The Index on Censorship report into freedom of expression at universities ignores the experience of Muslims, who are facing the brunt of institutional policies to quell their right to free speech, in what amounts to a total erasure of their voice and experiences on campuses.
The report arrives at some agreeable conclusions, and takes into consideration the impact of PREVENT on freedom of expression, however it frames Muslim students as either actors in denying free speech to others, or as nameless victims who have no voice.
Whilst the report highlights examples of alt-right ‘activists’ such as Milo and Tommy Robinson being stopped from speaking at UK universities, it fails to mention a single example of Islamic societies facing at-times impossible barriers to secure venues, let alone speakers.
The omission of Muslim students’ experiences speaks volumes about how Index on Censorship and other human rights organisations bypass Muslims while going to great lengths to prove they call for a more equal and just society.
Most troubling, however, is that the report conflates top-down attempts to stifle expression through policies like PREVENT, with bottom-up efforts to protest and challenge speakers.
It presents these as equal threats to free speech. In doing so the report fails to engage critically with students’ attempts to challenge the encroachment of fascism.
This means that the report amplifies the alt-right ‘Culture War’ narratives – which are also propagated by the likes of Spiked!, which is referenced extensively in the report.
By ignoring this crucial aspect of the free speech debate and the rights debate as whole, the report makes an omission that undermines the reputation of the Index on Censorship and indeed much of the work of other human rights organisations who sidestep the Muslim experience in similar ways.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)