Reality? No, it's rhetoric

January 20, 2011

Your feature "Contravene or intervene?" (6 January) gives an insightful overview of the complex problems that universities face in dealing with extremism and the potential terrorist "radicalisation" of students.

However, at the end of the article, after having quoted at length Mina Al-Lami's views, which culminate in the warning not to get "hung up on terminology", the article concludes by asserting "the reality of British university campuses that are breeding grounds for terrorism". The clichéd metaphor of the "breeding ground" (which also appears earlier in the article in the form of a question) seems to me problematic, not only because as a metaphor it can hardly be an objective description of "the reality", but also because it suggests that terrorist radicalisation is a fast-spreading mass phenomenon at (some) British universities.

While terminology issues should not take centre stage in dealing with the threat of terrorism, alarmist rhetoric does not help to understand its causes either.

Andreas Musolff, Professor of intercultural communication, University of East Anglia.

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