Fostering free debate

August 7, 2008

Our evidence has consistently shown that there is serious, but not widespread, extremist activity in higher education establishments. Most people in Muslim communities reject terrorism and say there is nothing Islamic about the murder of innocent people.

In January, we published guidance to support staff and students in their efforts to isolate and challenge the small minority who promote violent extremism. The guidance sets out clear aims to combat segregation, promote free and open debate and the use of traditions of academic freedom to challenge extremism.

It is only through fostering a culture of free and open debate between students and staff of all faiths and cultures, including those who hold beliefs that we may consider extreme or radical, that we can challenge violent extremist views.

Throughout the past year, I have led debates in universities on how we promote academic freedom while ensuring that extremists can never stifle debate or impose their views. These debates will continue in the new academic year.

I'm pleased at the speed with which groups such as the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, Universities UK, the National Union of Students and other political parties have dismissed the findings of the Centre for Social Cohesion report on campus extremism. Our challenge is to work together as a society to isolate and challenge the tiny minority of people who advocate or undertake terrorist acts.

Bill Rammell, Minister for Higher Education.

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