The National Union of Students (NUS) has today renewed demands for the government’s Prevent strategy to be scrapped. The fresh calls come following the publication of a Home Affairs Select Committee report on radicalisation and countering extremism.
The report published this morning said that internet giants such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter were “consciously failing” to curb the promotion of terrorist-related content on their platforms. The criticisms of social media come just weeks after the conviction of Anjem Choudary for “inviting support” of a terrorist organisation.
Concerning Prevent, the report concluded that the strategy “must be reviewed to produce a new and different approach” in an attempt to “remove its already toxic associations in the Muslim community”. The report also called for greater transparency, better training from institutions implementing the strategy, and the creation of an independent body to assess the Prevent training provided in educational institutions.
Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Committee, in his concluding remarks said: “the communities most affected by Prevent regard it as being toxic”. And that “successive governments have failed to heed repeated calls for a review of Prevent”.
A recommendation made in the report suggested Prevent should be re-branded as Engage, in light of its “toxic” associations, particularly amongst the Muslim community.
The report received evidence from a number of organisation including the NUS, CAGE, and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT). Naz Shah, Shami Chakribati, and Theresa May also contributed.
Last year, the new Counter Terrorism Act rendered mandatory the application of Prevent. A post on the NUS website from August last year claimed the Prevent strategy was “a recipe for extremism, not a solution.”
Responding to the Select Committee report, Shelly Asquith, NUS Vice-President, said: “For NUS, keeping students safe is paramount and we are glad the legitimate concerns students been raising have been heard by the committee. No student should have their freedoms curtailed by a racist, reactionary agenda and everyone deserves to feel safe both on and off campus.”
“The Prevent duty is proving counterproductive by alienating certain communities and has the potential to create discrimination based on their ethnicity, faith or culture. Black and Muslim students are subjected to racial profiling and state-sponsored Islamophobia, which has no place in our universities and colleges.”
In September last year, Jo Johnson, the government minister for higher education, warned NUS to cease its opposition to Prevent.
In a letter written to the NUS, he wrote: “It is my firm view that we all have a role to play in challenging extremist ideologies and protecting students on campus. Ultimately, the Prevent strategy is about protecting people from radicalisation…It’s therefore disappointing to see overt opposition to the Prevent programme.”