UCU opposition to Prevent leads to support for extremists

In recent months, government attempts to deal with campus extremism have faced opposition from students, lecturers, and even the former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Following the General Election, plans to give universities a legal duty to prevent students from being drawn into extremism have returned to the agenda – as has the resistance to these ideas.

This week, the University and College Union (UCU) added its voice to this opposition, passing a motion at its annual Congress which called on the union’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to: “organise a boycott of the implementation of the Prevent Agenda in colleges and universities”.

It also claimed the duty will “push a racist and Islamophobic narrative”, “force our members to be involved in the racist labelling of students”, and “legitimises Islamophobia and xenophobia”.

While this attack on counter-extremism policy is unsurprising, what is more concerning is that the motion mandates UCU to support “the 13 June 2015 conference, ‘Preventing Violent Extremism?’, being co-organised by civil liberties groups: Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC)”.

This is despite the IHRC being an extremist organisation which has called for the release of Omar Abdel-Rahman, sentenced to life in prison in 1996 for planning terrorist attacks in the US, and attacked Abu Hamza al-Masri’s 2006 conviction for soliciting to murder.

The conference, due to take place on 13 June, will feature Umit Yildiz, a UCU Equality Officer, and Patricia McManus, a member of UCU’s NEC.

They will appear alongside Cerie Bullivant, a former Control Order subject and CAGE spokesman, who appeared as part of CAGE’s effort to blame MI5 for the radicalisation of ISIS executioner Mohammed Emwazi.

That UCU is encouraging members to boycott counter-extremism work is bad enough, and risks hindering attempts to prevent vulnerable young people being drawn towards extremism.

However, voting to work alongside the very extremists whose narratives can contribute to this radicalisation is much more serious – and highlights the extent of the problem faced by those working to challenge campus extremism.

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