From the start of October, guidance on the 'Prevent' duty will be endorsed by the UK Parliament. This means that university, colleges and schools will be legally obliged to monitor and report on students who may be perceived at risk of 'violent extremism'.
Prevent is part of the UK government's counter-terrorism strategy designed to respond to the ideological challenges of terrorism and extremism. The strategy has been in place since Labour was in government; however, this new law now makes it mandatory. It recommends surveillance and reporting of students who might be 'withdrawn' or express alternative views - politically or religiously - to the mainstream.
The way that Prevent emphasises 'radicalisation' and 'extremism' is based on the unsubstantiated view that religious ideology is the primary factor for terrorism. This has been disproved by academic researches which suggest otherwise that 'ideology only becomes appealing when social, economic and political grievances give it legitimacy. Therefore, addressing these issues would lessen the appeal of ideology'. As a result of Prevent fixation with ideology as the primary driver of terrorism, there are now several cases of racial profiling and Islamophobia taking place within universities and public institutions in the UK.
For example, growing a beard, wearing a hijab or mixing with those who believe Islam has a comprehensive political philosophy are key markers used to identify 'potential' terrorism. A recent article in the guardian report of a Muslim postgraduate student of counter-terrorism being falsely accused of being a terrorist, after an official at Staffordshire University had spotted him reading a textbook entitled Terrorism Studies in the college library. Another case is that of the school children who was questioned by police and referred to a counter-radicalisation programme after expressing support for Palestine.
We need to have an educated debate about Prevent and the need for it to be thoroughly reviewed and overhauled. Students and Students' Unions across the country must come together with support of the National Union of Students (the largest organisation which represents the largest number of students) to oppose Prevent. We must work with the University, college staff and the community to form our opposition to Prevent.
The tradition of University and Higher education institution is to uphold democracy and prevent the emergence of a police state and limitation of freedom of speech or expression. Dr Rizwaan Sabir who was held for seven days without charge while studying terrorist tactics at the University of Nottingham in 2008, but later awarded £20,000 by police after it emerged that officers fabricated key elements of the case against him. Sabir noted that 'the problems with the Prevent strategy are endless and any campaign to raise awareness of these problems in a democratic way is important'.
On Friday 16th October, Swansea University Students Union will be hosting the 'Students Not Suspects' talk in Wales organised by the NUS Black Students' Campaign, National Union of Students (NUS), Defend the Right to Protest, Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) and the University and College Union (UCU). The tour will also be in London - Wednesday October 14th, Birmingham - Thursday October 15th, Manchester - Wednesday October 21st, Glasgow - Thursday October 22nd.
Register to confirm your place now - http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/students-not-suspects-swansea-tickets-18396918679?aff=erellivorg This event is open to all and free to attend.