Students need to unite against the Prevent strategy, which is meant to spread division, argues Shelly Asquith
There is a growing issue of extremism in colleges and universities. It is fostering hatred, dividing communities and undermining our values. It needs rooting out with unrelenting force. That extremism is the government’s Prevent programme.
Since the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act passed in February, monitoring and reporting signs of ‘radicalisation’ amongst students as part of Prevent has become a legal obligation. This widely criticised policy has seen a number of alarming cases in just a few months – with racial profiling clearly playing a key role in its implementation.
In a climate of Islamophobia and a spotlight on the Muslim community, it is overwhelmingly Muslim students who are being targeted by Prevent. Students have been questioned for mentioning ‘eco-terrorism’, for reading a book, wearing a badge, even asking where the prayer room is. Sports clubs have been targeted to report on their team mates on one campus while another has installed CCTV cameras in the prayer rooms.
Despite the toxicity associated with Prevent, the government is pressing on with its implementation and even releasing funds to the private and charity sectors to further its agenda. Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities has even made threats to NUS for refusing to comply.
The only solution for overcoming Prevent and other draconian counter-security initiatives is to resist them. Students and staff across the UK are pledging non-compliance and refusing to spy on their peers. A national campaign titled #StudentsNotSuspects supporting by NUS, UCU, FOSIS and Defend the Right to Protest is now calling for a day of action on 7 December.
The day is designed to spread the word and for local activists to organise stunts, meetings and anything else that will help bring our communities together to force this policy off our campuses.
Facebook event page for Preventing Prevent day of action on 7 December
Shelly Asquith is the president of the students' union at the University of the Arts London.