Prevent doesn’t stop students being radicalised. It just reinforces Islamophobia

Interesting survey. Whether the issues are with Prevent itself or more generalized attitudes towards Muslims and media coverage is unclear:

The UK government has long maintained that radicalisation is a problem in universities and that Prevent, the national counter-terror programme, is an essential means of tackling it. Yet recently the Office for Students reported very little such activity: in 2017-18, only 15 referrals were made by universities to Channel in England (the Prevent rehabilitation programme), and it is unlikely that all 15 were found to be terrorism-related.

Despite a clear lack of evidence of radicalisation in universities, Prevent training continues for staff. Indeed, a major new report of a three-year study of Islam on campus shows that almost 10% of all students believe there may be some risk on their campus. Our research reveals that Prevent reinforces negative stereotypes of Islam and Muslims: 20% of students believe that Islam is not compatible with British values; among those supportive of Prevent, the figure rises to 35%.

This project, led at Soas University of London by myself and Dr Aisha Phoenix, with Professor Mathew Guest (Durham), Dr Shuruq Naguib (Lancaster) and Assistant Professor Dr. Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor (Coventry), is the largest data set yet collected about Islam on campus. In total, 2,022 students attending 132 universities answered a detailed online survey. We also collected and analysed 140 hours of interviews from six campuses.

Our research finds that Prevent discourages discussion about culture, identity and religion – especially, but not exclusively, about Islam. Students and staff are discouraged from raising concerns about Prevent. They self-censor their discussions in order to avoid becoming the object of suspicion and are sometimes discouraged from exploring, researching or teaching about Islam. They see this as a counterproductive policy in the light of the perceived need for securitisation to fight terrorism, which trumps all other human rights.

On the other hand, 59% of students said they’d never heard of Prevent, yet many of those then expressed opinions about it, from an apparently non-existent knowledge base. When students are kept ignorant, this creates a democratic deficit: the student population should be fully informed about Prevent, about perceived and actual risk, about the facts and figures, and encouraged to debate these issues. Honesty and clarity are urgently required.

There’s so much more that the campus offers. The university population is religiously and culturally diverse, and despite the secular tone of the modern campus, most of our student sample believe that religion is an important source of moral values. Almost 70% of Muslim students and 56% of Christian students believe that university provides a valuable opportunity to develop their faith in new ways. And 79% of Muslim students believe that the university experience should encourage critical thinking about matters of faith.

Source: Prevent doesn’t stop students being radicalised. It just reinforces Islamophobia

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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