Open Letter – urgent call to repeal the Prevent legislation

Students not Suspects

First published by Students Not Suspect on 10 February 2016, and also as a letter in the Guardian.

We, the undersigned, welcome the call for an independent review into Prevent made by the Independent Reviewer of the UK’s anti-terrorism laws, David Anderson QC, last week.

One year ago the Prevent duty became statutory through the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015: this imposed a duty on public bodies to have "due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism".

As a wide cross section of Muslim community activists, academics, lawyers and politicians warned, the duty has in practice charged teachers, doctors and other professionals with monitoring people’s religious and political views.

This is undermining the very ethos and relationships of mutual trust and openness that are fundamental to education and our public services whilst endangering other legal rights and protections. It is eroding civil liberties and deepening discrimination against Muslims.

Last year the Metropolitan police reported that hate crimes against Muslims were up 70%. We must recognise that government counter-terrorism policies like Prevent are helping to create this climate of hostility, sowing fear, division, mistrust and prejudice by reinforcing racist stereotypes, stigmatising Muslim communities and in effect encouraging ethnic profiling.

Despite the fact that Muslims make up just 5% of the population, data from the National Police Chiefs’ Council shows that 67% of those referred for suspected ‘radicalisation’ between 2007-2010 were Muslim, the figure was 56% between 2012-13.

The reason for these figures is not that there is 'a problem within Islam' but is rather due to a refusal to acknowledge the political causes of political violence:  Muslims are instead treated as a suspect community. The result is that ill-defined concepts like 'radicalisation' and 'extremism' are applied in a circular and highly racialised manner.

Thus politically engaged Muslim individuals and organisations including CAGE, MEND and the IHRC are routinely attacked in the media.

But Prevent and the CTS Act have also narrowed the space for political dissent in many forms. Anti-fracking and other environmental activists, those campaigning for Palestinian rights, and even those opposing cuts and austerity have been monitored under what Liberty has referred to as the 'biggest spying operation of all times.'

Prevent is not making anyone safer. Instead it damages the fabric of trust in our society, silences Muslims and dissent, and institutionalises Islamophobia at a time when the far-right is gaining influence in many parts of Europe. It is the embodiment of the 'radicalisation' of our supposedly liberal democratic governments themselves.

We would go further than David Anderson and call on the government to take urgent action to repeal this legislation, and for all those working in affected sectors to make clear their opposition to this duty.

Signed by SACC and many others, including:

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (Green Party member of the London Assembly), Prof Arun Kundnani (New York University), Dr Douglas Chalmers (President UCU Scotland), Malia Bouattia (NUS Black Students’ Officer, Students Not Suspects), Shelly Asquith (NUS Vice President Welfare), Michael Mansfield QC, Imran Khan & Partners Solicitors, Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC (Hannah Dee, Defend the Right to Protest), Omar Barghouti, Palestine Human Rights Advocate, Yusuf Hassan (Vice President Student Affairs FOSIS), Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya (University of East London), Professor Karma Nabulsi (Oxford University), Professor Adam Gearey (School of Law, Birkbeck College), Professor David Miller (Professor of Sociology, University of Bath), Asim Qureshi (Researcher Director, CAGE), Moazzam Begg (Outreach Director, CAGE), Dr Carlo Morelli (University of Dundee and UCU National Executive Council), Dr Nicholas Cimini (Lecturer, EIS-ULA Executive Committee member, Edinburgh Napier University), Dr Salman Sayyid (University of Leeds), Rah Singh (Officer, Heriot-Watt University Students' Union, NUS Disabled Students' Campaign), Robina Qureshi (Director, Positive Action in Housing), Dr Marion Hersh (Senior Lecturer, University of Glasgow), Dr Les Levidow (Open University), Zareen Taj (Press Officer, Muslim Women Association of Edinburgh), Dr Monish Bhatia (Lecturer in Criminology; Abertay University).

For a full list of signatories, and to add your name, visit: Open Letter – urgent call to repeal the Prevent legislation (Students Not Suspects).