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Students from University of Westminster march against PREVENT

Students from University of Westminster march against PREVENT

Categories: Latest News

Tuesday April 10 2018

A recent article in the Middle East Monitor reports on how 30 students from the University of Westminster group ‘Students Not Suspects’ marched on the 6th of April, in protest of the manner in which PREVENT is being forced upon educational settings.

The PREVENT duty, made compulsory by the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, requires public bodies to have “due regard to the need to prevent individuals from being drawn into terrorism”.

In other words, staff within schools, universities, the police, the NHS, probation services, local authorities, councils, prisons, colleges and other public institutions have a compulsory duty to report anyone they suspect may be vulnerable to becoming radicalised.

Once individuals have been identified by staff within these public bodies, they are referred to a program called CHANNEL and a support plan is created if it is deemed necessary.

The group, Students Not Suspects, argue that PREVENT discriminates against students which come from BME backgrounds and who already face hardships in academic and professional life. The group argues that young Muslims, who are subjected to Islamophobic abuse on campus are further alienated as the PREVENT duty results in the manifestation of their beliefs being inappropriately reported to the police.

The march began from the University’s Marylebone Campus and finished at the Regent Street Campus by occupying the lobby of the Regent Street building. They also stopped at the Cavendish, the Cavendish 101 and the Little Titchfield Street Campuses.

At each campus the group stopped to distribute leaflets to staff which listed their demands from the University. The demands included that the University has a moral obligation to protect freedom of speech and to encourage debate; that the University must stop discriminating against particular societies; to revise its risk assessment form; and to withdraw their policy on external speakers.

The demands originated from grievances over steps taken by the University which have been seen to be discriminatory against Muslim students, including stricter criteria being applied to events hosted by Palestinian or Islamic societies.

Representatives from the Student Union, Mr Roland Dannreuther and Ms Kate Hayes, met with some of the protestors in a nearby café, during the occupation at the Regent Street Campus.

One incident highlighted by the Students Not Suspects was one where an external speaker, Ms Janna Jihad, an eleven-year-old from Palestine, was flagged as a security threat and her invitation to the University was revoked; however, the University approved Ms Katie Hopkins as a speaker.

They explained that the stricter regulations applied to Islamic societies were in fear that there would be a media backlash which would harm the University’s reputation if a controversial Islamic speaker attended a University-hosted event. The representatives argued that there is still significant media attention focussed on the University because of Mr Mohammed Emwazi, known as ‘Jihadi John’, being an ex-student.

The representatives stated that the University considers the potential risk associated with events based on their potential to radicalise attendees and how the events may be interpreted by non-students and the media.

It is interesting to note that the University considered this an appropriate justification to ban an 11-year-old from speaking but allowed Ms Hopkins who has previously used Nazi-like rhetoric against British citizens. Ms Hopkins called for a “final solution” against British Muslims soon after the Manchester attack.

To learn more about the PREVENT duty and its effect on British Communities, you can read an analysis article produced by MEND’s Senior Policy Analyst, Dr Antonio Perra, here.

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