Another 7 dead will not shake many of our University professors out of their pious, sanctimonious opposition to the Government’s Prevent strategy. Instead they will continue to stand with the likes of CAGE, Prevent Watch, and the Federation of Student Islamic Societies in opposing it. In so doing, the warm glow of righteousness can continue to spread through academia, and the idea will never enter their highly-educated heads that that they are in fact the opposite of righteous. They, in a very small way, are actually part of the process which leads to people getting hurt.
Prevent has its roots in the 2003 Labour Government’s CONTEST counter-terrorism program. In 2011, Prevent was introduced to schools, and, under the 2015 Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, it also encompasses UK universities.
It requires universities, and other bodies, to have “due regard to the need to prevent people being drawn into terrorism” by reporting suspicious behaviour, but within the framework of having particular regard to “freedom of speech” and “academic freedom”.
It was to be expected that the executive of the National Union of Students would oppose Prevent and describe it as ‘spying on students’. The higher up the NUS executive slippery pole you go, the less grip you seem to have on the reality and worldview of Britain’s students, and the more it represents the highly politicized view of an individual with eyes on a future political career. The exuberance of discovering ideology has overwhelmed many a young person. When you mix that with a position of authority, it is a heady cocktail guaranteed to get you shouting slogans outside university gates. What was also expected, but less forgivable, was the opposition of some of the student’s professors.
These tend to be from the universities’ humanities departments. Science professors tend to have a more clear-eyed view of the world and a healthy scepticism about any human ability to perfect the world through ideology. But if you walk through the campuses at, for example, UCL, SOAS, LSE, Queens, and some of the Oxbridge colleges, it is not difficult to find a professor’s office window decorated with anti-Prevent posters.
The academics against Prevent are often the same type of self-hating westerner who is so ashamed of the UK’s colonial past, that they buy into any passing idea promulgated by whichever activist group is pushing it. In the unlikely event that CAGE, the federation of Student Islamic Societies or the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), were to suddenly reverse their opposition to Prevent, the professors would immediately contort themselves, with some linguistic gymnastics, into the new position.
The same is true of the Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, who has made the fatuous claim that Prevent is our era’s “equivalent of internment in Northern Ireland”.
Mr Burnham, the professors, and others have systematically tried to undermine a reasonable (if sometimes badly written) policy which was launched as a response to dozens of British citizens being murdered. They’ve done this by touring the campuses and broadcast studios claiming that the policy is discriminatory against Muslims. As with most legislation, its not perfect, but nor is it discriminatory.
One man who bought this lie was Salman Abedi who graduated from Salford University and went on to murder 22 people at the Manchester Arena. Salford University has one of the most vociferously anti-Prevent Student Unions in the country.
The prominent lawyer, and former chief crown prosecutor, Nazir Afzal, should be praised and supported for bravely speaking openly about this problem. He recently told The Times newspaper that there was an “industry” of Muslim groups spreading misinformation about Prevent strategy and included the MCB in his criticism. Mr Afzal pointed out that at last year’s MCB conference radicalisation was not even on the agenda.
He says Prevent works — ‘It’s stopped at least 150 people from going to Syria, 50 of them children… it has an impact but it’s constantly undermined by myths that urgently need to be challenged.’
Mr Afzal did not name the University and College Union but it is among the organizations trying to undermine Prevent. The UCU says it is a ‘draconian’ part of the “Islamophobic narrative surrounding ‘extremism’” and that it risks ‘certain communities being targeted unfairly”. It sneers at the Government’s use of the terms such as ‘our way of life’ arguing that these are snappy soundbites to ‘provide the West with a sense of its own superiority. However they also dehistoricise the West’s own actions in the Global South… “
The Islamist groups which campaign against Prevent know exactly what they are doing – working inside the system to destabilize it. They can also read the culture well enough to know that they can use the self-hating westerners to help them. Shout ‘Islamophobe’ loud enough, no platform opposing speakers, bully mainstream voices, and you can silence the opposition with professorial support.
The irony is these are the very people who believe they are at the forefront of upholding liberal values. Their world view, though, prevents them from seeing they are being used to legitimise the views of reactionary men on the fringes of religious belief who are bent upon setting up a theocratic totalitarian system. They are Osama’s Useful Professors.