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Punting On Idiocy

This is a guest post by habibi 

Oh if it were only the spires dreaming.  For yesterday Cambridge University announced the results of a study of such amazing stupidity that intellectual somnolence is the best defence its author and sponsors can plead.

Have a look at the work of June Edmunds, a member of staff at the university’s Development Studies Committee.  It is a whitewash of Islamist radicalism on campus.  An example of its substance and tone:

The Cambridge University report argues that the majority of young British Muslims are opposed to political Islam, and more likely to join Amnesty International than al-Qaeda.

I don’t doubt this, but how can it possibly be quantified?  Yes, if you survey students, those contemplating the jihad trail will tell you as much, in the interest of academic excellence, of course they will.

What’s the point of such a silly statement?

The Cambridge press release continues:

Earlier this year, the Government issued guidelines for university staff on how to combat the threat of violent extremists targeting university campuses as potential breeding grounds for new recruits.

The new study, however, which was based on detailed interviews with students in London, Cambridge and Bradford, found little evidence of any threat, suggesting that such fears have been exaggerated.

Instead, the report describes young Muslims as better integrated into British society than their parents, with a stronger sense of national identity.

“Little” evidence?  Really?  The following Islamists and jihadis, dead, current, and former, may beg to differ:

* Babar Ahmad: “For several of those years, Ahmad was a student at Imperial College in London, known to other Muslim students for “extremist” views, the US court papers claimed.” 

* Kafeel Ahmed: “…From there he moved to Belfast for a masters in aeronautical engineering at Queens University and served on the executive of the university Islamic society.”

* Jawad Akbar: “Akbar had been attending a militant Islamist political group at Brunel University.”

* Mohammed Naveed Bhatti: “…Bhatti, who has a degree in engineering, was studying for a postgraduate qualification at Brunel University.”

* Omar Khyam: “How many brothers are there active in this country?” asks one. “How many are actually planning things, and doing them here?” The answer comes from Omar Khyam, now in jail for planning a bomb atack on a London nightclub. “There’s a lot of people who agree with it now,” he says. “Especially at, you know, Brunel University at Friday prayer.”

* Waseem Mughal: “Mughal, a biochemistry graduate from the University of Leicester, ran the website of the university’s Islamic society.”

* Yassin Nasari: “The leader of a university Islamic society flew into a British airport with bomb-making instructions and blueprints for missiles in his luggage, the Old Bailey was told yesterday.” 

* Omar Sharif: “Khan attended several HT meetings at King’s, especially ones addressed by guests such as Omar Bakri and Mohammad al-Massari, the radical said to have links to Osama Bin Laden.”

* Ahmed Omar Sheikh: “Sheikh, who went to a private school in Snaresbrook, east London, became involved with radicals while at the LSE.”

* Mohammed Atif Siddique: “Fellow students at Glasgow Metropolitan College said he had shown them videos of beheadings and suicide bombers.”

* Jawad Syed: “And I clearly saw and experienced that they would use any means to achieve their aims, including violence.” (Brunel)

* Adel Yahya: “After leaving school he did a GNVQ computing course at Southgate College in north London and in October 2004 began a computer networking degree at the London Metropolitan University.  But the court heard that while at the university he told “a pack of lies” to swindle money out of his university.”

* Waheed Zaman: “The president of the society, Waheed Zaman, a 22-year-old biochemistry student from Walthamstow, east London, was arrested last week in connection with the alleged plot to blow up passenger aircraft taking off from Britain, together with several of his former schoolmates and university-age associates.”

These are cases in the public eye.  Other radicals are surely still at work on campus, or, having been radicalised there, have disappeared to plot at home or join the jihad abroad.

As for Edmunds’s own evidence, it was based on only 28 interviews.  How can she come to such sweeping conclusions using such a small sample?  For Cambridge University, this is woeful.  Thankfully, Anthony Glees of Brunel has already said as much here.

There is more to say about that press release and Edmunds’s own spinning here on CIF. But let’s get to an important point.  Here is what I think is the most telling explanation of this story, offered by Edmunds herself after Glees panned her work: 

Although a number of individual, in-depth interviews did form a central part of the study, they were also part of a much longer list of information sources which render it far from flimsy.

These included a focus group with students from the University of Bradford, and further face-to-face interviews with members of Muslim youth organisations, (namely, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, the Federation of Muslim Youth, Young Muslims UK and the Oak Project).

Internet research on these and other organisations – such as the Muslim Public Affairs Committee – and documentary research on two publications, both of which target young professionals, was also carried out.

Ah, FOSIS and MPAC.  I see. FOSIS is closely tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. MPAC has a history of republishing material taken from neo Nazi sources. and is run by Asghar Bukhari, who offered to raise money for the Holocaust denier, David Irving. Yes, they’re not radical at all, are they.

This development does remind me of a story David T published here in May.  It detailed British Islamists’ plans for improving their image, including the tactic of recruiting tame academics to work for the cause.  You’ll remember that Harry’s Place received a series of internal memoranda involving the plans of a group of Islamist and pro-Islamist activists, at the MCB, MPAC, and the Islam Channel, to put together a “muslim friendly think tank”. One of the suggestions, made by Carl Arrindell was as follows:

“Whilst a long term goal should be to establish a Muslim friendly think tank, in the short term it would be advisable to source a team of credible and authoritative commentators/academics who will be prepared to provide written response/analysis to key events on a regular basis – this may have to be budgeted for. It will be the provision of this regular credible information that will be the justification for journalists to engage with us. “

If this report is indeed a fruit of that planning, congratulations Cambridge, you’ve been had. 

By the way, if all of this makes you angry with the official sponsors of Edmunds’s whitewash, and you are a British taxpayer, please get angry with yourself (see page 4 of this pdf):

Dr June Edmunds completed the first plank of a comparative study on Muslim youth in Western Europe and the Middle East. This research was funded by an ESRC grant of £79,009 (received in October 2006) and focused on political participation, global politics and transnationalism among young British Muslims.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is mostly funded by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

What a shambles.