Wednesday 09-03-2016 - 22:34
On Thursday 10 March 2016, Black Students' Officer Malia Bouattia will testify to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on the destructive effects of Prevent on UK education.
On Thursday 10 March 2016, representatives of several British organisations will take part in the side panel meeting at the 31st session of the human rights council at the UN, in Geneva,Switserland on Counter Terrorism policies in the UK. The panel will be made up of Raza Kazim, from the Islamic Human Rights Council, Dr. Patricia McManus, a lecturer at the University of Brighton, and Malia Bouattia, the Black Student Officer at the National Union of Students.
The panel will discuss the current state of counter terrorism in the UK and their effects on freedom of expression and civil liberties. In particular, it will focus on the British Government's Prevent strategy, which makes it a duty for staff in publicly funded institutions to report on signs of radicalisation in those that use the services. This includes nurseries, schools, universities, hospitals, and mental health services.
The strategy has come under increasing scrutiny and criticism in recent months. For example, the independent rapporteur to the UK government on counter terrorism, David Anderson QC, has called for a review of the policy. Over 450 academics, students and lawyers signed an open letter last month calling for the legislation to be repealed. The letter argued that the policy, instead of fighting radicalisation, is a dangerous attack on civil liberties in the UK and that it disproportionally targeted Muslim communities and organisations.
Student action against Prevent is growing. Policy was passed at NUS National Conference 2015 calling for the repeal of the Counter-Terror and Security Act which put PREVENT on statutory duty for the first time. Since then NUS has been working with local Students’ Unions to join up with other organisations, Trade Unions and community groups to challenge the implementation of the act in their institutions. Over 30 Students’ Unions have now passed policy calling on their managements to challenge the government over the imposition of PREVENT. This work is particularly important in light of the way in which it is being implemented in the sector through all staff training programs or as an addition to Equality and Diversity training.
Some Students’ Unions such as Goldsmiths have successfully lobbied management, alongside the UCU, to introduce Islamophobia awareness training to all staff to counter the racist nature of PREVENT. At the University of Manchester students and lecturers organised a collective open letter opposing Prevent, and received the support of a local MP. Furthermore, many also took part in the national day of action against PREVENT on the 7 December. SU’s, from the University of Manchester, Bristol and King’s College London to the University of East Anglia, Petroc College and the University College London, expressed solidarity with the victims of the policy through creative actions and stunts. Finally, the University of Bradford Students’ Union successfully lobbied the Home Affairs Select Committee to host a student consultation on counter extremism policies.
Bouattia, who was one of the initiators of the open letter which garnered the support of over 80 Student Officers, said that she 'looked forward to discussing the impact of Prevent and broader counter terrorism policy at the UN. In particular I hope we can make clear the way in which the policy is damaging both academic freedom and student- lecturer relations by imposing a climate of fear and suspicion, particularly amongst Muslim students and staff who are disproportionally targeted'. Bouattia is also a key organiser of the national campaign 'Students Not Suspects', which campaigns for the repealing of Prevent in universities and colleges up and down the country.The campaign has held rallies in over 20 universities and encouraged both students and staff members to campaign against Prevent and lobby managers in their institutions.