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Hotline exposes campus racism

The first comprehensive study of racism on Britain's college campuses has exposed the alarming rise of Islamic extremist groups which have targeted Jewish activists with death threats.

The activities of one group in particular - Hizb ut-Tahrir, or the Islamic Liberation Party - was said to be the cause of the majority of calls to a hotline set up for students who believed themselves to be the victims of racist behaviour.

Releasing the results of a survey of the first year of the Campus Watch hotline, the National Union of Students yesterday accused the police and the Home Office of refusing to take seriously threats by Hizb ut-Tahrir and other groups.

The Islamic group, which has been banned from the University of Birmingham, claimed it was the victim of a witch-hunt on British campuses, which it said had been seized by those who wished to stifle debate.

The NUS also said expressed concern at the way extremist groups, particularly from the far right, have been using the virtually uncensored Internet to spread their propaganda and calls for racist action.

Displaying a selection of material from the Internet, Jim Murphy, the NUS president, challenged the Department for Education and the Home Office to find a way of preventing the spread of the material.

He urged both departments "to develop a series of initiatives to prevent the extreme right using the Internet to distribute their propaganda and discrimination", and added that but for a few exceptional cases the Home Office had been reluctant or unwilling to act on cases which had been reported to it from the calls to the hotline.

The most significant source of fear and anger was caused by the distribution of offensive material, but many students also complained that they had received verbal or written warnings - including death threats.

Jeremy Newmark, of the Union of Jewish Students, said the research would now provide firm base from which to combat racism.