As we now know, Jihadi John., aka Mohammed Emwazi, attended Westminster University. So did Avinash Tharoor:
My first impression was that the university was an example of multiculturalism’s success.
But the longer I spent on campus, the more I noticed strange occurrences and remarks that seemed to fit with an Islamist ideology. Eventually, I realized, these ideas were deeply ingrained at Westminster, allowing individuals to feel comfortable advocating dangerous and discriminatory beliefs.
The entrenched nature of Islamist extremism on campus became most apparent during my final year at Westminster. Gay friends told me of derisive comments they overheard from individuals who made no attempt to hide their flagrant homophobia.
A Christian friend who campaigned to be student union president faced intimidation and harassment regarding his beliefs and his appearance. He has a beard, and supporters of his opponent alleged that he was growing facial hair to trick voters into thinking he was Muslim. A female friend of South Asian ancestry told me how she was intimidated in the university library by a group of men who deemed her a “non-Muslim b----” after she declared her support for my Christian friend.
These are just a few examples of what I believe to be a more widespread phenomenon of religiously motivated intimidation experienced by students at Westminster. Several of my peers — the targets of these comments — filed complaints with the student union, but they were met with indifference and vague assurances that the issue would be dealt with. In my frustration at the time, I wrote an article about this discrimination for our university’s newspaper, but I received no response from the university or the student union.
From my experiences, I believe that the university is unwittingly complicit in perpetuating such radicalization, as it has often allowed Islamist extremism to go unchallenged. I don’t think the university itself is advocating extremism, but by failing to prevent the advocacy of such ideas, the institution is attracting students who are sympathetic to them. Students who do not identify with extreme Islamist ideology are being put at risk of discrimination, intimidation and potentially radicalization by the university’s failure to properly handle the situation.
Grim stuff. And I doubt, frankly, that Westminster is that much worse than many other UK universities.
I hope that the humiliation of having Jihadi John among its alumni leads Westminster to implement big changes to quell extremism. If it does not, I fear for how many new recruits the Islamic State might garner from the graduating class of 2015.