Over the past academic year, Student Rights has frequently criticised the ‘Students Not Suspects’ campaign which has toured campuses calling on students to undermine the government’s counter-radicalisation strategy, Prevent.
Led by officials at the National Union of Students (NUS), the campaign has repeatedly spread misinformation and false claims about Prevent, some of which risk scaring students into believing they will be targeted simply for engaging in political activism.
These events have also provided a platform for extremist groups like CAGE, with the organisation’s Outreach Director, Moazzam Begg, having appeared on a number of campuses across the country as part of the tour.
Despite CAGE’s record of defending convicted terrorists and Begg’s own past links to extremists, as well as a clear statement from former NUS President, Megan Dunn, that the group would not work with CAGE, a number of NUS officials have continued campaigning alongside Begg.
Tomorrow, the ‘Students Not Suspects’ campaign will host a national conference on “Prevent, Islamophobia and Civil Liberties” which will once again give a platform to Begg at Goldsmiths College.
Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) and the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), both groups Student Rights has also raised concerns about, will also have representatives speaking at the event.
The conference follows renewed efforts by the ‘Students Not Suspects’ campaign to target campuses.
Over the past few weeks, the tour has visited the University of Oxford, while the Reading University Students’ Union (RUSU) has adopted the ‘Preventing Prevent: Students Not Suspects’ policy.
The policy calls on the students’ union to:
“…openly accept the Prevent agenda is a catalyst for Racism and Islamophobia, as such is in breach of their values. To adopt a policy of active opposition to this Act. To actively oppose any compliance the University has to this Act which stifles academic freedom, promotes racism and spreads hate.”
Similar accusations of racism have been expressed by the President of Canterbury Christchurch University Students’ Union, who tweeted a photo of himself holding a ‘Students Not Suspects’ sign reading:
“I am International, I am B.M.E, I am a bearded student, I study politics and religious studies. Am I a suspect?”
This was followed by a poster which read: “Bearded Students Against Prevent”.
Such misleading narratives are deeply worrying, as they risk scaring students into believing religious observance or the way they look could make them a target for counter-radicalisation measures.
The Channel Duty Guidance is in fact very clear that “outward expression of faith, in the absence of any other indicator of vulnerability, is not a reason to make a referral to Channel”.
The false claim made about bearded students echoes a claim made the Student Union Vice-President at the University of Strathclyde in October that:
“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”.
Such an outrageous falsification appears designed purely to stir up anger, and highlights the pervasive dishonesty within the campaign to undermine Prevent on-campus.
It is imperative that claims such as these are challenged when they are promoted on campus. Student Rights will continue to follow the ‘Students Not Suspects’ campaign and provide a counter-narrative to their highly misleading claims.