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Westminster University received complaints about the Islamic Students’ Society’s behaviour on campus in 2015, prompting the creation of an investigative panel of four. Panel members included Fiyaz Mughal, former adviser to the politician Nick Clegg on interfaith matters, and the historian Lord Kenneth Morgan. The complaints, some of which were made by other Muslims at the university, relating to attitudes displayed towards female staff and students by members of the Society.

Hostile Attitudes

The panel discovered that attitudes and behaviours displayed by members of the Islamic Students’ Society were not only often hostile or intimidatory to women, but also tacitly accepted by many officials at the university. The report called this tolerance of such attitudes unacceptable.  It was found that various members of the Society refused outright to engage with female members of staff who were Muslim. This attitude obliged those staff members to enlist the help of men to be able to communicate with members of the Society. Female Muslim students were also affected as members of the Society took it on themselves to act as ‘moral guardians’.

Jihadi John

Further findings from the report included information about former Westminster University graduate Mohammed Emwazi, an individual better known to the public as Jihadi John. Jihadi John featured in a series of Isis videos in which hostages were beheaded, including hostages from the United States and the United Kingdom. It was following this revelation that Westminster University commissioned the report to look into the balance between free speech and diversity across campus.

Extremist Views

The initial commissioning of the report was due to fears among university officials that racial hatred and extremist views were being fomented on campus. While the report did discover that many members of the Islamic Society held ultra-conservative views, Fiyaz Mughal and the others concluded that these more extreme allegations were not true at this time. However, it was found that there were several practices in operation that should be called out, including those that restricted the rights of Muslim females studying at the university to do so without having patriarchal and misogynistic views forced upon them. Mughal called the individuals who practiced these attitudes the ‘morality police’ and pointed out that this perverse behaviour went against the pastoral requirements of the university.

The report found no evidence that members of the Islamic Students’ Society were perpetrating extremism or hatred towards members of other religious groups, or towards non-Muslims within the LGBT community at the university.