Prevent Watch

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The Prevent Duty undermines the very notions upon which universities were first built

We owe the moral, political and intellectual progress of our species more than anything to individuals whose beliefs or values were sharply at odds with those prevalent at the time. Ockham, Machiavelli, Luther, Giordano Bruno, Galileo, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Hume, Voltaire – these all stand in this tradition, and at the head of it there was, as Mill wrote, ‘a man named Socrates, between whom and the legal authorities and public opinion of his time, there took place a memorable collision’. We remember Socrates as the founder of Western thought; his followers invented the idea of a university. But the upshot of this collision was Socrates’ execution on the charge of ‘corrupting the youth’ of Athens; and it seems that the threat of that charge (though not of that sentence) has revived against modern universities. The effect, predictably enough, is not only a diversion of their resources but an increasing chill on […]

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University of Reading incident raises alarm over implementation of Prevent

“The fundamental question we must ask our universities is: ‘How will you preserve and uphold the rights and freedoms of students and faculty to speech and thought this Duty directly targets and diminishes?’”, said Dr Mezna Qato, a junior research fellow at King’s. Earlier this week, students at the University of Reading were advised to take care when reading an essay entitled ‘Our Morals: The Ethics of Revolution’ written by left-wing academic Professor Norman Geras, because it has been marked as ‘sensitive’ under the government’s Prevent legislation, a series of counterrorism measures introduced in 2015. Read more

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Calls for independent review of Government’s Prevent strategy due to ‘mistrust’

Liberal Democrat Baroness Hamwee warned in the Lords that there was “mistrust” of the Prevent strategy. Lady Hamwee said that keeping it under review internally was not enough and added: “We need to know what is working and what isn’t working.” Her demand in committee stage debate on the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill was backed by Green peer Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb who said there was “mistrust and distrust of Prevent in many places”. Read more

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British Muslims will live with an intolerable burden of uncertainty under new counter-terrorism bill

Imagine a small, rat-infested town. Everyone is complaining about the rats and it dawns on the mayor she might gain some political advantage from dealing with the issue. So, she poisons the town’s water. Lo, all the rats die. But there are side effects: the poisoned water is making people sick. Not everyone, mind you – not those who can afford bottled water. Just those who rely on the town’s water supply. Some strategies can have devastating consequences despite their best intentions. This what is happening with the UK government’s counter-terrorism strategy, and in particular the Prevent duty, which puts an onus on those who work in public institutions such as schools, universities or hospitals to report individuals they suspect may be vulnerable to radicalisation. As the parable of poisoned water suggests, though the UK may package its counter-terrorism strategy for all people, its consequences for British Muslims have been exceedingly disproportionate. Read more

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In 2016, emergency laws restricted religious freedoms of Muslims more than other groups

Emergency laws entail the temporary suspension of normal judicial procedures and constitutional rights, typically in response to a national security threat. Depending on the circumstances, initial decrees can evolve into extended “states of emergency,” permitting governments to dramatically alter the protections normally extended to individuals and groups, including those defined by religion. Read more