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KU VC appears as witness in counter extremism investigation

By Nikita Jadav Dec 8, 2015

Kingston University Vice-Chancellor Professor Julius Weinberg was called as a witness in an investigation into countering extremism.

The Home Affairs Committee held the counter-extremism inquiry on December 1. They were looking into how effective counter-extremism measures, including the Prevent Duty, were.

Prime Minister David Cameron claimed that Kingston University, along with Queen Mary University, King’s College and SOAS, hosted 70 events in 2014 that gave extremist ‘hate’ speakers a platform to speak.

Professor Weinberg refuted the allegations made against the university by the prime minister. He was angry that Kingston University was ‘named and shamed’ for supposedly allowing hate preachers onto the campus, when they have been following the law and the set guidelines.

He said: “I react to that with anger because I think Kingston University is actually at the forefront of doing what I consider the right thing to do. I think the Prime Minister was unfortunately advised to use flawed data that comes from a very dubious source.

“The data is wrong. We do not recognize that data at Kingston. None of the other universities recognise that data. I wrote to Charles Far in September actually describing that we thought the data was wrong.”

The letter stated that the university has very clear guidelines on who speaks and what they say. It also asked that if the Home Office possessed any information about a breach in the guidelines, they would appreciate if said information was sent to them so that they could take action.

Professor Weinberg said: “Now, if the Home Office were serious, I would have expected them to work with us. I have not had any response to that letter.”

The Prevent Duty came into force in September. It was established to encourage universities to put policies in place to stop students being radicalised by extremists.

Professor Weinberg said: “I’m not a fan, I’m not a not fan of the Prevent Duty. I’m a fan of our duty to help develop a stable resilient society. I think that parts of Prevent are actually counterproductive.”

The duty has been criticised in the past out of fear that it would oppress freedom of speech on campuses.

Professor Weinberg said: “If our students do not have the opportunity to have their views interrogated, tested, listening to within the confines of the university, they will merely hear a very narrow section of views elsewhere – for instance, in the Mosque.”

Professor Weinberg explained that the new requirements are difficult to interpret and that it was only possible to mitigate risks by not allowing any events to take place on campus.

He said: “Universities have a duty as civic partners and civic citizens to protect their students and society. We have a duty to try and identify where they might be threats. Those threats might be a student with mental health problems, they might be a student who is about to become a terrorist.”

Others called as witnesses by the Home Affairs Committee included: President of the National Union of Students, Megan Dunn; Border Force Director General, Sir Charles Montgomery; Quilliam’s Haras Rafiq and national spokesperson of Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association UK, Farooq Aftab.

The full hearing can be viewed on ParliamentTV. The Vice Chancellor’s response begins at 16:22:00.

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