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Muslim students feel isolated following the attacks of July 7 and the row over extremism on campus is further alienating them from university life, a survey showed today.
Only 72% of those polled said they would immediately tell the police if they discovered a Muslim friend was planning a terrorist attack. The Federation of Student Islamic Societies (Fosis), which undertook the survey, said that this was testimony to the lack of trust between the Muslim community and the police.
The survey of 466 Muslim students and recent graduates, mostly members of Islamic societies on campuses, was launched this morning at the House of Commons Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the secretary general of the Muslim Council for Britain, Anas Al-Tikriti, from the Muslim Association of Britain and the minister for higher education, Bill Rammell.
Before the July 7 attacks only 5% of those polled recalled feeling uncomfortable being Muslim in Britain, but after the attacks that figure rose to 31%. Of the respondents, 85% condemned the attacks, 4% did not and 11% gave no response. Some 47% reported having experienced Islamophobia.
If they knew of someone planning an attack, 72% of those polled would tell the police straight away; 8% would try to talk them out of it; 10% did not answer; 6% said no but gave no reason; 2% said no, mistrustful; and 2% said no, would never grass on a Muslim.
It reveals that most students believe that changing foreign policy would be the most effective way of reducing the threat of terrorism against Britain. A further 62% believe that British foreign policy played either a complete or major role in causing the London attacks.
The report goes on to recommend that police work harder to ensure they gain the trust of young Muslims to help tackle terrorism, and that Muslims should recognise suspicious activity, and understand it is a religious duty to inform the police.
On recent allegations that extremism is rife on some university campuses, the report said: “The accusation of Islamic extremism being widespread on campus is largely unfounded and thus universities must balance the need for national security with the need for freedom of speech and religious practice.
“Student unions and university authorities work with Islamic societies to remove suspicion and misconceptions about extremism on campuses.”
Wakkas Khan, the president of Fosis said: “There’s a lack of trust between the police and the Muslim community which needs to definitely be worked on. It shows a lack of trust and there needs to be a long-term initiative to build up those links. I don’t think it’s that the Muslim community is not going to report terrorism, it’s about who to report it to, who to tell and who to trust.
“There’s this whole thing about extremism on campuses. Firstly I reject that. But there’s simple things universities can do to make life on campus easier, such as prayer room facilities. There’s no Islamic society in the country which doesn’t have a headache trying to find prayer facilities. That’s just bang out of order. That would only help relations.”
Faisal Hanjra, the head of student affairs at Fosis, who coordinated the report said: “The recent media hype about extremism on campus has already done its damage, thanks to unfounded allegations linking ‘Islamism’ with individual universities.
“We are urging the government and university authorities to tackle this issue more sensitively. Muslim students in fact play a positive and active contribution towards British society with one in two Muslim students actively involved in voluntary work?”
(Posted on September 28, 2005)