Campus Watch (UK)
Campus Watch (UK) was a hotline telephone service set up by two Zionist organisations Searchlight and the Union of Jewish Students, which was badged as monitoring 'racial attacks' on campus, but which overwhelmingly targeted Muslim activism. Given the close relationship between Searchlight and the British (and other) intelligence services it is likely that this was another way in which intelligence on Muslim students cold be gathered by the state.
According to Evan Smith:
- In December 1994 the NUS, alongside anti-fascist magazine Searchlight and the Union of Jewish Students, set up Campus Watch – a 24/7 hotline to report racial incidents at universities and colleges. However a report released in October 1996 stated that more than 70 per cent of the 381 calls made to the hotline concerned Islamic extremists, primarily Hizb ut-Tahrir.
- In the meantime, the students’ unions at several universities in London and around the country used a “no platform” policy to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir from organising and speaking on campus – including the University of Birmingham, Middlesex University, University College London, the University of Leeds and LSE. For example, editor of the student newspaper at LSE, The Beaver, explained in October 1996:
- At present Hizb-ut-Tahrir is banned from the LSE because its doctrine goes against the LSESU policy on Equal Opportunities. Believe me when I say that these people are very extremist and their views could be offensive to many of the minorities (and majorities) whom they are against; gays, jews [sic], blacks, democrats, socialists, women, or indeed anyone who doesn’t agree with them.”
- In October 1995, The Times reported that more than 100 students’ unions had “banned” Hizb ut-Tahrir from campus – supported by the NUS. At the NUS conference in March 1996, a code of conduct was agreed to with the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals that banned “extremists” from standing for full-time representative posts in students’ unions. The Times explained that the code “would stop short of banning such groups [as Hizb ut-Tahrir] from campuses”, but that its members “would be barred from elections for sabbatical office”.
The Independent reported in 1995:
- In early January, Students' Union officers at Brunel University in Middlesex received a letter threatening to "hospitalise one of your students every day" if a poster advertising an anti-fascist phone line was displayed on campus. The phone line in question was Campus Watch, a 24-hour voice bank set up by the National Union of Students (NUS) and the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight.
- The system is intended to monitor fascist activity at universities and colleges across Britain in response to what the NUS president, Jim Murphy, describes as "the rise of fascism in Britain now, and the targeting of the student community". Since its inception at the end of last year, Campus Watch has received far more calls than expected, detailing incidents including hate mail campaigns against left-wing, gay and Jewish student societies and racist graffiti and stickering on campus.
- There is a growing feeling throughout the student movement that fascism is on the rise, and Brunel is one university with first-hand experience of the problem. Last summer, after a particularly intense period of racist stickering, a Sri Lankan student had a bag forced over his head before being repeatedly kicked and punched. Daniel Harris, news editor of Brunel's student newspaper Le Nurb, is convinced that the perpetrators were not students.
- The new leader of the National Union of Students (NUS), Douglas Trainer, has reaffirmed his intention to have Hizb ut-Tahrir and what he calls "other such organisations" banned from university campuses in Britain (see BMMS for October and December 1995; January, February, March and May 1996). He also praised the Campus Watch project, which is a telephone advice service run by the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and the anti-racist organisation, Searchlight. Claiming that Campus Watch had taken hundreds of phone calls from students who had been verbally abused by far-right groups and Islamist groups, Douglas Trainer said: "It is a massively important project. NUS has a great relationship with the UJS and I am confident that together we can continue with Campus Watch and bring forward new ideas" (Jewish Chronicle, 23.08.96).
Evan Smith wrote:
- With a concern over the growth of the BNP in the early 1990s and the BNP’s Derek Beackon winning a local council seat in East London in September 1993, anti-racists and anti-fascists started to organise again against the fascist threat. One action undertaken was by the National Union of Students (NUS), in conjunction with the Union of Jewish Students and the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight. This was the Campus Watch initiative. In December 1994, the three organisations came together over concern that a ‘small but growing number of BNP and other fascist activists [were] now operating on campuses over much of the country’ and established Campus Watch, ‘a hotline to monitor racial attacks’. The 24/7 hotline ran throughout 1995-96 and was described by NUS President Douglas Trainer as a ‘massively important project’.
- One of the predominant critics of the Campus Watch and of the NUS’ approach towards the BNP was the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). The RCP had long been considered a disruptive influence on campus through its student wing, Revolutionary Communist Students (RCS), and since the mid-1980s, the RCS had been opposed to any formal ‘no platform’ policies. In the RCP’s magazine Living Marxism, Jennie Bristow complained that the Campus Watch initiative was established ‘to combat the (virtually non-existent) activity of the BNP on campus.’ The previous year, Juliet Connor objected to the focused anti-fascist response (what she called ‘the “No Platform” lobby’) to the BNP, arguing that the BNP was ‘a small organisation of a couple of hundred people, a combination of social misfits and skinheads, concentrated in a handful of places’. For Connor, the BNP had ‘no platform in any real sense’ and it was the anti-fascists that were giving them publicity. Instead of enforcing the NUS’ ‘no platform’ policy, Bristow suggested that student unions should have allowed the BNP to speak on campus, writing:
- If there is a conflict of ideas, and if we accept that some ideas are right and others are wrong, there are two possible ways of dealing with this situation. One way is to attempt to stifle the opinions which you believe to be wrong, by imposing bans and censorship. The other is to challenge the ideas you believe to be wrong in open argument.
- At this time, those writing for Living Marxism seemed to be suggesting that the BNP needed to be debated, rather than demonstrated against, moving away from the confrontational protest tactics used by the RCP in the 1980s, but maintaining the stance of opposing ‘no platform’. This was part of a wider trajectory of the RCP (and its successors) from ultra-left Trotskyism to libertarian contrarianism.
- Shaida R. Nabi Institutionalized IslamophobIa before prevent: muslim Students, Campus Watch and the ‘fundamentalist’ formation in British universities Journal of the Contemporary Study of Islam | Volume 2 | Issue 2 | 2022: 112–141
- ‘Campus Watch’, Searchlight (January 1995) p. 5.
- 'Hizb ut-Tahrir campus threat' British Muslims Monthly Survey for August 1996 Vol. IV, No. 8.
- Cited in, British Muslims Monthly Survey, 4/8 (August 1996), http://artsweb.bham.ac.uk/bmms/1996/08August96.html
- Jennie Bristow, ‘Free Speech on Campus’, Living Marxism, 83 (October 1995) http://web.archive.org/web/19991103220041/http://www.informinc.co.uk/LM/LM83/LM83_Speech.html
- Juliet Connor, ‘The Problem with “No Platform”’, Living Marxism, 72 (October 1994) http://web.archive.org/web/20010730211339/www.informinc.co.uk/LM/LM72/LM72_Platform.html(accessed 6 March, 2018).