Preventing Prevent: Challenges to Counter-Radicalisation Policy On Campus
A new report by Student Rights has found that the government’s counter-radicalisation strategy, Prevent, is being prevented from functioning effectively due to widespread student opposition, despite significant concerns about on-campus extremism.
'Preventing Prevent? Challenges to Counter-Radicalisation Policy On Campus', released today, has recorded over 100 on-campus events each year since 2012 hosting speakers with extreme views or a history of involvement with extremist organisations.
The report also highlights how a number of those convicted of terrorist offences have passed through Britain’s higher education institutions.
Despite this, attempts to challenge extremism have struggled to engage student groups, some of which have even pledged to obstruct Prevent delivery.
By providing an in-depth analysis of Prevent and the criticisms levelled against it, today's report shows that the strategy is frequently misunderstood by critics, and that the criticisms raised appear to have been influenced by extremist narratives.
Further findings include:
Student Rights logged 132 events in 2012, 145 in 2013, and 123 in 2014. Speakers have suggested there is a Western war against Islam; supported individuals convicted of terrorism offences; expressed intolerance of non-believers and/or minorities; and espoused religious law as a method of socio-political governance – opposing democracy in the process.
Despite this evidence, student activists have claimed Prevent is a racist policy; that lecturers spy on students; that vulnerable people will be stigmatised; and that the expression of controversial ideas will be suppressed.
The report also provides recommendations to ensure civil society actors who seek to challenge extremist influence are supported, and that universities and student unions are aware of their responsibilities to those vulnerable to radicalisation.
Rupert Sutton, Student Rights Director and the report author, said:
“The evidence presented in this report shows that extremism on university campuses remains a serious issue while the dominant narrative is one which draws on extremist campaigning to undermine attempts to challenge the problem.
As such, it is vital that the government works to increase support for those challenging extremist narratives about Prevent, and that any guidance for university staff addresses fears driven by these narratives.
Universities should be the best place to challenge extremist ideas, yet at present this is simply not happening – something that must change if we are to successfully oppose on-campus radicalisation”.
UPDATE 14/07/2015: Hamza Tzortzis has released a retraction of comments quoted in this report dealing with execution of apostates and declared that they were "ridiculous, immature, and irresponsible". He has also stated that these comments do "not represent his views at all".