Birmingham universities rubbish Theresa May’s claims of ‘complacency’ over extremism

Two Birmingham universities have rubbished claims made by the Home Secretary of “complacency” in tackling radicalisation and Islamic extremism at UK universities.

Theresa May has criticised the establishments for their complacency and said they were “unwilling to recognise” that radicalisation could take place on campus. Her comments come ahead of the publication of the government’s revised Prevent counter-terrorism strategy, which is due to be released today.

The report is expected to name Birmingham as one of the 25 boroughs most “at risk” from Islamist extremism, along with areas of London, Leeds, Bradford and Manchester. It is also believed that the Government has identified 40 English universities where there could be a “particular risk” or radicalisation or recruitment on campus.

Mrs May’s claims were roundly rejected by Birmingham City University and the University of Birmingham, which said it took the threat of extremism “very seriously”.

A spokesman for the University of Birmingham said it worked with the police, student societies and community organisations to promote “good campus relations”. The spokesman said: “We respect the right of all individuals to exercise freedom of speech within the law. However, we will continue to actively challenge discrimination of any kind and strive to strike a balance that protects these freedoms and ensures vigilance against any forms of potential extremism.”

A Birmingham City University spokesman said: “We are confident that extremism is not a problem at this University; we offer a safe community for students, staff and visitors. We are fully informed on Home Office advice in this area and work closely with local agencies.”

A spokesman for Aston University said: “We feel fostering mutual respect and providing opportunities to discover more about different faiths and cultures is an extremely important step to helping avoid extremes of views.”

Birmingham Mail, 7 June 2011