A UEA student has spoken out about how government legislation PREVENT kept him from choosing to study modules that interest him. Muqaddam Malik made the comments at the SU’s event ‘Is it ethical to monitor students?’ last week.
The PREVENT strategy is government legislation aimed at preventing the radicalisation of young people in the UK, through academic monitoring.
Featuring NUS President Malia Bouattia, CAGE Outreach Director Moazzam Begg, Model UN society President Muqaddam Malik and Lecturer David Nowell Smith, the panel discussed the rise in Islamophobic hate crimes in the UK. All the panellists condemned the racial profiling that they felt was a key part of the legislation.
Mr Malik spoke about how a fear of PREVENT and racial stereotyping has kept him from picking a module he actively wanted to study. He spoke about the third-year module ‘terrorism and counter terrorism’ and said: “When I came to UEA I was looking forward to studying that module because it is highly relevant and something really contentious, and being a Kenyan citizen where we struggle with terrorism quite a bit it’s really interesting.
“After I found out about PREVENT I knew I was not going anywhere near that module, just because it does not seem like a safe thing for me to do. I am here on a tier-four visa. Why would you want people to see you researching this kind of extremism?
He added: “Obviously PREVENT has had an actual impact on me not being able to engage with certain topics that I want to for fear of what can come from that.”
The panel continued, with comments from Moazzam Begg who said questioned the use of words such as ‘jihadist’ and ‘radical’. He said: “What is wrong with radicalisation, really? The term ‘radical’ has been used throughout history by movements and individuals who want to change something that is taboo.”
As the floor opened to discussions one UEA student questioned the Union’s decision to filter all questions through Postgraduate Officer Madeleine Colledge.
Gary Walsh, who spoke to Concrete after the event, said: “At events in the past, with speakers such as UKIP, free questions were encouraged. 100 percent their views went unchallenged.
“Under the PREVENT scheme, anyone with extremist views must be challenged. CAGE is a group that has had direct links to terrorism — for example in the past they have defended Jihadi John. They should have had someone who defended PREVENT. It would have been more balanced.”
CAGE is a London-based advocacy organisation which aims to empower communities impacted by the war on terror. The organisation has been criticized in the past for defended extremist Islamist beliefs, organizations and individuals. On January 6th 2016 the Telegraph reported that six British universities were facing an inquiry after CAGE “used meetings on campus to encourage the “sabotage” of the government’s official anti-extremism programme.’”
Commenting on the event, SU Welfare Community and Diversity Officer Jo Swo said: “This event was designed as a challenging panel discussion on student safety, treatment and monitoring.
“Students were invited to submit questions which were collated to ensure that the panel could address as many of these as possible. As ever we could not ask all the submitted questions.
“It is however simply untrue to suggest that the event did not feature debate or challenge. Questions raised by students included asking for clarification on UEA and its staff’s stance on PREVENT and any obligation to comply to the PREVENT legislation; how PREVENT might work if it stuck to its initially well intended roots; a question to Moazzam Begg on investigations surrounding him being given a platform at other unis; opinions on ‘new terrorism’ post-9/11 and the ‘Alt-Right’.
“Queries were aimed at the speakers that challenged their previous comments, experience and affiliations- all of which were addressed in their responses.”
Correction: A previous version of this article named Gary Walsh as “Greg Walsh.” This has been updated to his actual name.