An Anglican chaplain at a British university has rebutted claims that universities throughout the U.K. are a breeding ground for extremist recruitment, and that universities are not doing enough to tackle the problem.
Jeremy Clines who is the Anglican chaplain at the University of Sheffield has said that Islamic extremists were not the problem for universities, but rather government spending cuts were of greater concern.
Clines said, “People will explore radical views whether they are at university or not.
“Universities are fantastic places for people to learn from each other and, contrary to the notion that they foment extremism, can help to moderate extremist views by encouraging dialogue and understanding, and by providing opportunities for people to explore views that are different from theirs.”
“In that sense, they are a great place for developing community cohesion,” he said.
Last week the British Home Secretary Theresa May warned that Britain’s universities were not doing enough to address Islamic extremism, and were being complacent.
She reported, “I don’t think they have been sufficiently willing to recognize what can be happening on their campuses and the radicalization that can take place.
“I think there is more that universities can do.”
May also warned that funding would be cut to Islamic groups which espouse extremist views.
However, the Student Christian Movement has warned against exaggerating the problem. In a statement by the SCM the group said: “SCM opposes groups who promote violence and bigotry, whether they be Muslim, Christian or anything else.
“We should not imagine that such tendencies are confined to Muslims. Christian students across Britain engage in constructive dialogue with Muslims, people of many other religions and those of no religion.
“They work together where they agree and debate with respect when they do not. SCM is concerned that talk of 'radicalization' risks exaggerating the problem posed by extremist speakers and fuelling the fear and division from which extremism grows.”
President of the National Union of Students, Aaron Porter, also attacked May’s comments, saying they were “wild sensationalism”, and that she was seeking to shift the blame for extremism onto universities.
Porter said, “Given that the law requires universities to provide freedom of speech, and the government refuses to ban the hard-line group Hizb ut-Tahrir despite promises to do so, it appears irresponsible of Theresa May to try to shift the blame for non-violent extremism on to universities or students.
“Facing up to the challenges that non-violent extremism brings to campus life requires careful support and guidance from government, not wild sensationalism that only serves to unfairly demonize Muslim students.”
(Maria Mackay contributed to this article)