Government warns NUS to stop opposition to Prevent strategy

The Guardian is reporting that the NUS has been told by the government to abandon its opposition to the Prevent strategy designed to counter the spread of extremism in England and Wales.

…In a pointed letter to the NUS president Megan Dunn, higher education minister Jo Johnson has said he is disturbed by a motion passed at the NUS conference to oppose the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, the government’s main piece of counter-terrorism legislation.

Although he concedes the NUS is doing some good work, he also asserts contradictory statements made by NUS officials, including those that described the government’s approach as a “racialised, Islamophobic witch-hunt”. Earlier in the year, another officer claimed that strategies such as Prevent “ultimately exist to police Muslim expression”.

He said such views cause division, and points to motions passed by student unions in a series of institutions opposing Prevent, including King’s College London, Durham and Soas, University of London.

He adds: “Universities represent an important arena for challenging extremist views. It is important there can be active challenge and debate on issues relating to counter-terrorism and provisions for academic freedom are part of the Prevent guidance for universities and colleges.

“It is my firm view that we all have a role to play in challenging extremist ideologies and protecting students on campus. Ultimately, the Prevent strategy is about protecting people from radicalisation.

“It is therefore disappointing to see overt opposition to the Prevent programme …The legal duty that will be placed on universities and colleges highlights the importance that the government places on this…”

More at: Government warns NUS to stop opposition to Prevent strategy

 

The report goes on to report claims that at least 70 events featuring hate speakers were held on campuses last year, so it the government right to take this line with the NUS?

 

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Comments

  1. There is a tension between freedom of speech and strategies to prevent radicalisation which may appear to shut down such free speech.  Johnson acknowledges universities are important places to challenge views.  But this won’t happen if unis play safe.  It may drive such views underground and leave them unchallenged.  Neither is Prevent necessarily the only way to fight radicalisation.  Prevent is controversial – its first incarnation was perceived as targeting Muslims while ignoring extreme groups such as the far right.  It was redrawn but is still perceived as targeting Muslims.

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