Terrorism 101

Rizwaan Sabi, the student arrested in 2008 for possessing an al Qaida training manual (and detained while under investigation for several days) explains why this this unwarranted attack on academic freedom on CiF.

He says that this sort of pressure is causing many academics to conclude that “the safest option was to pull the plug on teaching terrorism totally”.

I’m not entirely clear why British universities would be teaching “terrorism” unless they were preparing students like Mr Sabi for careers in MI5 or some special forensic branch of the police. Or perhaps the Foreign Office.

He cites the fact that his former supervisor, Rob Thornton, has said he no longer feels able to teach a course of terrorism. Sabi concludes:

Thornton’s case highlights some problematic issues, not only for Nottingham, but for universities throughout the UK that wish to contribute to the debate on terrorism and counter-terrorism, but are afraid of becoming the subject of investigation themselves. If we are to address the problems associated with terrorism and are to have a successful, rigorous and informed counter-terrorism strategy, we need to take the threat posed to free and open inquiry at the behest of the UK’s anti-terror legislation, and indeed by universities who fail to uphold traditions of academic freedom, very seriously indeed. If the issue is not addressed and the problems are not fixed, I fear that Thornton’s case will be the first of many.

What do you make of this? Given the problems UK universities currently have with ‘radicalisation’, I’m not really sure they are really equipped to run ‘terrorism’ courses so casually. How much of this genuinely relates to academic freedom, and how much academic freedom can legitimately be restricted in the interests of national security?