Muslim student questioned after reading university course book on terrorism

© Ronen Zvulun
Staffordshire University has apologized to counter-terrorism student Mohammed Umar Farooq after an official reported him for reading a book on terrorism studies

Security guards in the library of the university spotted Farooq reading the book and challenged him. He was later questioned on his attitude to homosexuality, Al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

I could not believe it. I was reading an academic textbook and minding my own business. At first I thought I’d just laugh it off as a joke,” Farooq told the Guardian.

Farooq, who is studying a master’s degree in terrorism and security, then enlisted a lawyer to help him challenge the university on the issue.

The implications if I did not challenge this could be serious for me. I could go on a police list; I could be investigated without my knowledge. This could happen to any young Muslim lad. I had to fight back,” Farooq said.

He said he felt unsettled and was left looking over his shoulder after the incident. After a three month investigation the university apologized to Farooq.

We have apologized to Mr. Farooq and are in dialogue with him on how we can support him to continue his studies with us. In light of recent legislation, we are ensuring all staff at the university have the right guidance and training,” the university said in a statement.

However, Staffordshire University defended their policy saying: “We do, however, have the right policies and procedures in place and are confident that the situation was investigated and concluded appropriately.

UK advocacy group Cage also weighed in on the debate after being contacted by Farooq’s lawyer, taking the opportunity to criticize the government’s new Prevent counter-radicalization strategy.

In a statement, the charity said: “Since October 2014, Cage has received almost 100 cases [like this].”

“What this case displays is something we have seen frequently: most notably the over-reporting of normative behavior, and a fear-based approach that alienates and antagonizes communities.”