The Student’s Union hosted the ‘Students Not Suspects’ event this month, protesting the government’s terrorism policy.
The tour was originally launched by the National Union of Students to raise awareness new government guidelines on terrorism prevention, called ‘Prevent’.
The University of Strathclyde Student’s Association has boycotted the guidelines, calling it “fundamentally flawed” and “open to abuse for political ends.”
‘Prevent’ is part of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015, aimed to combat extremism and terrorism. Organisations like National Union of Students University and College Union have criticised these guidelines.
Samayya Afzal, member of the NUS Black Students committee said: “The reason why we are standing up against the ‘Prevent’ agenda is that the evidence it’s based on is wrong!”
Raj Jeyaraj, Vice President of Diversity at the University of Strathclyde Student’s Association explains in his ‘Prevent PREVENT’ video that “the University is now obliged to monitor and report students who may have extremist tendencies or who are vulnerable to show extremist behaviour.”
In a statement, the USSA said the ‘Prevent’ policy “criminalises Muslims and Black people, and comes amidst a campaign of fear and demonisation from the government.”
Dr Douglas Chalmers, President of UCU Scotland points out that university stuff “are not qualified counter terrorism officers and that the policy is a serious threatening free speech and the relationship between students and University stuff.”
“Not only the Muslim community but everybody loses with this policy”, Chalmers said.
Since 1st of July it is a legal obligation to implement the ‘Prevent’ programme in public bodies such as local authorities, schools, universities and within the NHS.
Zara Mohammed, Vice President of FOSIS Federation of Student Islamic Societies said: “We want to ensure that every Muslim student has a good University experience. – marginalising Muslim students and suspicious people checking their prayer rooms, does not help creating the happy go lucky citizen we want to see and makes people feel as if they aren’t part of the society.”
The USSA gave examples of the policy’s misuse, saying: “lecturers have been known to report students as being ‘at risk of radicalisation’ for merely taking an interest in political affairs in class, or for observing their religion more closely, whilst politically active students have found themselves visited by counter-terrorism officers.”
NUS Disabled Students Officer Maddy Kirkman commented that the policy creates further stigma on people living with a mental health condition.
The government defended its policy, saying: “Protecting children from the risk of radicalisation should be seen as part of schools’ and childcare providers’ wider safeguarding duties, and is similar in nature to protecting children from other harms.”