Open letter shows concerns about student campaign against Prevent

Last week saw an open letter published in the Independent which targeted the UK’s counter-radicalisation strategy, Prevent, and called for it to be scrapped.

Signed by over 40 senior National Union of Students (NUS) and individual student union officers, the letter damned the policy as one which:

“…reinforces an ‘us’ and ‘them’ view of the world, divides communities, and sows mistrust of Muslims”.

While on-campus opposition to Prevent is not new, the extent to which this criticism has been influenced by extremist narratives has received less attention.

However the signatories to this letter, claimed by both academics and extremists to be a project of the pro-terrorist group CAGE, highlight the bedfellows kept by those student leaders standing against the policy.

Chief amongst these is Asim Qureshi, Research Director at CAGE, slammed earlier this year after describing the Islamic State (IS) executioner Mohammed Emwazi as a “beautiful young man”.

CAGE has written in support of convicted terrorists including Djamel Beghal, and Nizar Trabelsi, convicted of planning a suicide attack against US soldiers.

Qureshi himself has been recorded saying:

“When we see the examples of our brothers and sisters, fighting in Chechnya, Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan, then we know where the example lies.We know that it is incumbent upon all of us to support the jihad of our brothers and sisters in these countries when they are facing the oppression of the West”.

He is joined amongst the signatories of the letter by Shakeel Begg, who has criticised Muslims who work with the police, and was filmed in March 2011 saying:“…helping the families of brothers who are in prison…is like as if we are making jihad in the path of Allah. And we know jihad in the path of Allah is of the greatest of deeds that a Muslim can take part in”.

Another signatory, Haitham Al-Haddad, has expressed virulent homophobia, referring to the “scourge” of homosexuality, and justified the death penalty for apostates.

Uthman Lateef spoke alongside the Al-Qaeda cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki in 2009, and has warned against “a democratic Islam…the redefined, repackaged Islam”.

Azad Ali, meanwhile, has called Hamas “a true resistance movement”, and lost a libel case in 2010 which found he “…was indeed…taking the position that the killing of American and British troops in Iraq would be justified”.

That so many NUS figures have signed a letter alongside these men, to mention just five of the extreme figures who appear, undermines further the group’s claim to take “a robust position” on extremism.

It also highlights exactly who it is that is driving so-called academic opposition to Prevent – something which should make those in the student movement taking part think twice about their involvement.

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