National Union of Students challenges ‘racist’ counter-radicalization strategy

© Chip East
National Union of Students (NUS) activists are organizing a nationwide campaign to oppose the government’s Prevent counter-radicalization strategy that they believe will lead to “spying” on students in educational institutions.

The event, named ‘Students not Suspects,’ welcomes people interested in “resisting the impact of the Prevent duty” and organizing non-compliance.

The tour, which has been backed by the University and College Union (UCU), will also attract people determined to campaign against police violence and deaths in custody.

It will visit King’s College London on October 14, the University of Birmingham on October 15, Swansea University on October 16, Manchester Metropolitan University on October 21 and Strathclyde University in Glasgow on October 23.

According to the NUS event page, the days will feature speeches and workshops to equip students and activists “with the knowledge and networks to take these campaigns on locally.”

The Prevent strategy, formerly known as Section 26 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, states that some education institutions, including universities, must have due regard “to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.”

The government’s “racist” Prevent strategy will worsen Islamophobia in educational institutes, NUS Welfare Vice-President Shelly Asquith told the Mancunion.

With the focus on preventing what the government terms ‘Islamic extremism’, the prospect of racial profiling and state-sponsored Islamophobia is all the worse: Black and Muslim students are bearing the brunt of a reactionary, racist agenda while freedom of speech across the board is curtailed,” she said.

‘Spied on, beaten, arrested’

When students choose to take action we are often met with the long arm of the law. Spied on, beaten, arrested. We need all out defiance towards the lack of justice that is limiting free speech and impacting students’ lives,” she added.

For this reason, the NUS said it will not support the Prevent strategy, but will aim to work with unions and staff who practice non-compliance.

It called for other unions to collaborate with the UCU, organize a campaign, and work with national organizations to pass motions against the controversial strategy.

In bringing their battle ‘for hearts and minds’ – and against dissent – to spaces of education with the new Act, the government is inviting to our campuses the same brutality that plagues black and Muslim people at the hands of the police and state in wider society,” NUS Black Students Officer Malia Bouattia said.

We’ve heard of the police going into schools to talk about Prevent to teachers and saying things like, ‘if a child goes on a demonstration against the bombing of Gaza, keep an eye on him.’,” an NUS spokesperson told Al Jazeera in July.

‘Prevent critics are paranoid’ 

Speaking at a school in Birmingham to address these issues, Prime Minister David Cameron said critics of the Prevent strategy in schools are “paranoid.”

The world is not conspiring against Islam, the security services aren’t behind the terrorist attacks; our new Prevent duty for schools is not about criminalizing or spying on Muslim children. This is paranoia in the extreme,” he said in July.

We believe in respecting different faiths, but also expecting those faiths to support the British way of life,” he added.