We are all aware of the obvious means by which Islamists are extending Islam throughout the world, and how they are attempting to establish a universal caliphate. The use of terror is a major part of jihadist expansionism. Suicide bombers have been very successful in destabilising the West and helping to export radical Islam and sharia law around the globe.
A good illustration of this was recently reported in the Sunday Times. According to the report, British school kids are being groomed by radicals to become suicide bombers. Here is how the news item begins:
“Police have identified children as young as seven being groomed for terrorism, with some expressing a wish to become suicide bombers. Up to 10 primary school pupils, aged between seven and 10, have been placed on a government outreach programme for individuals considered at risk of being radicalised and turning to violence. Some have taken inspiration from jihadi websites or after viewing extremist material in Islamic bookshops. One child was referred to the programme by his teacher after writing on a school book: ‘I want to be a suicide bomber’.”
The dangers to the free West from such obvious threats are easy enough to identify. But there are other, more covert, ways in which sharia law is being promoted and Islamic expansionism is taking place. I refer to sharia financing and specifically to the Muslim funding of Islamic studies in Western universities.
Millions of dollars over the years have poured in from Arabic and Islamic sources to finance the study of Islam in the West. And with such heavy bankrolling, guess what slant on the issue is being presented? This is simply a version of stealth jihad, whereby Islamists aims are being realised without firing a shot (or detonating a bomb).
A number of authors have written up this worrying trend. One very important analysis of this issue has appeared in the recent National Observer. This Australian quarterly has featured articles about this before, including two pieces by Australian academic Mervyn Bendle on Saudi and Muslim funding of Australian universities (Autumn 2007, Winter 2008).
In this new article, Anthony Glees, professor of security and intelligence at the University of Buckinghamshire, UK, offers a detailed look at such funding, and the dangers it poses to Western democracies. He concentrates on British universities, especially Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh, noting how this funding is not even regulated by the British government.
Says Glees, the radical jihadist is often the product of the education system: “In fact, there is increasing evidence to suggest that when Muslims turn to Islamism, it is the direct result of physical exposure to extreme ideology, frequently taking place in the penumbra of radical mosques and associated Islamic studies centres, be they in Western countries or in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Exposure to extreme and politicised interpretations of the peaceful faith of Islam is always the necessary precondition of terror.”
Yet Western nations are doing little to prevent this radicalisation: “They are not only failing to monitor properly the activities of radical imams (the Fort Hood example is but the latest of many such intelligence failures), but allowing the Islamic studies centres to mushroom, totally out of control. They are making radicalisation and ideological transfer easier, not harder, and increasing the security risk rather than containing it.”
Indeed, Western governments are often compounding the problems: “In Britain, it is actually official government policy to expand the teaching of Islamic studies so that every single Muslim student in the UK will be able to take this subject. There are currently some 635 students undertaking Islamic studies in British universities. If the government succeeds in its stated objective, this number would increase by a further 89,365 (the Federation of Student Islamic Societies estimates that there are about 90,000 Muslim students in Britain).”
And there are big bucks in all of this: “Over the past ten years, some £237m has been handed over or pledged. Of this at least an astonishing £172m (some 70 per cent) has been given to establish Islamic studies centres in the UK’s state-funded universities. None of this money is regulated by the government in any way whatsoever.
“Some 62 per cent (approximately £157m) of the approximately £260m of Arab and Islamic money that has come into British higher education over the past decade has gone into Islamic studies teaching. The British government has so far pledged only £1m. Or, to put it another way, Arab and Islamic funders have put perhaps 157 times more cash into Islamic studies in British universities than has the government….
“The lion’s share of the funding (perhaps some £169.8m) comes from Saudi Arabia. Oxford University has been the chief beneficiary of Arab and Islamic generosity, pocketing about 74 per cent of the total donated or promised (£175.2m out of £237.5m), or 52 per cent of the total received to date (£49.9m out of £94.89m). The Saudi businessman and arms dealer, Wafic Said, has funded the business school which proudly bears his name (£20m already donated, a further £15m pledged). But this is no run-of-the-mill business school, as its ‘Saudi Advanced Management Programme’ makes clear. The Saudis have also given at least £20m to the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (a ‘recognised independent centre of the University’ famous for its Muslim-only ‘leadership programmes’), which occupies a prime multi-million-pound site, sold by Magdalen College. It comes replete with an exotic mosque and minarets dominating the surrounding area.”
Not that all such funding is bound to corrupt: “No one suggests, of course, that the academics there have had their minds changed by the lure of funding: they write and say what they would write and say in any event. But where their views are hostile to American and British foreign policy or to Israel, as they frequently are, the funding that their institutions receive gives those views far greater traction and prominence than they would otherwise have. That, after all, is why the new Middle East centre building has been donated to Oxford.”
So what should be done? “Over and above this, it is surely good sense for a free society, in seeking to fight the seemingly unstoppable growth in Islamist terrorism, to do nothing to expedite it and everything to slow it down. That means not just that Arab and Islamic funding should be regulated by law, but that the expansion of Islamic studies centres, which could cause young Muslims to tip over the edge and descend into violence, should be halted at once.”
Glees concludes, “The vast majority of Muslims reject Islamism. But a small minority will embrace it. The answer to this problem is not to increase exposure to Islam by building ever more Islamic centres but, as with all religious activity, to confine the study of Islam — and other Middle Eastern issues — in a balanced way, within the bounds set by Western ideas of pluralism and rational, even sceptical, debate. The last thing that Britain needs today is to increase the possible risk of violent extremism….
“This is not an attempt to stifle dissenting viewpoints, still less to crush the proper study of Islam. But the time has come to make life much harder for extremist teachers, not because extremism always leads to terrorism or violence. It does not. Yet every terrorist has been an extremist and a radical.”
Quite right. The war on terror must be fought on every front. Military responses alone are not enough. Clear-headed thinking about what is happening on our campuses and other parts of the West also needs to be fostered. Otherwise we are simply granting the jihadists what they seek – on a silver platter.