at London universities, as well as recent graduates that they interact with, engage in Hizb ut-Tahrir activism and disseminate Islamist material.
The report also provides universities, student unions and the UK government with practical recommendations for challenging extremism while preserving an open environment on campuses.
- The recommendations account for stakeholders’ legal duties as well as the requirement under charity law that student unions must preserve their charitable reputation;
- They include extending the NUS ‘No Platform’ policy to front groups for banned organisations; details on appropriate risk assessments of external speakers; how to challenge candidates for student union positions with suspected links to extremist groups without compromising democracy; and practical steps to challenge extremist material on student social media.