- Home Secretary Theresa May wants tougher rules on campus speakers
- Business Secretary Vince Cable warns it could force debate 'underground'
- Row erupts after Jihadi John was unmasked as Mohammed Emwazi
- He left University of Westminster in 2009 with computing degree
- University has been described as a 'hotbed' for radicalism in the past
- But the institution repeatedly denies inciting extremism in any form
Coalition ministers are at war over Tory plans to ban hate preachers from English universities.
David Cameron wants a total campus ban on extremists whose twisted views risk radicalising impressionable youngsters.
Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable says only those who directly incite violence and terrorism should be prevented from exercising free speech.
The row follows the unmasking of Islamic State murderer Jihadi John as Mohammed Emwazi who is believed to have been radicalised while studying at Westminster University.
Security experts believe the freedom of extremists to operate at college campuses is a significant factor in the radicalisation of some young people. Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps yesterday said Mr Cable, who has responsibility for universities, was wrong to resist the move.
‘Vince Cable doesn’t want to do what the Conservatives want to do, which is to make sure that on campus we do not have radical preachers saying things which incite violence which ultimately can lead to the radicalisation of young people,’ he told Sky News.
‘We have to put proper, decent, tough rules in place which don’t ban free speech, but do prevent people from preaching death.’
Lib Dem energy secretary Ed Davey said it was ‘easy to demolish’ the views of hate preachers if they were debated in public and warned that driving them underground would only increase their appeal.
‘If these preachers are inciting violence, if they are saying it is OK to be a terrorist, if they are saying you can cut off people’s heads, they can and should be arrested,’ he said.
‘What the Conservatives seem to be wanting to do is to introduce, against British values of free speech, a new type of rule that says that the state will know what “extremism” is. The phrase “extremism” they are talking about is nebulous, it is unclear, and there is a danger the Conservatives will clamp down on free speech and that will be giving in to the terrorists.’
The clash centres on new guidance for universities on the hosting of events that give a platform to hate preachers.
Under the Prime Minister’s plans, universities would have a duty to take a ‘precautionary approach’ to events featuring extremists. Vice-chancellors would be expected to cancel any event where there was a ‘risk that the content will potentially draw people into terrorism’.
Home Secretary Theresa May said ministers were ‘not talking about regulating legitimate debate – we’re saying they [universities] need to do more to stop radicalisation on campus’.
The row means no action is likely before the election.