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University is denying fears it is targeted by extremists

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Article taken from Luton&Dunstable Express online http://www.luton-dunstable.co.uk/News/University-is-denying-fears-it-is-targeted-by-extremists.htm

The University of Bedfordshire insists there has never been a case of extremism on its campus.

But our sister paper Luton & Dunstable Express’s story in October 2009 about radicals operating outside its Park Street main entrance during Freshers’ Week shows they have tried to recruit its students in the past.

Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly lived in Argyll Avenue, Luton, and attended the university between 2001 and 2004.

In 2005, Professor Anthony Glees, director of Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham, published a report naming the University of Luton - as it was then known - as one of more than 30 institutions where ‘extremist and/or terror groups’ had been detected. The university refuted this claim.

In February this year, then Universities Minister David Lammy told the BBC certain universities will be required to work closely with Special Branch and other police officers to prevent Islamic extremism.

The names of the institutions targeted have never been disclosed, but the University of Bedfordshire categorically denied it is one of them.

A spokesperson from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) said: “BIS, the police and other agencies work very closely with all institutions to help them manage the risk of radicalisation.  “We have identified some institutions which are more at risk and have given them particular targeted support.  “We will not release the list of these institutions for national security reasons.” Last year LD Express told how Muslim extremists were trying to recruit students outside the University of Bedfordshire during Freshers’ Week.

One of those giving out leaflets was Abu Safiyya, who admitted to abusing troops but insisted they were ‘not extremists’.

The extremists also turned up at the Freshers’ Fayre that week outside the university’s Business School, in Vicarage Street.

At the time, police said ‘no action was taken as no laws were being broken and there was no breach of the peace’ and the university said it was ‘aware of the group’ but was ‘unaware of anyone making an official complaint’.  Having been told about the LD Express article in October 2009, Professor Glees said this week: “I’m very seriously disturbed by the story published because the newspaper has seen it with its own eyes the recruitment to extremism that goes on at universities. It is very shocking and chilling.

“Certainly I think the police should be asked to reconsider what they are saying. The police are meant to prevent radicalisation.

“This sort of thing is totally intolerable, totally unacceptable.

“By writing about this, Luton on Sunday is doing something of national and international interest.” When asked if the University of Bedfordshire had a problem with extremists, Professor Glees said: “Yes it has a problem, but it is not the only university where this going on.  “It’s got to be dealt with and it had better be dealt with.” A University of Bedfordshire spokesman said: “There is no evidence of extremist activity on campus.  “We take a strong stance on anyone harassing its students or blocking its entrances. In either case, we would involve the police.

“The university is proud to have such a harmonious community.” Abdulwahab attended Luton Islamic Centre (LIC) for a month during the period of Ramadan in 2006 or 2007 before he ‘stormed out’ during a ‘theological debate’ with mosque chairman Abdul Qadeer Baksh. 

Abdul Qadeer Baksh, chairman of the Islamic CentreMr Baksh, who reported Abdulwahab to police, told LoS: “All I know is that, after he left us, some University of Bedfordshire students who attend our mosque said he’d been bad-mouthing us.
“We hear the gossip of what goes on at the university, but it’s not official. Students chat in cafes, corridors, when they’re playing football. It’s abhorrent.

“I wouldn’t say there are meetings. Worshippers from our mosque have told us that ‘so-and-so’ is spreading extreme views which could lead to extreme violence possibly. The best place for them is where no one else can hear them. It’s the perfect place for recruitment. Young men’s minds are completely open.  “The university may unknowingly be nurturing another extremist there. I guarantee you - they don’t know what they’re doing there.

“The university is ill-equipped to deal with the problem.

“The issue of Muslims with radical ideas in their heads needs to be addressed before a hate preacher gets to them first. We’d like to give young Muslims this knowledge, but the university is in denial. Perhaps they don’t want to be seen as having a bunch of extremists in their midst.” Tahseen Khalid is president of national group Muslim Youth League (MYL) which gives de-radicalisation seminars at universities.

When asked how many students with radical views he believed attended the University of Bedfordshire, Mr Khalid said: “Not a lot, less than a handful. But it only takes one person to do something crazy. I don’t know their names, but if I saw their faces I would recognise them.”