I was disappointed to see your recent article and blog post on the government “naming and shaming” universities over extremist speakers, both of which gave undue prominence to the opinions of partisan activists attempting to smear our work at Student Rights and undermine the government’s counter-extremism efforts (“Prevent strategy: naming and shaming of universities sparks concern”, News, 1 October; “The questions raised by Prevent ‘naming and shaming’”, 5 October).
David Miller and Hilary Aked, quoted as the sole sources of concern about our work, are involved in ongoing campaigns to label the government’s Prevent strategy and its supporters as racist. They do so from within Spinwatch, an organisation funded by the very extremists whom the policy aims to challenge.
Aked has sought support from activists who have declared that apostates should face the death penalty and that Muslims should boycott the police, while a number of extremists, including members of the group Cage, were given a platform at a conference hosted by Miller at the University of Bath this year.
In addition, your reports have referenced poorly informed students’ union motions drafted as part of a campaign run by Aked – inadvertently supporting denigration from a partisan source with material provided to students by that same source.
No substantive criticism of our work is made and instead there are dark claims of “dubious provenance” or “neoconservative…agenda[s]”. This is something that those familiar with Spinwatch’s modus operandi of smears and innuendo will recognise but that should not provide the basis for professional articles in a serious journal such as Times Higher Education.
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