01 January 2010

Student Radicalization on British and American Campuses

The Washington Post has an article today saying British universities are sometimes seen as breeding grounds for radical Islam. Does this honestly surprise anyone? Before anyone here in the US starts knocking the Brits, let’s remember that our campuses are probably far more fertile than theirs. Don’t believe me? Take a trip to Berkeley, Eugene, Boulder or Burlington and then tell me our universities are different. Still not convinced? This report from the Investigative Project on Terrorism should help clear things up.

The Rose Bowl is on in a bit, so I’m off to watch my beloved Ducks beat up on Ohio State.



  1. Exactly!!! We think we are so much better off than the Brits. In reality, we're just a few years behind

  2. From the British perspective the US was full of terrorists until the last decade or so anyway, they just happened to be Irish Republicans. ;)

    The university situation is complicated. Its not just Islamists. There is also a constant level of anti-Americanism amongst many academics (SOAS is famous for it). Meanwhile other academics are afraid of being seen as racist if they tackle Islamists. And of course good guys like the mob from Quilliam are always trying to do their best to keep the crazies away.

    There is more that can be done but really, this is just the side effect of history and a large Pakistani diaspora. Beside some sort of insane expulsion this sort of thing will always continue, we just have to try and reduce its effects.

  3. Josh, thanks for bringing this issue to light. I agree with Anonymous that we are behind Britain in this respect, and think it is somewhat because of Guy's point about "tackling Islamists."

    I think the problem lies in American universities and Islamic apologetics: professor wish to study the religion, the politics, the people, etc for what they are historically, sociologically, politically, economically. The academic perspective, in many ways, clouds the definitions and parameters of the difference and differentiation between righteous Muslims and radicals, violent ones.

    One aspect of the issue we must tackle is the type of literature being read by undergraduates and graduates. (I do not mean to say we need to censor literature). For example, Qutb - who studied in America and was disgusted with the culture - is read by many graduate students in understanding his "memoir." I myself read it while taking a course entitled, "Contemporary Islam."

  4. Yes but here is the thing: The US needs to be criticised, and criticism is not terrorism, but business as usual just might be. The US has socialism for the rich and godless capitalism for the poor. The country is run by anarchists economically ever since Carnegie - they oppose all laws that might 'restrict' the free market where they have market power. Unions are crushed, and if they could over-turn child labor laws, I believe they would, for the poor.

  5. Martin, you speak of the US as a whole. What part or aspect of the "US" do you mean? Stating that the country has "socialism for the rich and godless capitalism for the poor" is merely a perspective; an opinion. What factual data can you point to that is connected to American universities as breeding grounds for Islamic radicals?

    These "anarchists" you speak of: they seem to be, by your description, politicians or financiers. What do you mean to say about American universities?

  6. Anonymous 1, we are absolutely quite a few years behind the Brits. I also think the US Government needs to take a look at how the British have dealt with the (particularly large) Pakistani population in an effort to determine what has and has not worked in regard to assimilation.

    Guy, a full-fledged expulsion is not only highly unlikely, it's ridiculous. I lived in England as a child, so I know first-hand how big of a role immigrants play in British society. There are obviously pros and cons; the largest con over the last couple of years has been the growth of radical jihadism in England's urban centers. I honestly believe that the only solution will come from a majority of Muslims rejecting radicalism and putting forth an effort to police themselves internally.

    On a separate note, as a child in London I experienced the effects of IRA terrorism first-hand. I've read a lot recently about American support to the IRA, particularly in the Northeast, so I can't and won't argue with your point because you're right.

    DP, your comments are brilliant as always.

    Anonymous 2, I recommend you read the IPT report I hyperlinked in my original post.

  7. I was a student at University of Oregon in the late 70's. We had a large contingent of Iranian students on campus. During the last days of the Shah, the Iranians on the Duck campus waged frequent anti-Shah and anti-US protests on campus. Granted, these were Iranians and not jihaddist's, but it shows that extremist radicalization on U.S. campuses is nothing new.
    Too bad about the Ducks last night.

  8. Josh,
    I absolutely wasn't advocating expulsion. I was saying the opposite: that no expulsion would happen and that any expulsion would be crazy. The UK just wouldn't work without immigrants anyway.

  9. When I first read this post, I was slightly offended as a University of Vermont graduate (you referenced Burlington, VT). But then I realized that you're somewhat correct. I did bear witness to some far-reaching ideas. However, in the political science and history departments, I wasn't exposed to anything really that partisan, or at least that I could detect. The study body itself is different all together. Perhaps because of the campus' liberal tilt, I found myself oriented slightly to the right of center.

    While I'm sure the university does create a "liberal mindset" through its teaching -- I'd have to say that it attracts more folks of that mind than it creates.

    That being said, I don't think Burlington is a breeding ground for Islamic terrorism. If there is a Muslim student organization, it isn't large. The Middle Eastern studies department (where most of my coursework centered) is not compromised and was very analytically focused in its teaching. Nothing very normative about it.

    Just wanted to add my $.02.

    Also, Burlington, VT as a city is spectacular.

  10. And by "study body," I mean "student body."

  11. Guy, my apologies appearing to insinuate you were actually advocating a mass expulsion. It is quite obvious you were not when you called the idea insane. I didn't finish that sentence completely before I moved on to my next thought. Again, my apologies.

    LMD, I too am a graduate of one of the liberal universities I listed in my original post. I was not inferring that Burlington (or any of the other towns/universities for that matter) specifically breeds Islamic jihadism, just a lot of those far-reaching ideas you mentioned. The question of whether these universities create or attract more students with that mindset is a good one. From personal experience, far more young minds are likely molded than anyone wants to actually admit. My university had a professor named Ward Churchill, if you haven't heard of him I encourage you to google him.

    I've been to Burlington, and you are correct, it is a fantastic town.

    Thanks for the comments, keep them coming.

  12. Josh and LMD (long response, so bear with me):

    Josh, you stated, "the only solution will come from a majority of Muslims rejecting radicalism..." I encourage you to read my 11 Dec. post on Nidal Hasan's guilty plea where I discuss the Muslim concept, takfir - which is the practice of declaring oneself or another no longer a Muslim. A Takfiri is a person who engages in this practice.

    A short excerpt:
    "My second question to Al-Mayarati is, "What ought we to say about Hasan's relationship to us as a Muslim?" While a graduate student, I became increasingly interested in studying the religious foundations of takfir and its place within sharia law and relationship to jihad. Hasan presents a series of questions which are not black and white but need to be discussed: Is he simply a troubled man who committed a crime, as an insanity claim would argue? Is he a Muslim who has strayed from the path of justice and need repent for his sins? Ultimately, is he a jihadi terrorist who is no longer a Muslim, which assumes - of course - that all jihadi terrorists are not Muslim.

    Takfiri-Jihadi ideology, argued to be al Qaeda's operating principle (see Lawrence Wright's Looming Tower), has been used by network leaders, most notably bin Laden, to name other Muslim leaders, mostly of Saudi Arabia, as no longer Muslims. This is an attempt to define and strengthen AQ's mission and practices as just. It has been used to justify recruitment of new operatives and negotiate partnerships with affiliates; i.e. Muslim Brotherhood strain known as Takfir wal-Hajra."

    LMD, it is important for each campus to have Islamic representation and an active Muslim American student group. The group itself can be the driving force behind identifying and locating radical jihadi trends. In many cases, the radical progressives will find themselves outside the perimeters of the student group and therefore not wish to join or participate. They will simply find a way to venture off and start their own group surrounding their ignorant and arrogant ideology.

    Also, radical Islam is not simply a partisan issue as you mention. Yes, partisanism may be a reflecting signal of radical growth, but it can not be a defining factor because "liberal" and "conservative" are not exactly as crystalized as people think. I think, once again, that radicals will find themselves in opposition to many political ideologies. They understand their grief in light of their socio-economic/political situation only - and that of their umma.

    The political and social problem that crossroads with religion is that there is clearly historical and current strife internally within the Muslim world, and the danger now is that it is spreading into America. That is why Josh's point about Muslims engaging in takfir is ultimately in question.

    Keep posting. Al Sahwa needs voices like yours, and an occasional report on snowfall conditions for skiing...