Teaching About Terrorism: University of Buckingham

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Terrorism expertise in the media

Scholars from the University of Buckingham appear regularly in the UK media offering expertise in terrorism related matters.

ID Cards

In 1993 Dick Kemm from the University of Buckingham argued, in a letter to The Times that due to the IRA's mainland bombing campaign the UK government should introduce ID cards. He argued that 'the state should assume responsibility for issuing a card, made to a high standard, incorporating a photo, signature and identification capable of computer recognition'[1].

9/11 Response

In response to the 9/11 attack in New York, University of Buckingham vice chancellor Terence Kealey cited Samuel Huntingdon's 1993 book, The Clash of Civilisations. He argued that:

'Huntingdon predicted that militant Islam and Western democracy will clash, as indeed they now are. But the clash must be, in technical language, asymmetrical and therefore heavily biased in favour of the West, for the Muslims are reduced to terrorism simply because they are poor'.
'In his speech on Tuesday, President Bush said that America was targeted because it was a beacon of freedom. Actually, that was not completely true. America was targeted because two ancient peoples are fighting an irreconcilable war over a single piece of territory, and America is backing one side. And America will win because it is free'.
'However horrible the scenes from America were, Francis Fukuyama explains why ultimately democracy will triumph. And we can see how the evolution of Christianity foreshadows how Islam, in its turn, may evolve. Muslim terrorism in America will not destroy Western democracy today, nor need it destroy Islamic democracy in the future. Fundamentally, humanity is on course'[2].


In 2007 Professor Dennis O'Keeffe of the University of Buckingham praised Kazakhstan because 'The country has committed itself to the struggle against international terrorism.' According to the Hindustan Times 'This, he said, might relate to the fact Kazakhstan had avoided parasitic status by taking the initiative in forging its own development model'[3].

Radicalisation in University

In January 2009 Anthony Glees, the Director of the Buckingham University Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies argued, in a letter to The Guardian, that 'universities should not be sites of 'truly free debate' where that debate would lead people to want to undermine or overthrow our democratic society or attack, harm or terrorise individuals'[4]. Glees goes on to argue that:

'there are three rather different questions here. First, whether words are, or can be, weapons; second, if they are, whether universities should control their use - and third, whether universities still breed 'respect for evidence and new ideas' in any case. History answers the first: words used by visitors to campuses or by dons with political agendas can be very dangerous weapons. If the price of their pitch is radicalisation or terrorism, it is too high'.

Glees argues that 'the relentless search for money, particularly from Arab and Islamic states but also from the government (whose 'initiatives' make state-funded institutions bob to every half-baked DIUS scheme) has skewed and will skew the research and teaching they undertake'[5]. He goes on to say that 'Free speech is also curtailed in universities by the law of libel and the Terrorism Act 2006. This makes it a criminal offence to directly or indirectly incite or encourage others to commit acts of terrorism (including the glorification of terrorism and dissemination of terrorist publications). Rightly so'. He concludes by arguing:

'Liberty', not for the first time, appears to set the rights of protesters, for example those calling for the beheading of those who published the (nasty) cartoons of Muhammed, higher than the rights of those against whom they were protesting.Our universities are better - and safer - for agreeing to ban extremists from campuses; the NUS 'no platform policy' which excludes and marginalises racists whether from the extremes of fascism or Islamism is both excellent and ethical. In theory, academics will cheer for Voltaire (who famously said 'I disagree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it'). It seems to encapsulate what functioning democracies and universities should be about. But in reality things are no longer so simple. Free speech has been used to destroy the free speech of others and to fight for the right of your enemies to destroy you is simply suicidal. For Britain to be democratic, civilised and inclusive, universities must leave some things unsaid'[6].

Vetting University Students

In April 2009, Anthony Glees argued on National Public Radio that whether these suspects are guilty or not, checks on foreign students coming into Britain are simply not stringent enough, adding 'the government should insist that universities do not admit people without first running their names past the government'[7].

Faced with the Islamist threat, many universities initially shut their eyes, angrily criticising those who spoke of it. When the Government finally saw fit to issue them with "guidance, neither of the two versions it produced - in 2006 and last year - mentioned the word vetting, let alone the need to vet and interview every applicant from Pakistan and other areas associated with terrorism.

Glees argues that universities are 'safe havens' for terrorists and that 'the reason our universities still largely refuse to accept that students' visas might be a security risk is only too clear. In part it has to do with cash. There are around 330,000 overseas students in Britain who, it is claimed, bring some pounds 10 billion to the economy. Vice-chancellors fear that a reputation for vetting prospective students would deter them'. Glees argues that the consequences of this may be a terrorist attack[8].

Legal criticism of Anti-Terrorism Legislation

Susan Edwards the dean of law at the Univeristy of Buckingham describes how government legislation can effect students suspected of an offence:

If they are accused, justly or unjustly, of being involved in terrorist- related activity, the following is what our students can expect: first, to be arrested on a lesser standard than reasonable suspicion; second, to be detained for up to 28 days; third, to be subject to a control order under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. This new and novel version of house arrest is, we are told, for "the purpose of protecting members of the public from the risk of terrorism". And, like Josef K in Franz Kafka's The Trial, the evidence is never disclosed: this is suspension in a legal nightmare[9].

Edwards goes on to argue that:

Human rights and global peace are at stake. We all recognise the importance of safety and security, but this debate is all too frequently degraded and hijacked by xenophobia packaged as justifiable fear. A new and virulent strain of "reds under the beds" hysteria has taken root. This plague is a danger to rational informed debate and to human rights. We must, like John Proctor in the Salem witch trials, stand firm[10].

Criticism of University College London

Anthony Glees argued that 'I believe Abdulmutallab's radicalisation from being a devoted Muslim to a suicide bomber took place in the UK and I believe al-Qaeda recruited him in London. Universities and colleges like UCL have got to realise that you don't get suicide bombers unless they have first been radicalised,'.[11].

Douglas Murray, of the Centre for Social Cohesion supported Anthony Glees assertion arguing that 'UCL has not just failed to prevent students being radicalised, they have been complicit. If any other society at UCL invited someone to speak who encouraged killing homosexuals, that society would be banned immediately, but academics are afraid of taking action when it involves Islamic societies in case they are accused of Islamophobia'.[12].


  1. Dick Kemm, Anti-terrorist measures, The Times, 5-May-1993
  2. Terence Kealey, Zealotry has never been limited to Islam two cultures, The Daily Telegraph, 13-September-2001
  3. Asian News International, Yeleukenov says Kazakhstan would play active role in international, regional peace and security, Hindustan Times, 27-October-2007
  4. Anthony Glees, Free Speech, The Guardian, 27-January-2009
  5. Anthony Glees, Free Speech, The Guardian, 27-January-2009
  6. Anthony Glees, Free Speech, The Guardian, 27-January-2009
  7. Michelle Norris (Host), U.K. Counterterrorism Chief Resigns, National Public Radio, 9-April-2009
  8. Anthony Glees, Commentary; Universitites are seen as safe havens, The Telegraph, 10-April-2009
  9. Susan Edwards, Call off the witch hunts, Times Higher Education Supplement, 30-April-2009
  10. Susan Edwards, Call off the witch hunts, Times Higher Education Supplement, 30-April-2009
  11. London, Experts slam London University for being 'complicit' in radicalisation of Muslim students, Hindustan Times, 3-December-2009
  12. London, Experts slam London University for being 'complicit' in radicalisation of Muslim students, Hindustan Times, 3-December-2009