Extremism in academia follows millions in donations
April 14, 2008
LONDON — Jonathan Evans, the director-general of MI5, has warned the government that donations of hundreds of millions of pounds from Saudi Arabia and powerful Muslim organizations in Pakistan, Indonesia and the Gulf Straits have led to a “dangerous increase in the spread of extremism in leading university campuses.”
Eight of Britain’s leading universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, have accepted more than 236 million pounds sterling, about $460 million, in donations from Muslim organizations, “many of which are known to have ties to extremist groups, some have links to terrorist organizations.”
The bulk of the donations have come in the past five years during a period when terrorist activities in Britain have increased. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced over the weekend that MI5 was now investigating “42 current terror threats and the possibility of attacks is increasingly real.”
Universities that have accepted the money also include the London School of Economics, the City of London, Exeter and Dundee universities. All have a growing number of Muslim students.
A major donation has included 20 million pounds sterling from the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia to help establish the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies, which will be affiliated to the university when it opens next year.
The MI5 claims follow a lengthy investigation that revealed 70 percent of political lectures at the Middle Eastern Center at St. Anthony’s College in Oxford were “implacably hostile to the West and Israel.”
The MI5 claims are reinforced by Prof. Anthony Glees, the director of Brunel University’s Center for Intelligence and Security Studies, a think-tank with close links to the Intelligence Services.
“Up to 48 universities in Britain have been infiltrated by fundamentalists financed by Muslim groups. The potential threat this poses is obvious to the security of the country,” Glees said.
However, Prime Minister Gordon Brown insists it is strategically “important to study Islam.” He has authorized one million pounds sterlingto be spent at the campuses on a counter radicalization drive.
An MI5 source described the sum as “piffling in trying to combat what is going on.” He also said it does not “take into account” the warning at the weekend by Home Secretary Smith.
Jonathan Evans has told his own senior staff one of the problems is that Britain’s universities are so “strapped for cash they risk being held over a barrel and are grateful for donations. This opens the wrong sort of doors for extremism to flourish.”
Much of government policy on funding Islamic studies is approved by Dr. Ataullah Siddiqui, a member of Britain’s Muslim community who acts as Downing Street’s chief adviser and is known to be wary of MI5’s claims.
Universities UK, the umbrella organization for all the country’s universities, insisted “all academic programs in the UK, including Islamic Studies, are subject to rigorous and independent quality assurance procedures.”
Gordon Thomas is the author of the newly published Secrets and Lies: A History of CIA Mind Control and Germ Warfare (Octavo Editions, USA) and the forthcoming Inside British Intelligence (JR Books, UK).