SOAS Students’ Union strongly opposes the government's PREVENT strategy and its statutory implementation through the Counter-Terrorism and Security (CTS) Act of 2015. PREVENT is an ill-defined strategy, which demands that public bodies and institutions identify those who may be drawn into “terrorism” because of their perceived “extremist ideology” in order to be “de-radicalised.” Such definition would include those with “a need for identity, meaning and belonging”, “a desire for political or moral change” and “relevant mental health issues”. This demonises Muslim and BME students and victimises those with mental health issues. We believe that it threatens academic freedom and undermines the role of universities as institutions for critical and free thought.
This loose framework sets a dangerous precedent and encourages discriminatory treatment and prejudicial judgements on the part of institutions towards their students. PREVENT’s strategy creates an insecure environment for students and limits the space for debate, as students feel monitored and under threat of surveillance. Within this context, we believe that scholarship and political dissent will be classified as “extremism”, particularly in the cases of Muslim and BME students.
The Students’ Union is committed to defending freedom of speech on campus and working to create an environment in which ideas can freely be discussed, challenged and re-shaped, as outlined in our Safe(r) Space(s) and Dignity at SOAS policies. The Students’ Union will not comply with a government strategy which aims to monitor and control students and student-life on campus, to hinder political debates and activity, and to demonise Muslim students and stigmatise mental health issues.
We will continue to work with the School to lobby against PREVENT, to not comply with CTS requirements as far as possible within the confines of the law. Where the University does have to comply with this law, we hope that any changes to policies or procedures will be decided with students and staff so that we can ensure that these do not discriminate against Muslim students or create an unsafe or intimidating environment at SOAS.
We urge any students who feel concerned or affected by these issues to contact us or drop in to the Union Office (G8).