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University of Westminster under fire for letting Islamic radicals recruit 'like lambs to slaughter'

PUBLISHED: 06:45 28 May 2015 | UPDATED: 15:56 28 May 2015

A leading academic has said Islamic extremism was rife on campus at the University of Westminster during the time Isis killer Mohammed Emwazi was a student. Picture: Polly Hancock

A leading academic has said Islamic extremism was rife on campus at the University of Westminster during the time Isis killer Mohammed Emwazi was a student. Picture: Polly Hancock

Polly Hancock

A leading academic has said Islamic extremism was rife on campus at the University of Westminster during the time Isis killer Mohammed Emwazi was a student - with recruits led “like lambs to the slaughter”.

"I’d seen a tremendous amount of recruiting going on. I had Muslim students tell me that they were being pressured in the toilets to cover up and wear the veil. Women were encouraged to sit at the back of the lecture hall during recruiting events"

Dr Alexandra Stein, social psychologist specialising in extremist groups

Dr Alexandra Stein, a social psychologist specialising in extremist groups, said a “tremendous amount of recruiting was going on” from 2007 to 2012 and that girls were pressured to wear the veil and segregated at the back of talks.

She claims her efforts to set up an education programme to counter speakers from radical Islamist groups like Hizb-ut-Tahrir were blocked by the university, which has its main campus in Marylebone Road, Marylebone.

Dr Stein, who now teaches at Birkbeck College in London, said: “During the time I certainly tried to raise this with the administration. Interestingly the administration tried to shut us down while letting the recruiters in. I felt terrible because these students were being led like lambs to the slaughter.”

A spotlight fell on the university after notorious Islamic State beheader Mohammed Emwazi was named as a former computing student in February.

Dr Alexandra Stein claims her efforts to set up an education programme to counter speakers from radical Islamist groups like Hizb-ut-Tahrir were blocked by the University of WestminsterDr Alexandra Stein claims her efforts to set up an education programme to counter speakers from radical Islamist groups like Hizb-ut-Tahrir were blocked by the University of Westminster

This week another former University of Westminster student, Anis Sardar of Wembley, was handed two life sentences for the murder of an American soldier by planting a roadside bomb in Iraq.

It is claimed Emwazi, who lived on the Mozart Estate in Queen’s Park, started to radicalise following his graduation.

Speaking at a conference on cults and extremist groups on Friday, Dr Stein said: “I was shocked but not surprised to find that he had been at the University of Westminster at the time that I’d been there. I wasn’t surprised because I’d seen a tremendous amount of recruiting going on.

“I had Muslim students tell me that they were being pressured in the toilets to cover up and wear the veil. Women were encouraged to sit at the back of the lecture hall during recruiting events held at the university.

Notorious Isis killer Mohammed Emwazi is a former student of the University of WestminsterNotorious Isis killer Mohammed Emwazi is a former student of the University of Westminster

“At the door two burly types would stand at either side of the door during these lectures, so it was very intimidating should you want to leave.”

Her efforts to counter the extremists were blocked, Dr Stein claims, saying: “I went to the dean with an educational programme and he threw it - as they say in America - in the round file.

“They did try and shut the doors on the programme, but their doors were opened up to Hizb-ut-Tahrir speakers who were not banned, so I’m very angry about that.”

Following the naming of Emwazi, the University of Westminster said it was working to implement the government’s Prevent strategy to tackle extremism.

“We are setting up a dedicated pastoral team to provide advice and support,” a spokeswoman said. “In the meantime, we urge any students who are concerned to contact the Student Support and Well-being team.”

The university had “no additional comments to make” when contacted by the Wood&Vale about Dr Stein’s allegations this week.

The Institute of Race Relations said it was important to protect freedom of expression and focus on extremism in a wider context than just within the Muslim community.

Director Liz Fekete said: “If we start saying that young people don’t have a right to have meetings on campus, to me that is completely the wrong way to go about things. Because Prevent is very top down and it’s focused particularly on Muslim communities, we need to start again with an approach that isn’t hectoring.

She added: “We have to work through young people, we have to work through families, not through edicts from the top, and freedom of expression has to be valued. We’re walking a tightrope here between telling young people that they’re committing a thought crime. We have to walk that tightrope much better than we are doing now.”

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