The Government’s controversial counter-terrorism legislation, known as Prevent, came in to effect across the University last week, raising the concerns of many.
The new legislation gives university staff a legal obligation to ‘deal with all forms of terrorism and non-violent extremism’, to ‘challenge extremist ideas’ and to ‘stop people moving from extremist (albeit legal) groups in to terrorist related activity.’
The Government defines extremism as a ‘vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.’
The new laws have drawn condemnation from a number of organisations, with NUS officials describing the scheme as a “racialised, Islamophobic witch-hunt” and “ultimately existing to police Muslim expression”.
Under the new legislation, Mohammed Umar Farooq, a Terrorism, Crime and Global Security MA student at Staffordshire University was interrogated by authorities after being spotted reading a Terrorism Studies textbook in the University library.
Speaking to The Gryphon, Union Affairs Officer Toke Dahler stated: “Prevent runs counter to the basic principles of dealing with mental health issues, ensuring academic freedom of expression and the freedom to practice religion.
I am currently in constructive talks with the University about how we handle this agenda and we’re also looking into how we can oppose the legislation on a national level.”
UCU, the largest trade union for academics, also strongly opposes the legislation.
Dr Mark Taylor-Batty, a lecturer in Theatre Studies and Leeds University’s UCU representative, told The Gryphon: “We believe that potentially obliging our members to take part in racist labelling of students is unacceptable, and doubles unacceptable to students.”
The Prevent Agenda will force our members to spy on our learners, is discriminatory towards Muslims, and legitimises Islamophobia and xenophobia, encouraging racist views to be publicised and normalised within society.”
We also suspect our own University has no real appetite for the agenda, but will have an obligation to meet the statutory demands made upon them.”
We have no plan at present to boycott Prevent, as we have yet to have a General Meeting with members to discuss the matter, and we have yet to see the University of Leeds’s own response and plans for its local protocols.”