Trouble reading this email? View newsletter online.

Newsline 24 May 2013

Becoming a member of the National Secular Society is a declaration of your support for the separation of the state from religious institutions. Make a stand for freedom, fairness and human rights by adding your voice to the call for a secular society. Join today.

Read this week's Newsline in full (PDF)

NSS condemns Flintshire Council's 'discriminatory' transport policy

NSS condemns Flintshire Council's 'discriminatory' transport policy

News | Wed, 22 May 2013

The National Secular Society has criticised a decision by Flintshire Council to discriminate against people without religious faith in its school transport arrangements.

Hull council latest to scrap free pupil transport to religious schools

Hull council latest to scrap free pupil transport to religious schools

News | Thu, 23 May 2013

Hull City Council is to cease discretionary funding transport for pupils attending "faith schools" from September 2014. The change will save £339,000 in 2014-15 according to council figures.

New "safe campus" website - radical silence on religious radicalism?

New "safe campus" website - radical silence on religious radicalism?

Opinion | Wed, 22 May 2013

A new website, Safe Campus Communities, aimed at helping universities handle radicalisation and extremism on campuses was launched at a Universities UK conference in London this week.

The website, which has been welcomed by the Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, has been described as providing those involved in higher education with "a range of information to help them with issues including external speaker protocols, effective community and police engagement, and inter-faith relations on campus."

Commenting on the new site, Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK - which runs the site - said: "This new website creates an invaluable resource for universities. It will enable them to share information as to how they have addressed the challenge of ensuring that their campuses are open, while also providing a safe environment for all staff, students and visitors.

The website's launch follows a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Homeland Security, published in April 2011, which described campus extremism as a "serious problem". The report advised the government to "finally tackle the serious problem of radicalisation on university campuses with utmost urgency".

The "utmost urgency" advised is understandable; extremism within the university arena, particularly in its religious form, is a well-documented phenomenon, and an increasingly terrifying one.

Student Rights, a group dedicated to tackling extremism on campus, has highlighted the many forms through which religious extremism is being inculcated on campuses. A report compiled by the group, along with the Henry Jackson Society, shows the ways in which student societies, particularly Islamic ones, distribute information on, and links to, extremist lectures and information. Its research shows how Islamic Societies encourage the ideology of groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, and invite external speakers who promote ideas of a Western war against Islam, support for paramilitary violence in Israel, encourage intolerance of non-believers and obligate Islam as a political system for law and governance.

It is within this context that the insidious practice of gender segregation has also become an increasingly common issue on campuses, with 180 events in the period March 2012 to March 2013 being investigated for evidence of segregation.

Of course, there have also been a number of well-known cases linking terrorist activity to universities; one of the most high-profile of which was the former University College London student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who attempted to blow up a plane flying to the United States on Christmas Day in 2009.

Despite these recent cases of religious extremism on campuses however, the press release about the launch of the new website made no mention of religious extremism as something to combat specifically. Instead, it contained only a vague phrase about "inter-faith relations". That is not to say that a press release about a new website seeking to tackle extremism on campus is the appropriate forum in which to highlight the many dimensions of religious extremism. Rather, the point is, through its use of opaque language and absence of any reference to religion, Safe Campus Communities gives the worrying impression it is reluctant to confront one of the core elements of extremism in universities: that is, religious extremism.

Any group serious about promoting the equality, safety and freedom of students, needs to have the courage to acknowledge publicly the central role that religious extremism plays. It needs to acknowledge the central role religious extremism plays in marginalising and manipulating the vulnerable. It needs to acknowledge the central role religious extremism plays in consistently undermining women's rights and intimidating women on campus. And it needs to acknowledge the central role religious extremism plays in helping develop a generation of segregated, radicalised and, potentially, very dangerous individuals.

Read this week's Newsline in full (PDF)

NSS Speaks Out

Terry Sanderson gave an interview to Voice of Russia radio about the new analysis of the census figures. Stephen Evans discussed the figures on BBC Sussex. The NSS was quoted in the Telegraph on the same issue and in The Independent, Eurasia Review Turkish Weekly and the Digital Journal

Keith Porteous Wood was on BBC Midlands radio talking about the secular implications of gay marriage. Terry Sanderson was similarly quoted on the Channel 4 news website.

Scottish spokesperson Alistair McBay had this letter in the Scottish Herald.

Stephen Evans, the NSS campaigns manager, was quoted in the Chester Chronicle about the NSS's objections to children having to prove their religious commitment before getting free transport on the school bus to Flintshire "faith schools". The NSS's objection to separate Scout troops for religious groups was reported in The Andover Advertiser on the news of the formation of a Muslim scout troop in Basingstoke.

This email has been sent to you by National Secular Society in accordance with our Privacy Policy.
Address: 25 Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL, United Kingdom.
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7404 3126

Please Note: Newsline provides links to external websites for information and in the interests of free exchange. We do not accept any responsibility for the content of those sites, nor does a link indicate approval or imply endorsement of those sites.

Please feel free to use the material in this Newsline with appropriate acknowledgement of source. Neither Newsline nor the NSS is responsible for the content of websites to which it provides links. Nor does the NSS or Newsline necessarily endorse quotes and comments by contributors, they are brought to you in the interests of the free exchange of information and open debate.