Thursday, 6 September 2007

Is Islamist extremism infiltrating our universties and public libraries?

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Yesterday's Newsnight picked up on a new report by the right-leaning Centre for Social Cohesion which suggests that public libraries in areas of London with dense Muslim populations have been inundated with copies of Islamist texts. Books by the key Islamist thinkers Sayed Qutb and Sayed Abdullah Maydudi, and the more recent terrorist sympathisers Abu Hamza and Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal were found in libraries in the Tower Hamlets borough.

The author of the report, Douglas Murray, said that the collections on Islam in these libraries were "warped towards one particular extreme interpretation of Islam", while the former Islamist Ed Husian expressed concerns that readers could be inspired by these teachings: "The worry is how many of those people - it might be a small number, but small enough to cause carnage - who are then prepared to literally act upon those teachings."

This story follows on from concerns over the influence of Islamism on university campuses, and raises similar questions over civil liberties. Should people be free to read about and even espouse these ideas, or are they so dangerous that they should be banned from public life? Our cover story for the new September/October issue takes a look at the question of Islamic extremism on university campuses. We speak to students and leading academics, and ask how universities should be dealing with the problem.