Radical Islam goes to Oxford

MI5 says UK turning blind eye to crisis in universities

By Gordon Thomas

LONDON — In his first report to Downing Street, Jonathan Evans, the new MI5 chief, has strongly denied claims by Higher Education Minister Bill Ramell that “the problem of Islamic extremism in UK universities is not widespread.”

The MI5 report lists 48 campuses “where the threat posed by radical groups must be urgently addressed.”

Leading universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, are identified as “prime targets for Islamic extremists with links to al-Qaida and other terror groups.”

The report seriously questions the government’s repeated claim that it is “on top of the situation.”

It once more brings MI5 in direct conflict with its political master - Home Secretary John Reid.

The MI5 report, titled “Radicalism In Universities,” states that several proscribed radical preachers and groups like al-Muhajiroun have infiltrated the campuses - including those with links to Imperial College and the London School of Economics.

Both universities have a long association with the Ministry of Defense and intelligence services, from where a number of officers have been recruited.

Professor Anthony Glees, the director of the respected Brunel University Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, said: “We must accept this problem is widespread and underestimated. Unless clear and decisive action is taken at once, the security situation in the UK can only deteriorate.”

The MI5 report reveals: “Student Islamic societies have faced growing scrutiny by us after it emerged that one of the 12 men, now awaiting trail in connection with the alleged plot to blow up transatlantic airliners last summer, was president of the Islamic Society at London Metropolitan University.”

The report urges that there must be “extra investment in campus security and proper vetting should be carried out to ensure all students are bona fide.”

The request will further heighten the tensions between the government and universities. Campus staff has already been asked to “monitor student Islamic societies and report any ‘Asian looking’ students suspected of holding any extremist views to the security services.”

Student groups at Oxford and Cambridge have attacked such requests as “no different from McCarthyism.”

But the MI5 report says such requests are now “more than ever necessary” as there is clear evidence that the problem of infiltration is rapidly growing.

Last year Dhiren Barot, said to be Osama bin Laden’s “UK commander,” was jailed for 40 years for planning terror attacks in Britain. Barot, 34, had faked his identity as a “mature student” so that he could study at Brunel University - from where he admitted to planning the attacks.

And Anjem Choudary, the former head of al-Muhajiroun in Britain, revealed he had joined the group while a student at the University of Surrey. Though the organization was officially disbanded in 2005, Choudary boasted last week in a London-based Arab newspaper: “The group’s members continue to preach on Britain’s campuses, distributing literature and CDs.”

Gordon Thomas, a regular G2B contributor, is the author of “Gideon’s Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad,” the new edition of which was published in January 2007. He specializes in international intelligence matters.

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