- Student Rights is an organisation claiming to support ‘freedom from extremism’ on UK university campuses.
- It mostly criticises speakers who have been invited by Islamic societies it sees as ‘extremists’ .
- However it has expressed opposition to student union ‘no-platform’ policies for the BNP.
- Student Rights is a project of the right-wing think tank the Henry Jackson Society whose Associate Director, Douglas Murray has argued that ‘conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board’.
- Such statements have prompted at least one MP (Lib Dem Tom Brake) to quit the advisory board of both the Henry Jackson Society and Student Rights.
- Student Rights has never been transparent about the fact that it is a Henry Jackson Society project. It is known to have received money from the think tank but it does not publish accounts or reveal how much it currently receives from HJS or any other donors.
- Student Rights was established in 2009 as a reaction to what it calls ‘increasing political extremism’ on campus. Director Raheem Kassam has said that this is a reference to a wave of peaceful occupations that took place on UK campuses to protest Israel’s bombing of Gaza in Operation Cast Lead. Its work also seems to seek to undermine student Palestine solidarity activism on campuses.
- Student Rights director Raheem Kassam has a worrying record of publishing anti-Muslim articles via right-wing sites like The Commentator and Trending Central. He has failed to take seriously critics from both left and right who have raised concerns about this. He has called students “fools” and justified police attempts to spy on student activists. He has also been accused of writing his own Wikipedia page, has admitted to buying fake Twitter followers and formerly ran a project designed to cast doubt on the science of man-made climate change.
- Though it claims to be acting in students’ interests Student Rights almost always works by bypassing students themselves and lobbyings SUs or universities or going to the press with often sensationalist claims that have led to ‘misleading’ stories of alleged ‘extremism’ on campus.
- Student Rights’ most recent report on gender segregation, focused exclusively on Islamic society events, failed in almost every case to determine whether segregation was “enforced” or voluntary and selected a biased sample, presenting the phenomenon as ‘part of a wider, discriminatory trend’ on campuses which resulted in headlines in the mainstream media associating gender segregation with “extremism”. Though Student Rights denies that it conflates segregation with “extremism” its director Raheem Kassam has explicitly stated that gender segregation (regardless of whether it is voluntary) is “a form of extremism”. NUS VP Welfare 2012-13, Pete Mercer, said the report was evidence of a ‘witch-hunt’.
- Student Rights activities have led to students’ welfare being endangered. As the Institute of Race Relations has noted Student Rights’ material has been used by far-right groups to target a Muslim student event which led to reported threats of violence and the event subsequently having to be cancelled by the university.
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