Yesterday, the government launched its Counter-Extremism Strategy, which included the expectation that the National Union of Students (NUS) “avoid providing a platform for extremist speakers”.
This follows a week in which NUS officers have toured the country spreading misinformation about Prevent, and shared platforms with a CAGE official at a number of events.
They have also been distributing leaflets suggesting students would be classified as extremists by Prevent if they desired “political or moral change” or sought “identity, belonging or meaning” – something that is simply not true.
The leaflets falsely claimed that a student who was questioned on his views by a poorly-trained member of staff while reading a book on terrorism was “arrested for reading a module core text”.
They also implied that a 10 year old was reported merely for asking for a prayer room, parroting poor reporting which failed to mention the child also told female Muslim pupils to “cover their faces” and that “the pupil was referred for a number of incidents”.
In a promotional video for an upcoming event at the University of Strathclyde, meanwhile, the Student Union’s Vice-President has claimed;
“Part of the Prevent duty guidance explains certain symptoms that a university would have to look out for. The symptoms say that if you are not white you are more likely to be a terrorist”.
This is an outrageous falsification designed purely to stir up outrage, and highlights the pervasive dishonesty within the campaign to undermine Prevent on-campus.
The events have sparked additional controversy as NUS officers have appeared alongside a senior CAGE figure, despite the NUS President’s attempt to cut ties with the organisation.
It is deeply worrying that the ‘Students not Suspects’ tour has repeatedly given Begg a platform, and that NUS Black Student’s Officer Malia Bouattia shared this platform with him in Birmingham, and plans to do so again in Manchester tomorrow.
This summer Student Rights raised concerns that student opposition to Prevent had been influenced by the narratives espoused by extremists.
The fact that senior NUS officers regard CAGE as a source of “experience and information” and are prepared to publically work with them further supports this suggestion.
Speaking at the University of Bristol last week, NUS Vice-President Shelly Asquith reaffirmed this commitment to working with CAGE, rejecting criticism of the group as “Islamophobic smears by the right-wing press”.
That so many within the student movement remain committed to working with CAGE to undermine counter-radicalisation policy is disgraceful and underlines the scale of the problem faced by those trying to challenge on-campus extremism.