Middlesex University has suspended the president of its student union and revoked his studentship until further notice after he refused to cancel a debate with the controversial Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.
The union was ordered to cancel the debate at the end of last week but refused, with the president of the student union, Keith Shilson, arguing that it should be allowed on the grounds of freedom of speech. He claims the group, which is considered by some to be extremist and was proscribed by the prime minister last month, is a non-violent organisation.
Yesterday, Mr Shilson was escorted from the campus by university security in what is believed to be the first disciplinary action to be taken against a student over the issue of extremism.
Hizb ut-Tahrir has been banned by the National Union of Students (NUS) because, according to NUS policy, the group is “responsible for supporting terrorism and publishing material that incites racial hatred”.
But last term Middlesex student union overturned the NUS ban and Mr Shilson invited representatives of Hizb ut-Tahrir to give the Q&A session on September 28 at the union’s Hendon campus, which has the highest population of Muslim students.
The university stepped in at the end of last week to order the cancellation of the debate, following a speech by the education secretary, Ruth Kelly, in which she said that vice-chancellors would have to crackdown on extremism on campuses.
The university confirmed that Mr Shilson was yesterday suspended until further notice and that the reason was his refusal to comply with the university’s demands over the debate.
In a statement today, the union said: “In light of recent events and the press releases from MUSU [the student union] and Middlesex University regarding the invitation to Hizb ut-Tahrir for a debate at the Hendon campus. Middlesex University student union has withdrawn its invitation to the speakers of the debate and the debate is cancelled.”
The union is expected to meet today to decide what action it will take.