Our recent report, ‘Preventing Prevent? Challenges to Counter-Radicalisation Policy on Campus’, highlighted how student opposition to counter-radicalisation policy has been influenced by extremist narratives.
Student groups have also compounded this problem by working alongside the very extremists that such programmes seek to oppose.
This was demonstrated again last week, as the NUS Black Students’ Campaign (BSC) co-hosted an event attacking Prevent alongside the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC).
Declaring that Prevent will “demonise and persecute communities” and aims to “criminalise communities and our right to dissent”, the event sought to “discuss how to counter…‘Prevent’”.
This echoes an IHRC campaign, ‘The Prevent Diaries’, which aims to “expose the racist/Islamophobic nature” of the policy, and states Prevent is “demonising and criminalising a minority community”.
The campaign description also includes the claim “that the State itself is the ultimate cause of any acts of terror against itself”.
This apologia for terrorism, and opposition to policies which work against it, is unsurprising from the IHRC – a group which has repeatedly called for the release of convicted terrorists.
The group has campaigned on behalf of Omar Abdel-Rahman (convicted of conspiracy to murder and a spiritual leader to many militants), and Dr Aafia Siddiqui, an Al-Qaeda associate convicted of attempted murder.
As recently as 29 June, the IHRC published a message from Mufid Abdulqader, convicted of conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organisation in 2009 – and called on readers to write to Abdulqader and support a campaign against his conviction.
That an NUS-affiliated campaign should work alongside the IHRC to oppose counter-radicalisation policy is deeply concerning – and highlights the extent of the problem faced by Prevent delivery staff.
Until the NUS refuses to work with groups which defend convicted terrorists, and sanctions campaigns or officials which do, its claims to take the issue of extremism seriously will carry little weight.