Report calls for higher education to empower Muslim voices

A fresh debate on future models of university citizenship is called for by a new report, based on a survey of students nationally conducted by Durham and three other universities.

The report recommends that the higher education sector empowers Muslim and other marginal voices, fosters respect and develops knowledge of Islam and Muslims as well as builds stronger links between universities and Muslim colleges.

Prevent strategy

The researchers suggest that the UK Government’s counter-terrorism Prevent strategy has tended to reinforce negative stereotypes of Muslims and has encouraged a culture of mutual suspicion and surveillance on university campuses.

The UK Government considers the Prevent initiative an essential means of tackling radicalisation as part of its counter-terrorism strategy. Prevent requires faith leaders, teachers, doctors and others to refer any suspicions about people to a local Prevent body.

The survey of 2,022 students at 132 UK universities found that students who agreed with the government on this issue were more likely to express negative views about Islam and Muslims.

It showed that students who see radicalisation as a problem on university campuses are four times more likely to believe that Muslims have not made a valuable contribution to British life.

Self-censorship

The report also finds that the Government’s Prevent initiative appears to have the effect of discouraging free speech within universities.

Students and staff self-censor their discussions to avoid becoming the object of suspicion and are sometimes discouraged from exploring, researching, or teaching about Islam. Only a quarter of the students in the survey say they feel entirely free to express their views on Islam within university contexts.


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