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University staff asked to inform police on 'vulnerable' Muslim students

University staff asked to inform police on 'vulnerable' Muslim students

Categories: Latest News

Wednesday August 31 2011

  Monday’s Guardian reported on the implementation of the new Prevent strategy on university campuses claiming lecturers and university staff were being asked to “inform the police about Muslim students who are depressed or isolated.”

From the paper:

“University staff including lecturers, chaplains and porters, are being asked to inform the police about Muslim students who are depressed or isolated under new guidance for countering Islamist radicalism.

“The move has resulted in deep discomfort among university lecturers and student union officials who wish to combat terrorism but say the new strategy is an infringement of students’ civil liberties.

“Officials implementing the government’s revamped Prevent strategy are training frontline university employees in how to spot students vulnerable to extremism. Documents handed to staff claim that students who seem depressed or who are estranged from their families, who bear political grievances, or who use extremist websites or have poor access to mainstream religious instruction could be at risk of radicalisation.

“The University and College Union (UCU) said that the government’s strategy risked damaging the relationship between staff and students.

“Staff have made it quite clear that they do not wish to police their students or engage in any activity that might erode the trust between them and students,” it said.”

James Haywood, president of Goldsmiths College Students’ Union told the paper that Prevent officials visiting the College last week “began by asking about Muslim students and whether the college had problems with its Islamic Society.

“We were appalled to have Prevent officers asking us to effectively spy on our Muslim students. To pass on details of a student who the police consider ‘vulnerable’ is not only morally repugnant but is against the confidential nature of pastoral support. After the rise of hate groups such as the English Defence League, and the recent massacre in Norway, why are Prevent not also telling us to refer on students who have an irrational hatred of Islam?” he said.

University campuses and campus life has been a key focus of the Government’s Prevent strategy, new and old, with arguments put forward by the likes of Professor Anthony Glees of Buckingham University, suggesting that they are “hotbeds of radicalization”.

Such views have been countered by the Chief Executive of Universities UK, Nicola Dandridge, the Provost of University College, London, Professor Malcolm Grant, chair of the Caldicott Inquiry, and Dr June Edmunds, who conducted a study on Muslim students in 2008. All have pointed to the weak causal link ascribed to robust debate and radicalization arguing that freedom of speech on campus is an essential facet of a university education and a foundation of campus life.

Lord Carlile in his review of the Government’s Prevent strategy singled out the Federation of Students’ Islamic Societies (FOSIS) saying: “[it] could and should do more to ensure that extremists will be no part of any platform with which it is associated, alongside demonstrating that it rejects extremism…Any group purporting to represent students can be expected to take a clear position against extremism, as well as terrorism.”

FOSIS have responded to the Guardian report stating: “Spying on a completely innocent group of people is an affront to our human rights. Islamic Societies and Muslim students make a positive contribution to British civic life – and they must be supported.

“We have continued in our dialogue with the government to say that engaging with Muslim students, not spying on them, is what will make our country safer and more cohesive. Prevent is long-discredited now in civic society. We need an intelligent approach to security policy rather than one driven by political motives.”

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