Jaw: challenging extremism

Dr. Usama Hasan, Senior Researcher in Islamic Studies at the Quilliam Foundation, the counter-extremism think tank, delivered the Bedales Jaw on Wednesday 3 February.

Usama talked about the goals and successes of the Foundation as well as his own personal history. Having grown up as Muslim in England, Usama explained how many people had treated him unfairly purely based on his devotion to his religion. Despite this, Usama graduated from top universities (London and Cambridge) and became a leading scientist gaining an MSc, MA and PhD in Theoretical Physics and Artificial Intelligence.

Usama talked openly about his past as one of the leaders of the Salafi Islamic movement; he and many of his men fought in Afghanistan and Bosnia during the 1990s. Returning to the UK, Usama published a series of essays and academic papers that address Islam, law, equality, scientific ethics and human rights as well as joining with the Quilliam Foundation to challenge extremism.

After the talk, a group of students joined Usama for dinner where discussion focussed on tackling Islamophobia through media, gender equality within religion and the rising tension between the Israelis and Palestinians. Overall, Usama broadened our knowledge on a variety of topics whilst managing to explain the different perspectives between extremist and pacifist Muslims.

By Athen Brady, Block 5

Jaw on Freedom

In the context of the centenary of the outbreak of WWI and Remembrance Day last month, the students and I reflected on the nature of freedom at Jaw on 19 November.

Jaw fell the day before the anniversary of the death of General Franco, Spain’s Fascist Dictator from 1939-1975, and so we considered Spain’s experience of apparent peace and stability during his regime. Spain had suffered for 200 years with internal and external unrest and so the stability was welcomed by many but it came at high price of loss of freedom for most. Half a million Spaniards died during the three year Civil War, started by Franco and his supporters in 1936, and millions became exiles or refugees during and after the war. Tens of thousands were killed or imprisoned for their opposition to Franco’s government. Some historians believe that the lack of support for the Spanish government shown by other European states, in contrast with the planes and soldiers sent by Hitler and Mussolini to aid Franco’s efforts, facilitated the start of WW2.

As well as highlighting the fact that so many live with their freedoms restricted, we celebrated the work and success of many in seeking freedom and equality for all. We listened to Nelson Mandela’s speech at the start of his trial in 1964, after which he was imprisoned for 26 years, and to Martin Luther King’s last public speech before his murder in 1968.

The Jaw was an opportunity for Clare Denning, Naveed Khalessi and Sofia Palm to highlight some current campaigns and successes by Amnesty, a non-government organisation whose campaigns are supported by a number of Bedales students. We ended with a reading of Vuelta de Paseo by Chloe Polkinghorne, Fernanda Verdon-Roe and Robyn Whittaker. Return from a walk was written by Federico García Lorca, Spain’s most famous poet and playwright, who was one of the first victims of the Spanish Civil War.

By Louise Wilson, Managing Head


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

Jaw on collaboration

After all the togetherness of the Global Awareness Badley Celebration Weekend, collaboration seemed an appropriate theme for my first Jaw. We started assembly with an experiment: everyone drawing a house without looking, then tidying it up themselves and then working to improve it further with a neighbour. Most people enjoyed the freedom of the activity and found working with others led to better-looking houses, but some, of course, found the experience irritating or uncomfortable.

These feelings chimed with the results of a survey about collaboration also done over Badley Weekend and which I shared at Jaw; most students declared they find collaborative work enjoyable and stimulating – ‘two heads are better than one’ – while some declared others can be annoying and distracting. Opinions were yet more divided over collaborating with animals; many find great pleasure in walking and training their dog but one asked ‘who collaborates with animals?’

The two messages from this exploration of collaboration are both deeply human. Each of us wants to feel part of the community but a time to reflect, to be silent and alone is an important element of a happy life together. And, for humankind, when we consider what we achieved as a small community over a weekend, we can believe that we may achieve the seemingly impossible* to help the global community so that the work of one may be for the weal of all.

*borrowed from Michael Truss’ commentary on the collaboration of the Apollo space missions

By Louise Wilson, Managing Head


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.