On Monday (December 13) it emerged that last weekend’s Stockholm suicide bomber Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly had graduated with a BSc in sports therapy from the University of Luton.
Abdulwahab, 28, lived in Argyll Avenue, Luton, and was enrolled between 2001 and 2004, and British security services are trying to establish whether he was radicalised while he studied there.
This week fears have surfaced that the institution – now known as University of Bedfordshire – is a ‘hotbed’ for extremists and would-be terrorists.
While the university this week strenuously denied any cases of extremist activity ever having taken place on its campus, our sister paper Luton & Dunstable Express published a story in October 2009 revealing Muslim radicals were trying to recruit students outside its main entrance during Freshers’ Week.
Around 15 extremists, some of whom had branded soldiers ‘baby-killers’ and spat at them during the Royal Anglian Regiment’s homecoming parade in Luton town centre in March that year, set up two stalls outside the campus in Park Street and handed out leaflets, some of which showed a placard depicting former US President George Bush below a headline ‘Terrorist Murderer’.
In the House of Commons on Wednesday (December 16), Prime Minister David Cameron said: “If we are frank on both sides of the House, we have not done enough to deal with the promotion of extremist Islamism in our own country.
“Whether it is making sure that imams coming over to this country can speak English properly, or whether it is making sure that we de-radicalise our universities, we have to take a range of further steps, and I am going to be working hard to make sure that we do.”
But our sister paper Luton & Dunstable Express’s story in October 2009 about radicals operating outside its Park Street main entrance during Freshers’ Week shows they have tried to recruit its students in the past.
Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly lived in Argyll Avenue, Luton, and attended the university between 2001 and 2004.
In 2005, Professor Anthony Glees, director of Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham, published a report naming the University of Luton – as it was then known – as one of more than 30 institutions where ‘extremist and/or terror groups’ had been detected. The university refuted this claim.
In February this year, then Universities Minister David Lammy told the BBC certain universities will be required to work closely with Special Branch and other police officers to prevent Islamic extremism.
The names of the institutions targeted have never been disclosed, but the University of Bedfordshire categorically denied it is one of them.
A spokesperson from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) said: “BIS, the police and other agencies work very closely with all institutions to help them manage the risk of radicalisation.
“We have identified some institutions which are more at risk and have given them particular targeted support.
“We will not release the list of these institutions for national security reasons.” Last year LD Express told how Muslim extremists were trying to recruit students outside the University of Bedfordshire during Freshers’ Week.
One of those giving out leaflets was Abu Safiyya, who admitted to abusing troops but insisted they were ‘not extremists’.
The extremists also turned up at the Freshers’ Fayre that week outside the university’s Business School, in Vicarage Street.
At the time, police said ‘no action was taken as no laws were being broken and there was no breach of the peace’ and the university said it was ‘aware of the group’ but was ‘unaware of anyone making an official complaint’.
Having been told about the LD Express article in October 2009, Professor Glees said this week: “I’m very seriously disturbed by the story published because the newspaper has seen it with its own eyes the recruitment to extremism that goes on at universities. It is very shocking and chilling.
“Certainly I think the police should be asked to reconsider what they are saying. The police are meant to prevent radicalisation.
“This sort of thing is totally intolerable, totally unacceptable.
“By writing about this, Luton on Sunday is doing something of national and international interest.” When asked if the University of Bedfordshire had a problem with extremists, Professor Glees said: “Yes it has a problem, but it is not the only university where this going on.
“We take a strong stance on anyone harassing its students or blocking its entrances. In either case, we would involve the police.
Abdulwahab attended Luton Islamic Centre (LIC) for a month during the period of Ramadan in 2006 or 2007 before he ‘stormed out’ during a ‘theological debate’ with mosque chairman Abdul Qadeer Baksh.
Mr Baksh (left), who reported Abdulwahab to police, told LoS: “All I know is that, after he left us, some University of Bedfordshire students who attend our mosque said he’d been badmouthing us.
Worshippers from our mosque have told us that ‘so-and-so’ is spreading extreme views which could lead to extreme violence possibly. The best place for them is where no one else can hear them. It’s the perfect place for recruitment.
Young men’s minds are completely open.
“The university may unknowingly be nurturing another extremist there. I guarantee you – they don’t know what they’re doing there.
“The university is ill-equipped to deal with the problem.
“The issue of Muslims with radical ideas in their heads needs to be addressed before a hate preacher gets to them first. We’d like to give young Muslims this knowledge, but the university is in denial. Perhaps they don’t want to be seen as having a bunch of extremists in their midst.” Tasheen Khalid is president of national group Muslim Youth League (MYL) which gives deradicalisation seminars at universities.
When asked how many students with radical views he believed attended the University of Bedfordshire, Mr Khalid said: “Not a lot, less than a handful. But it only takes one person to do something crazy. I don’t know their names, but if I saw their faces I would recognise them.”