On Tuesday, Student Rights’ National Organiser, Elliot Miller, was hosted by the York University Conservative Association as he gave a lecture on extremism and the Prevent Strategy at the university.
Elliot examined many of the complaints from students about Prevent, seeking to debunk misunderstandings and make the case for Prevent when it comes to extremist speakers appearing on campus.
Attendees were interested in challenging the myths about Prevent, including the false claim it is state-sponsored Islamophobia, and were surprised to learn how much the strategy focuses on far-right extremism.
Secretary of the society, Niall Hegarty, said after the talk:
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It was a refreshing experience, steering clear of the hard-left bias of University Student-Unions and showing how such rigid and unmoving political bias by these institutions can only hurt the efforts to rid our campuses of extremism.”
During the Q&A session, it became clear students were concerned about an upcoming visit to the city from Moazzam Begg, Director of Outreach at CAGE, who was due to speak at a Stand up to Racism event the following day.
An increasingly common figure on campuses, Begg will be speaking against Prevent on the same panel as National Union of Students (NUS) President, Malia Bouattia, at the University of East Anglia (UEA) next Tuesday.
He will then be appearing at Kingston University on Thursday 23 February as part of the same Stand up to Racism Tour as the event in York.
While being held in Guantanamo Bay after his arrest at an al-Qaeda safe house in Pakistan, Begg admitted to visiting training camps on the Afghan–Pakistan border known to have hosted al-Qaeda militants.
A terrorism case against Begg collapsed in October 2014, but he accepted he had been in Syria training fighters from Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, later designated a terrorist organisation by the US State Department.
He has since defended terrorists convicted for travelling to Syria to fight with the al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, and been recorded telling students that British Muslims face discrimination similar to Jews in Nazi Germany.
Here at Student Rights we believe that Begg should face robust challenge when he appears on campus, whether in the form of challenging questions from the audience or a balanced platform.
Too often, he is able to address audiences without his assertions, past history or opinions being challenged, and we would urge students to attend these events and put questions on these issues to him directly.