Anthony Glees is the Director of Brunel Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies (BCISS) at Brunel university in London.
When Students Turn to Terror
With Chris Pope Glees is the author of When Students Turn to Terror: Terrorist and Extremist Activity on British Campuses Published by the right wing Social Affairs Unit in Autumn 2005. The report gained widespread mainstream media attention  and little proper criticism.
At over 100 pages this is a longish report claiming to find evidence of Islamist, animal liberation and British National Party 'terrorism' on UK campuses. The basis of the evidence that there is 'terrorist activity' is simply that people who have been arrested under anti-Terrorism legislation attended universities at some point. On this basis there is also evidence of terrorist activity in schools, nurseries and for that matter even in mother's wombs, since all terrorists were once presumably there.
Here is a quote on the 'dangers' of the universities from the report:
- Instead of encouraging students to reflect on the values and virtues of liberal democracy, universities may be teaching them subjects or theoretical tools for understanding the world - Marxism for example - which could encourage them to believe Britain and other Western states are in terminal decline. Moving from campus to Mosque, students convinced by their dons might gain further inspiration from radical mullahs. (Anthony Glees and Chris Pope When Students Turn to Terror: Terrorist and Extremist Activity on British Campuses, Social Affairs Unit, 2005, p. 15.)
This kind of reasoning is a recipe for thought control and the constraining of education within the conservative lexicon where 'liberal democracy' is by definition good and any critique of it in practice bad.
Dundee University and Special Branch surveillance
Dundee University was one of those named as a potential recruiting ground for terrorists and this has led to overt and covert surveillance by Special Branch of Islamic and anti war groups. Sohaib Saeed writes:
- The only Scottish university named was Dundee, where a suspect in the 2002 Bali bombings is said to have once studied.
- The publicity associated with the report has caused great consternation on the Dundee campus, which is home to one of the country’s most active Islamic societies. DUIS president Hassan Habib told the iWitness of his society’s positive efforts to portray Islam accurately and engage with the wider student body. They have won several awards of recognition from the Student Association.
- “If there is any illegal activity going on, then it should be dealt with on the basis of evidence. If the Islamic society can be of any assistance in tackling such problems, then we will not hesitate to do our part.”
- Prof. Glees’ report, entitled “When Students Turn to Terror”, is remarkably devoid of detail about what exactly is wrong at Dundee. The only relevant paragraph informs us that “Suspected or confirmed terrorists who have studied in Britain in recent years include the lecturers Dr Azahari Husin, 45, who went to Reading University, and Shamsul Bahri Hussein, 36, who read applied mechanics at Dundee. They are wanted in connection with the Bali bombings in October 2002, when 202 people, including 26 Britons, died.”
- According to the Sunday Times, Hussein was at Dundee in the 1980s. Exactly what connection his student days in Fife have to his alleged involvement in a terrorist atrocity more than two decades later, is not made clear. Neither is the relevance of that case to the present time. Nevertheless, Glees states: “We have discovered a number of universities where subversive activities are taking place, often without the knowledge of the university authorities.”
- An open letter compiled by the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) claims that the report “has been undertaken without any academic or credible research; indeed the authors have systematically opted to rely on hearsay and allegations rather than fact.” The letter further called on the media to “exercise more caution” in their coverage.
City University - report denounced by Vice Chancellor
- I have read your soon-to-be published report ‘Why students turn to terror: terrorist and extremist activity on British campuses’ which was quoted in the Guardian today. In it, you include City University as one of a number of universities where (allegedly) ‘extremist or terrorist groups have been detected’. The only other reference to City University we can detect in your report (p52) is where you describe the case of Mr Saajid Badat. You say he was offered a place as a student at City University.
- Mr Saajid Badat did not however take up that place. When my press officer telephoned your co-author and you to point this out, she was told that you had other evidence which demonstrated a connection. She was then told that this was what appears on a BBC web site . In reality, that report says unequivocally that he did not take up either of the offers of places he had at this and another university.
- All of us take the issue of terrorism extremely seriously. The well-being of students, staff, visitors to the university and the population in general are of the highest importance to us here in City. I will therefore deal appropriately with any relevant matters drawn to my attention – provided that there is some genuine evidence. In this case, the ‘evidence’ you have given us is farcical. I ask that you substantiate your claim or that you issue an immediate apology, remove City University from your list and notify the Guardian.
Glees on 'The Stasi files'
Roger Morgan, writing in International Affairs (79/5, 2003), described the book as ‘unscholarly, sensationalist and deeply flawed’. More damning criticism came from John Sandford a leading light in the campaign for European Nuclear Disarmament GDR group which was active in promoting solidarity with the independent East German peace movement. Glees seems to have undergone something of a conversion on the GDR group. According to Sandford's account:
- Glees, whom I had not met before, came to interview me in my office at Reading University on the afternoon of 17 November 1998. He was, he said, doing research for a BBC television programme, and presented me – rather curiously, I thought – with a BBC News business card belonging (according to the email address on it) to Sarah Hann on which he had written by hand his own name, private email address, and telephone numbers. The programme would, he said, bring to public attention ‘the unsung role of the GDR Group and others in the events of 1989’. (Glees was to paint an even more glowing picture of END a year or so later, when he wrote of it as ‘a most remarkable institution, with a political impact in eastern Europe so great that we are entitled to regard it as one of the main causes of the defeat of communism in central and eastern Europe’ (The New Germany in the East, ed. Christopher Flockton, Eva Kolinsky and Rosalind Pritchard, London 2000: Frank Cass, p. 177).)
Later his view of the END GDR group was to change and he would describe them as 'assets' of the Stasi, the E German secret police.
- ‘The Sandford Story’ (pp. 328-335) is the title that Glees gives to a section of a chapter called ‘The Stasi’s British Assets’, which in its turn is contained within the part of the book entitled ‘Penetration and Recruitment’... His technique is to use – and trust – the Stasi files to provide the starting-point for his ‘story’, and to make up any gaps and links himself as he goes along in a manner that – sometimes by confident assertion, sometimes by sneering innuendo – furthers his thesis of the Stasi’s ‘penetration and recruitment’ of its ‘British assets’.
Contact, References and Resources
- Dave Renton's Blog on Glees.
- Glees report on terror riles v-cs Phil Baty, Times Higher Education Supplement, Published: 14 October 2005
- Freshers' fair surveillance criticised The Courier, 19 September 2006.
- Sohaib Saeed, Dundee students refute extremism smear The I-Witness, 24 September 2005
- Letter to Anthony Glees from the Vice chancellor of City University, dated 16 September 2005, posted on the City University website
- John Sandford, Anthony Glees: The Stasi Files: East Germany’s Secret Operations Against Britain (London 2003: The Free Press)