Monday, 17 September 2007

Scottish student found guilty of terror offences

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A jury has today found Mohammed Atif Siddique, a student at Glasgow Metropolitan College, guilty of three terrorism offences. He was found guilty of possessing suspicious terrorism-related items, including videos of weapons use, guerilla tactics and bomb-making, and collecting terrorist-related information, setting up websites showing how to make and use explosives, and circulating inflammatory terrorist publications. He was also charged with breach of the peace, related to claims he showed fellow students images of suicide bombers and terrorist beheadings.

Recent months have seen several students convicted for terrorist offences, as cases related to new legislation on the glorification of terrorism begin to reach court. These cases highlight the question of when a combination of anger and curiosity should be seen to spill over into illegal activity. In a statement outside court, Siddique's lawyer said his client was only guilty of "looking for answers on the internet", just as millions of young people do every day, and in court his QC pointed out that the material he possessed was freely available to anyone on the internet.

It's been a busy day for news surrounding campus extremism. The government's Universities Secretary John Denham has today encouraged lecturers to back the government in tackling extremism in universities. In May this year the Universities and College Union voted to reject government recommendations to monitor their students, and today Denham has reiterated the government's view that this decision was misplaced, stating: "All we are trying to do is to make sure that everybody has the strength to ensure that people are not recruited to the sort of organisations which are promoting and organising violence of whatever sort."

Asked to comment on Mr Denham's remarks, the Universities and Colleges Union welcomed comments by Rick Trainor, president of vice-chancellors' union Universities UK, who in a speech earlier today said: "We do not believe that developing measures that focus on a particular group within our community achieves this goal. Rather, harmony is achieved by openness, tolerance and dialogue - which are, after all, central to university life."

In light of the UCU's decision and the recent surge in convictions, our September/October cover story takes a look at the question of radical Islam on campus, asking whether Islamist groups should be free to spread their ideas to students, or whether they should be banned from doing so. Are instances of radicalisation occurring at an alarming rate on campus, as cases like Siddique's may suggest, or are they occurring in numbers too small to warrant restrictions on freedom of speech?


lynx said...

The problem with placing restrictions on anyone's ability to speak is that doing so automatically limits everyone's ability to speak. If they can silence islamists because they are unpopular then any and every other minority viewpoint is endangered as well.

the only possible abuse of free speech is staying silent.