Re/presenting Islam on campus: gender, radicalisation and interreligious understanding in British higher education

Lead Research Organisation: School of Oriental & African Studies
Department Name: Languages, Cultures, and Linguistics

Abstract

Over the last decade the UK university campus has become mired in debates about Islam. Certain crises arouse outrage: the 'underpants' bomber, gender segregation and radicalising speakers. Such episodes are classified as matters for the police and university management. The university sector has not taken a public position about Islam and radicalisation, yet we believe that many staff and students will welcome a better understanding of the situation. Our aims in this research are to analyse Islam on campus and to facilitate open, informed discussion about Islam as an integral aspect of British life and campus life. In the current climate, higher education seems torn between being a provider of world class research (Collini), an accreditor of improved functional workforce capacity (Browne Report) and a dangerous place that requires policing (Quilliam). Each approach can become a stereotype that needs to be challenged. We believe that such confusion must be discussed openly if the university sector is to be fit for purpose: fully ready for an increasing variety of home and international students and an increasingly complex world that incorporates the renaissance in world religions.

This ground-breaking research will initially give equal weight to a range of different narratives e.g. from media, academics, Muslim communities, student managers, government and radicalisation experts, in order to gauge their respective credibility and contradictions. Working with 4 universities and one Muslim college affiliated to a university, we will trace and analyse the sources of these different perspectives in dialogue with students, staff and other stakeholders across the HE sector.

We will work closely with stakeholders including AMOSSHE (Association of Managers of Student Services in Higher Education), NUS and Islamic societies and Muslim youth organisations, both Sunni and Shi'i. Examining personal views among staff and students alongside 'official' discourses will provide a critical account of how perceptions of Islam play out within university contexts. These views will be collected and analysed using a variety of methods, including an online questionnaire survey to collect statistical data, interviews, focus groups and data visualisation techniques.

For university-based impact we will be catalysts for mixed stakeholder groups: students, staff, professional bodies, policy makers and third sector. We will involve them in collecting and disseminating models of good practice, and in the co-production of new solutions.
They will interpret data analysis of findings, including using data visualisation, to challenge stereotypes and think afresh in workshops, co-producing recommendations for developing clarity about Islam on campus and about Islamic Studies as a subject.

Further impact beyond the university will be achieved by fostering debate and reflection about Islam on campus among local communities and Muslim organisations, seeking open discussion and understanding. Creative interpretation of our findings about perceptions of Muslims will be facilitated in a data visualisation project at the New Arts Exchange (NAE) in Nottingham (www.nae.org.uk), drawing young people into a process of rethinking and reimagining the place of religion within British public life. We will also work with Gladstone's Library http://www.gladstoneslibrary.org/. Like NAE, Gladstone's Library reaches out to minority communities. Each will provide an exemplary case study of organisational interreligious engagement.

We will bring together people who never usually meet: academics and stakeholders from universities, community groups from beyond the university, policy makers, devout Muslims and secularists. Well planned involvement and effective knowledge exchange events will help them to develop and then share their practical answers to the challenges facing higher education of radicalisation, gender and interfaith

Planned Impact

The university sector is under various pressures, of which the securitisation agenda is a particularly disturbing one: universities are accused of allowing 'radicalisation' to violent Islamic causes to occur on campus unchecked. This research project will benefit research users both on and off campus by collecting, analysing and disseminating both existing and new knowledge, and facilitating knowledge exchange between and among stakeholder groups. Good management and infrastructural support will facilitate establishing relationships and networks with stakeholders. These will be enhanced by 'co-production' i.e. research methods that involve stakeholders in the research.
Well planned user engagement and knowledge exchange strategies will include workshops and a national conference to bring users/stakeholders together to share our findings about views on Islam on campus. We have identified five key stakeholder groups; our intention is to bring them together to define the major issues, to share their perspectives (as groups and as individuals) on our findings and to consider productive ways forward that benefit all:
1.UK universities and Muslim HE institutions: These are often perceived as being at opposite ends of a spectrum between fundamentalism and secularism. We will bring together scholars from both sides of this perceived dichotomy to discuss, suggest and validate strategies for increasing collaboration and understanding. There will be economic benefits to the academic sector, because the research findings will focus without prejudice upon a new client base: the Muslim population of Britain is growing fast, with over a quarter being of school and university age.

2. Academics and Scholars involved in Islamic Studies: They are responsible for course content and direct contact with students and will benefit from new clarity about Islamic Studies, its perspectives and methods across the HE sector, and its role in shaping discourses on Islam. The cross-university discussion generated by project seminars will also foster a greater awareness within the discipline of its changing context and the ways in which the impact of Islamic Studies could be enhanced, thereby hopefully fostering its sense of unity, internal coherence and academic standing. The team has a portfolio of research that will build its reputation with academics.

3. Policy makers: The increasing visibility of diverse populations in British universities reflects patterns in the UK generally, and legislation around equality obliges university policy makers and local and national governments to have frameworks for community cohesion. This research will provide critical commentary on government agendas around equalities (particularly of religion or belief), community cohesion and radicalisation by exploring their impact at universities and nationally through, for example, NUS, BIS and PREVENT.
4. British Muslim communities: They comprise the largest religious minority in Britain and this research will specifically seek to consult and collaborate with them. Meaningful engagement with Muslim student groups and the broader Muslim communities to which they belong is essential if research and public policy is to reflect accurately the complexities of British society. Moreover Muslim student groups and youth organisations actively engage in debates on the role and place of Islam in Britain. A better understanding of how perceptions of Islam are shaped will reinforce their confidence and ability to lead constructive dialogue about Islam and Muslims on campus and beyond.
5. Third Sector: These are voluntary, community and charity organisations who are working towards interreligious and inter-community dialogue and societal cohesion in Britain. The findings of the research will inform their work particularly in the contexts of pluralism and synergies between Islam and the West. They will act as intermediaries and knowledge brokers.
 
Description Both the Prevent Duty Guidance and the Charity Commission's management of student unions are perceived by over half our respondents (university staff and students) to be having a chilling effect on free speech, and they gave specific examples. This was not restricted to Muslim respondents.
Students who take a short course to study Islamic Studies appear to be more prejudiced against Islam and Muslims than those who do not: this may be related to the topics available i.e. terrorism and the purported incompatibility of Islam and democracy
Campus discussions often gravitate towards talking about the hijab and other markers of Muslims : this surprised the research team and it suggested that there are not enough opportunities to talk about Islam on campus and resolve misunderstandings
Research evidence also demonstrates how valuable social contact and campus friendships are for resolving suspicion of confessional practices
Respondents reported general restriction of topics unrelated to Islam, which is antithetical to the purposes of the modern university
Exploitation Route Draft proposals;

Social contact and campus friendships are valuable for resolving suspicion of confessional practices and such opportunities can and should be increased and enhanced
Religious literacy must be developed: Islamic Studies as a discipline can be better used to clarify faith approaches and to maximise the skill sets of academics already working on campuses
Political literacy must be developed: Prevent Duty Guidance requires dismantling and replaced with more robust curricula that address the nature of radicalisation and the ideological approaches used by both Daesh and Western governments.
Free speech restrictions need to be debated and resolved: they constrain Muslims and many others at present
Sectors Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy

 
Description Alison Scott-Baumann was invited to give evidence to the Joint Select Committee on Human Rights for their investigation into free speech on campus. On January 17 2018 she gave evidence and was asked to submit written material , which appears as SCOTT-BAUMANN AND GUEST under 'engagement' and formal working group/ expert panel. This informed their summary report, which demonstrates the chilling effect on free expression of the Prevent Duty. In the Joint Committee on Human Rights final report Alison Scott-Baumann was invited by Paul Bowen QC to submit evidence in the Butt vs Secretary of State case . This failed but went to appeal and on appeal Alison again gave evidence, with her team and the appeal was successful: this time (8 March 2019) the judges found that Paragraph 11 of the Prevent Duty Guidance is illegal and requires rewording. Draft findings are arousing interest and at the time of writing Alison has been invited to No !0 Downing Street to discuss her AHRC findings with faith advisers and counter terrorism civil servants
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Citation in Joint Committee on Human Rights 2018 report on Freedom of expression on campus
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact Alison Scott-Baumann and Simon Perfect submitted evidence to Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), in their investigation of free speech on campus: JCHR called Charity Commission to give evidence: this was as a result of our empirical research, which provided evidence about Charity Commission management of student union charities and showed that the Charity Commission is impeding free speech on campus (which is protected in law by the 1980 (2) Education Act. After taking evidence from the Charity Commission, JCHR concluded that their approach is too intrusive and CC promised to be less intrusive. This results directly from the AHRC project because of evidence unearthed during early evidence gathering
URL https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201719/jtselect/jtrights/1279/1279.pdf
 
Description Human Rights Committee - Freedom of Speech in Universities
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
Impact Alison
URL http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/c532a407-6675-4fcc-9300-c96842948504
 
Description Islam on campus, the Charity Commission and free speech on campus
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact As part of the Islam on campus research I came to understand that the Charity Commission was intervening in matters relating to Muslim student groups on campus. Research funded by SOAS to support this (PERFECT AND SCOTT-BAUMANN CHARITY COMMISSION) was presented to the Joint Committee for Human Rights (JCHR) in their investigation of free speech on campus, and as a direct result of our research the JCHR called the Charity Commission (CC) to give evidence, which they had not planned to do. At the hearing the JCHR members were robust in their open criticisms of the CC for restricting discussion of controversial and difficult topics across the board, not specifically with regard to Muslims. Subsequently the new Minister for HE Sam Gyemah , and Jacob Rees -Mogg, currently a favoured voice in the media, both asserted, apparently out of the blue, that the Charity Commission is restricting free speech on campus. This can only have come from the JCHR, which in turn was responding to our unique research. Subsequently also the Equalities and Human Rights Commission initiated its own review into the role of the new Office for Students with specific interest also in the role of the Charity Commission. The JCHR report is still being written.
URL https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/joint-select/human-rights-committee/inq...
 
Description Islam on campus, the Prevent Duty Guidance and free speech on campus
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact As part of the Islam on campus research I came to understand that the Prevent Duty Guidance is affecting matters relating to Muslim student groups on campus. Research funded by SOAS to support this ( SCOTT-BAUMANN AND Perfect - PREVENT) was presented to the Joint Committee for Human Rights (JCHR) in their investigation of free speech on campus, and as a direct result of our research the JCHR asked me for more evidence, which they had not planned to do.
URL https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/joint-select/human-rights-committee/inq...
 
Description Today programme Radio 4, 4 Nov 2017
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
Impact This radio interview raised issues about safe spaces that people are still talking about: why the sense of moral panic rose with little justification. The radio event led to me being invited to write for Guardian and for Wonkhe so it functioned as a pathway to impact, allowing me to influence public debate
URL http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/24837/
 
Description Video of giving evidence to JCHR about free speech on campus enquiry
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact This video demonstrates, as do the documents I submitted to JCHR, that my research has a significant impact upon the approach of the Joint committee for Human Rights: after the meeting they asked me for more information on the research about Islam on campus and about the Charity Commission. They only called Charity Commission to give evidence as a result of my research with S Perfect, so I'e contributed to an improved regulatory environment. Final report was published in 2018 and my research was referenced five times: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201719/jtselect/jtrights/589/589.pdf
URL http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/c532a407-6675-4fcc-9300-c96842948504
 
Description Central Impact Fund
Amount £10,000 (GBP)
Organisation School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2017 
End 03/2018
 
Description Impact Acceleration Fund
Amount £6,000 (GBP)
Organisation School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2016 
End 07/2017
 
Description Strategic Impact Fund
Amount £10,000 (GBP)
Organisation School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2017 
End 03/2018
 
Description Strategic Impact Fund
Amount £10,000 (GBP)
Organisation School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2017 
End 12/2018
 
Description Researcher In Residence 
Organisation Free University of Amsterdam
Country Netherlands 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I was able to work on academic drafts related to the AHRC project while also lecturing on the project
Collaborator Contribution travel, accommodation and expenses paid
Impact In preparation
Start Year 2018
 
Description Blog entry: Cultural cold wars 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Designed to initiate discussion in HE sector around the legal position regarding the Prevent Duty Guidance: this was achieved by writing this blog entry at the invitation of Research Professional, with a famous QC (Hugh Tomlinson of Hacked off ). Our main point was that Prevent is advisory, guidance only, not mandatory: what is mandatory is taking Prevent into account when deciding about duty of care on campus
This resulted in my being invited to speak on BBC Radio 4 several times, and contribute to Guardian HE (online) and WONKHE (online HE blog)
Tomlinson and my point is now vindicated by the 08.03.19 ruling in the Butt case, to which i gave evidence, and in which the judge ruled that paragraph 11 of the Prevent Duty Guidance is illegal because ti goes too far in seeking to curb campus free speech, protection of which is mandatory.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://blogs.soas.ac.uk/muslimwise/2016/06/15/question-time-cultural-cold-wars-the-risk-of-anti-ext...
 
Description Blog inivted by WONKHE , for higher education professionals and academics about free speech on campus 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact On December 12 2017 a piece on her work with S Perfect appeared in Wonkhe:

An anatomy of judgement: how do 'snowflakes' think?
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://wonkhe.com/blogs/an-anatomy-of-judgement-how-do-snowflakes-think/?utm_medium=email&utm_campai...
 
Description Free Speech on Campus: consultation at St George's Windsor Castle 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact In November 2016 I organized a 24 hour consultation at St George's House, Windsor Castle, chaired by Lord Macdonald, attended by key people with a range of views (including Abu Ahmed, Home Office; Soros Foundation; Student Rights/ HJS etc:
My colleague Simon Perfect wrote up the event as a research report, now on St George's website, open to all:
https://www.stgeorgeshouse.org/wp.../Freedom-of-Speech-in-Universities-Report.pdf

In December 2018 I was invited back by St George's to review the counter terror Prevent Duty Guidance; they are using Lord MacDonald, the chairman I invited and several of the key players I invited in 2016
I have been invited to No 10 Downing Street, date to be confirmed, to discuss my research findings
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description No platform and safe spaces are not the real problem with freedom of speech 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact On October 25 2017 the Guardian Higher Education invited me to respond to Jo Johnson's criticism of the university sector's record on free speech. Johnson was at the time Minister for Higher Education
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2017/oct/25/no-platform-and-safe-spaces-arent-t...
 
Description Opinion Piece for OpenDemocracy.net by Dr Mathew Guest 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Evidence of audience engagement in 'notes' section beneath article and on social media. At least one academic author engaged with piece in one of their own published essays
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/mathew-guest/can-universities-still-provide-transformat...
 
Description Presentation at Durham University Research Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Mathew Guest gave a 45 minute presentation entitled 'Religion and the Neoliberal University' at the Religion and Society Research Seminar, Durham University, 19th February, 2019. This was followed by 45 minutes of questions and discussion with an audience of postgraduate students and academics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Research Seminar at University of Chester 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Mathew Guest gave a presentation at the University of Chester's Theology and Religious Studies Research Seminar entitled 'Representing Islam on UK University Campuses: Negotiating Research and Identity within a Securitised Educational Environment'. This was based on findings from this research project. The presentation lasted for 45 minutes and was followed by 45 minutes of questions and discussion with the audience, which was made by up postgraduate students and locally based academics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Safe spaces and brave spaces 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact On Nov 4 2017 I was invited to discuss safe spaces and brave spaces on Radio 4 Today programme with Sarah Montague and Sir Antony Seldon;
by this point in my AHRC research, it was clear from empirical fieldwork evidence that free speech is being chilled on campus:
Muslims and others of colour are self-censoring and so it is imperative to engage in the debate conducted by government and media of 'moral crisis' about free speech on campus
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk at Greenbelt Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Around 100 people attended a talk given by Mathew Guest entitled 'Faith on Campus in the 21st Century: Universities and the Future of Religion in Britain'. This took place at the Greenbelt Christian Arts festival in August 2018, in the 'Telescope' Tent. The talk lasted around 35 minutes and was followed by another 30 minutes of questions and discussion from the audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.greenbelt.org.uk/artists/mathew-guest/
 
Description Talk at Human Rights NGO 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact February, 23, 2019 - "The Politics of Dress: Muslim women negotiating campus life", paper at the New Horizons in British Islam "British Islam Conference 2019" at Amnesty International UK Human Rights Action Centre.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Too Young to Veil - BBC Radio 4 Analysis programme 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The sight of young girls wearing hijabs is becoming increasingly common in Britain. It is dramatically dividing opinion within Britain's diverse Muslim population and beyond. Radio 4's Analysis programme talked to campaigners, parents, educators and a young hijab wearer about their perspectives in Too Young to Veil?
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1B5xgckjHBwPK5SQvHd1hZ7/too-young-to-veil