Hundreds of students heard a former Guantanamo prisoner speak out against the government’s anti-radicalisation PREVENT strategy at a packed event at Goldsmiths run by the ’Students Not Suspects’ group.
Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg warned them that by opposing PREVENT they could also find themselves being targeted by the strategy.
He was one of five panelists at the event on Tuesday February 8 which was organised by Goldsmiths University and College Union, Goldsmiths Students Union, Goldsmiths Feminist Society, Goldsmiths Palestine Campaign and Islamic Society (ISOC).
Other speakers were Rahmaan Mohammadi, a 16-year-old college student who was questioned for Justice for Palestine activity, Rizwaan Sabir, a lecturer in Criminology from Liverpool John Moores University, Malia Bouattia, NUS Black Students officer and Rachel Harger, a trainee lawyer who specialises in defending the Right to Protest & civil liberties.
The PREVENT strategy was first published by the Government in 2011 and is part of their overall effort against terrorism. The stated aim of PREVENT is to reduce the threat to the UK from terrorism by “stopping people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism”.
Moazzam was held in Guantanamo Bay and other detention prisons without trial by the US government for almost three years, he was released without charge in 2005 and later reached an out of court financial settlement with the British government after suing them for complicity in alleged abuse and torture. He said: “Speaking out against PREVENT also means you will be targeted by PREVENT. It means you will be quoted as an extremist, a fanatic, a hate creature and the zealot.”
Rahmaan Mohammadi, 16 ,was questioned by the police for his involvement with the Justice for Palestine movement and has been campaigning against PREVENT for more than six months. He said: “I need to talk about the reality of PREVENT, what actually happens in schools, colleges and campuses.
“As a Muslim, I fight for justice. The equality of freedom, and PREVENT itself is fighting that. It takes basic human rights away. Stop young Muslims being involved in the politics.” He added.
Mohammadi was questioned by police for taking leaflets into school promoting a boycott of Israel and told the “Free Palestine” badge he wore was “extremist”.
Since 2015, a PREVENT duty introduced by the Counter Terrorism and Security Act, requires Higher Education staff (and other public sector workers) to monitor students who are suspected of engaging in ‘active opposition to fundamental British values’ and to police ‘extremist’ speakers and students on campus.
Yusuf Hassan, Vice President of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) said: “It is great to see that people like Rahmaan Mohammadi being utilized to speak about things like PREVENT and how it is problematic in our university.
“This is a phobic agenda that we as a society must speak out against.” he added.
Goldsmiths UCU and Student Union are opposed to the government’s PREVENT agenda, said: “We believe it will destroy the trust needed for a safe and supportive learning environment, encourage discrimination against BME and Muslim staff and students.“
The next ‘Students Not Suspects’ event will take place at the University of Sheffield on February 22.
Follow Hsin-Jui Lin on Twitter @hlinhlin0317