Prevent is a strand of the government’s Counter Terrorism strategy.
It attempts to deal with radicalisation and stop people in the UK being led into terrorism. Since the Counter-Terrorism & Security Act 2015, Prevent has become a mandatory duty on public bodies. Universities now have a legal duty to monitor and report extremism on campus.
No, students’ unions are not mandated to monitor and report extremism on campus, however, in the guidance for further and higher education, institutions are encouraged to have the students’ union on board.
The idea behind and the implementation of Prevent is Islamophobic. It encourages a culture of suspicion, treating Muslims as suspects. We need a strategy that doesn't marginalise minorities
The conveyor-belt theory, through Whitehall’s own reports, has been debunked. However the strategy still broadly believes in the same linear progression of “non-violent extremist - extremist - terrorist.” When held against its own standards of success, Prevent has failed.
A three-hour training module is inadequate to train public sector workers to spot extremists, it amplifies existing stereotypes and biases. Terms like non-violent extremism are vague & subject to wild misinterpretations. Confusion has bred chaos within institutions.
Prevent has been widely criticised, including by the UK terrorism legislation watchdog, who has called for an independent review. A simple rebrand won't work - very basis of Prevent has been challenged. Andy Burnham, Shadow Home Secretary, has compared Prevent to internment in Northern Ireland. Muslim communities in Newham have boycotted orgs funded by Prevent.
In the year since it became a public duty, 4,611 people have been referred, (12 a day) including over 2000 children and teenagers. Where is the transparency?
A decade of "constructive engagement" with Prevent hasn't worked, it is now time for a strategy supported by Muslim communities across the UK.
If you have boycott policy, it’s best not to attend university meetings where decisions are made regarding implementation.
Universities in particular will use your presence as an officer to demonstrate that the SU is on board, ticking off one of their responsibilities under the guidance.
To be aware of what the university is doing, you can submit Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, invite university staff to an SU meeting which can be used to establish transparency. Agree with them beforehand what the purpose and outcomes of these meetings will be - for you to reiterate how damaging Prevent is and why you won’t work with them.
Firstly - pass policy. That way at the very least they’re mandated to not hinder your campaign against Prevent.
Secondly, build a student group (or have Prevent as a priority for an existing one) who will hold officers accountable for abandoning policy.
If the colleagues are staff and they actively try to hinder your campaign - politely remind them that the org is student-led and policy-based.
Make use of safe space groups where you feel comfortable talking to each other.
Approach your Islamic Society (Isoc) or SU to hold the university to account for creating an unsafe environment.
It’s good to know exactly what Prevent trainings in your institution look like. If you or someone else is willing to attend as an observer, use the opportunity to make notes/create an alternative to their training. Invite staff to diversity and Islamophobia training led by SU/trade union.
Otherwise, lobby staff/members who are planning to go to the training, produce a leaflet, disrupt the entrance with a stall reminding members why you boycott Prevent.
As much as they try to dispel this, institutions know that they are discriminating Muslim students and Islamic societies on campus. Whilst the duty may be equally applied to all societies at the beginning (e.g. speaker approval), at the end of the process, it is Isocs being pulled up on speakers.
Submit an FOI, send emails to the event management departments seeking their approval process and stats on how it has been used in the last five years. Publish this if possible.
Hold an open meeting inviting members of the society, assure them that their case is being taken up. If you have the capacity to make things easier for them, i.e. using different spaces so they don't have to go through the procedures, let them know about it.
The Higher Education Funding Council England (HEFCE) currently monitors universities in England, while HEFCW monitors Welsh institutions.
Further education colleges and skills providers and schools are monitored through OFSTED.