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Scott-Baumann, Alison (2017) 'Ideology, utopia and Islam on campus: how to free speech a little from its own terrors.' Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, 12 (2). pp. 159-176.

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A dominant narrative on many British campuses is ‘Prevent’, which is part of the government’s counter-terror policy, an ideology based on fear. Muslims, in particular, are considered to be at risk of radicalisation on campus, and being under suspicion makes them self-censor. Additionally, the no-platforming student lobby creates a utopian, idealised atmosphere that seeks to reduce dissent. Self-censorship and no-platforming are reducing the diversity of opinions expressed at universities, yet there is no evidence of illegality on campus. Spinoza, JS Mill and Hannah Arendt demanded various forms of free speech for a healthy society, and the free speech issue is the key to ‘Prevent’ which suppresses opinions that are different from the dominant government narratives. The challenge now, in the tide of BREXIT and Trump, is how to free speech, even a little, from the pincer grip of establishment ideology and student utopia. Between the extremes of ideology and utopia is a vacuum that must be filled; if we do not fill it with free speech and discussion, others can colonise it with stories that inspire fear and suspicion. Similarly, a vacuum exists naturally between laws (that set norms) and state guidance on laws (application). If we do not use debate to negotiate the contents of this vacuum, it will be filled with the bureaucracy of fear and even a state of exception. A vacuum demands to be filled. In both cases, we need to actively reclaim each ‘vacuum’ for discussion, debate and questioning in order to try and understand our current cultural imagination and develop a better one.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of History, Religions & Philosophies > Department of Religions & Philosophies
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East
ISSN: 17461987
Copyright Statement: © The Author(s) 2017. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2017 14:20

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