Student Rights - Tackling Extremism on Campus

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Student Rights describes itself as a "a non-partisan group dedicated to supporting equality, democracy and freedom from extremism on university campuses". It was founded in June 2009.[1] According to its website, the organisation runs campaigns, host various events throughout the year and "are prominent in the news media as an outlet for the need for students to be represented and fairly treated".

It is a project of the Henry Jackson Society think tank.

History, values and activities

According to its website, Student Rights was established in June 2009 "as a reaction to increasing political extremism and marginalisation of vulnerable students on campus." The group's website states that "A growing culture of discrimination on campus means students are finding themselves marginalised and intimidated for voicing their views." It states that the organisation seeks to counter this perceived trend: "A worrying shift in the priorities of Student Unions means that the needs of students, such as accommodation, higher teaching standards, sports facilities etc are inadequately addressed. Student Rights exists to ensure universities value their greatest assets and serves them appropriately." [2] According to their site, the group provides "a free support network" for students who have experienced marginalisation or discrimination on campus.

Case Studies

Allegations of anti-semitism at BRICUP event

On 4 December 2009 an event called 'Israel, the Palestinians and Apartheid: The Case for Sanctions and Boycott' [of Israel] was organised by the School of Oriental and African Studies' (SOAS) Palestinian Society and British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) at which Jonathan Hoffman claimed he suffered anti-Semitic abuse. Student Rights' Raheem Kassam backed up Hoffman's claim on the basis of a video of Hoffman being heckled while speaking from the audience, criticising the organisers for inviting a South African trade unionist accused of hate speech. The allegation was reported on BBC News online under the headline 'Jewish man jeered at Soas university debate'[3] and initially described Student Rights as "anti-racism campaigners".

Kassam told the BBC that the event had involved “overpowering racist jeering” and said it was “a stark and chilling revelation of what can happen when extremism is allowed to take root in universities”[4]. However, a heavily revised version of the story appeared soon after, following complaints, quoting several Jewish members of the audience who denied that any racism had occurred and instead argued that Hoffman was heckled due to his prominent position within the Zionist Federation. London Student reported that Kassam admitted he had not been at the meeting. The BBC expressed regret at the nature of the original version of the article.[5] Student Rights later published an 'update' on their website acknowledging the doubt cast on Hoffman's claims.[6]

Astroturfing accusations

London Student reported in April 2010:

London Student found no evidence of any Student Rights societies active on University of London campuses, calling in to question the legitimacy of their claim to have “student members”.
Student Rights were initially denied a stall at SOAS Freshers Fair, because sabbatical officers could not see what student service was being offered. After an offer of payment was refused, because SOAS has a no-pay policy, student James Jacobs was encouraged to collect enough signatures to register as a society. He told London Student that the group therefore exists “nominally” but has “never met”.[7]

Links to the Henry Jackson Society

London Student reported in April 2010:

James Jacobs, a SOAS student who interned at Student Rights’ offices, admitted that group’s former offices had been shared with the Henry Jackson Society, but said he believed there was no direct link between the groups.
However, London Student has learnt that when LSE Students’ Union – which charges a fee for external groups to have a place at Freshers Fair – received payment for a stall booked under Student Rights’ name last year, it came from the Henry Jackson Society’s bank account.[8]

According to his Standpoint bio, "Raheem Kassam manages the counter-radicalisation pressure group 'Student Rights' from within the Henry Jackson Society."[9]

NUS condemns Student Rights for fueling Islamophobia

In May 2014 the National Union of Students (NUS) voted to condemn Student Rights saying its activities 'fuel Islamophobia'. The motion passed was very similar to one passed by a number of other students unions which also criticised the organisation for its lack of engagement with students, lack of transparency about its relationship with the Henry Jackson Society and its record of generating 'sensationalist' media coverage.[10]



Advisory Board

Former advisors

External Resources


  1. About, Student Rights - Tackling Extremism on Campus, accessed 18 December 2010.
  2. About, Student Rights - Tackling Extremism on Campus, accessed 2 January 2012.
  3. BBC misrepresents BRICUP SOAS meeting, British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, accessed 2 January 2012
  4. 'Student Rights appalled by racism on campus', Student Rights - Tackling Extremism on Campus, accessed 2 January 2012
  5. Complaint to the BBC Trust, Appendix 3:Initial reply from Mr Berlyn, BRICUP, accessed 2 January 2012
  6. UPDATED: Questions raised over purported racism at event on SOAS campus, Student Rights - Tackling Extremism on Campus, accessed 2 January 2012
  7. Hilary Aked, ‘Student Rights’ group exposed, London Student, 1 March 2010.
  8. Hilary Aked, ‘Student Rights’ group exposed, London Student, 1 March 2010.
  9. Articles by Raheem Kassam, Standpoint, accessed 19 December 2010.
  10. Reyhana Patel, NUS condemns 'anti-Islam' group Student Rights, The Independent, 14 May 2014
  11. Raheem Kassam Linkedin, accessed 13 January 2015
  12. About us Student Rights, accessed 13 January 2015
  13. Web archive screencapture of Our Advisory Board from 26 October 2010, accessed 8 January 2013
  14. Student Rights: LibDem MP Tom Brake deserts counter-extremism group, others set to follow, Huffington Post, accessed 28 November 2013
  15. Student Rights: LibDem MP Tom Brake deserts counter-extremism group, others set to follow, Huffington Post, accessed 28 November 2013