We stand by Ayo Olatunji, Students’ Union UCL BME Officer, Malia Bouattia, former President of the National Union of Students, and the University of Westminster Students Not Suspects activist, Farah Koutteineh. All are admirable examples of what our current student movement needs much more of. Their grassroots organising on campuses against institutional racism is essential work at this time where racist and Islamophobic surveillance policies are going unchallenged by market-driven University Senior Management Teams.
With support from SOAS Palestine Society and SOAS Students’ Union, these students organised a highly successful week of action against the zealous implementation of restrictive and targeted policies against the Palestine Society, Islamic Society, and Kashmir Solidarity Society, especially with regards to hosting external speakers and organising events. Furthermore there have been unacceptable levels of surveillance and neglect of Muslim prayer rooms at the University, with an unprofessional overstepping of responsibilities by interfaith advice services. We would note that the student societies had to organise these events without support from the University of Westminster Students’ Union, and as such held two events at SOAS under the auspices of the SOAS Students’ Union. This restrictive environment at the University of Westminster has been directly linked to the University’s implementation of policies under the Prevent Duty.
Students are within their rights to protest this state of affairs and discrimination based on race, faith, and/or political beliefs. We call on the University of Westminster to review its interaction with the Prevent Duty, especially in light of the findings and recommendations of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights Inquiry into Freedom of Speech at University, as well as a number of other UK based and international bodies. We call on the Westminster Students’ Union to amplify the voices of students protesting discrimination and surveillance. Furthermore, we are deeply concerned by the lack of trust and space that exists for student societies to organise events and discussions at University of Westminster. This is a threat to everyone's right to organise if such a restrictive environment is not seriously challenged and overturned.
Finally, we would like to deplore, yet again, the targeted reporting which has sought to single out members of a collective effort to challenge Prevent, racism and Islamophobia at the University of Westminster. We further believe the Daily Mail should be ashamed for peddling a spurious article targeting an inspirational, black student activist as well as the women of colour who participated in the Students Not Suspects week of action. We stand solidly by these activists, send our solidarity, and reaffirm this media vilification with its added dose of social media harassment will not deter us!
We will only be more bold in our determination, and in our solidarity.