Worries at British Universities Over Extremists Recruiting Women Students

Britain's university Islamic societies have a reputation for fostering extremism among young male students, and have produced several alleged terrorists. Now, according to those who track extremist activities, they're targeting women, too, the BBC reports.

The topic of Islamic extremism is fraught with scare stories, and it's important to note that the vast majority of Muslim students, like the vast majority of Muslims in general, are peaceful. Most condemn violence and extremism. But Britain's university Islamic societies have a track record for producing terrorists and sympathizers who help spread extremism around the world. Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up a passenger jet in Detroit last year, was the head of the University College London Union Islamic Society, and organized controversial events designed to encourage anti-Western thinking.

Abdulmutallab, an engineering student at UCL who graduated in 2008, was, according to the BBC, the sixth member of a U.K. university Islamic society arrested for alleged terrorist offenses. After his involvement with the UCL society was revealed, British antiterror police said they had begun monitoring several potentially risky campuses.

Now, according to the Muslim Women's Network, a group that works on behalf of Muslim women in Britain, extremist recruiters are turning to women on campus, possibly because they are less likely to fall under police suspicion. Familiar tactics—showing videos of purported Western atrocities against Islam and using controversial topics like Guantánamo Bay to foment anger—have been reported.

One woman, Hadiya Masieh, told the BBC that she was recruited by Hizb ut-Tahrir—an extremist organization that has been linked with terrorism—while at Brunel University. "Once they've established that suspicion [against "the West"] and malaise, depending on the person, all that emotion can be challenged in various ways, including violence," she said.

Masieh has since left the group. But one former campus-recruited extremist, who was not named, said that she had wanted to become "the country's first female suicide bomber," and that she fears others may still hold that ambition.