LONDON: The British government has introduced new anti-terror guidance under which University staff are being asked to inform the police about Muslim students who are depressed or isolated and hence “vulnerable to extremism”.
“University staff including lecturers, chaplains and porters are being asked to inform the police about Muslim students who are depressed or isolated under new guidance for countering Islamist radicalism,” the Guardian daily reported.
It said the move has resulted in deep discomfort among university lecturers and student union officials who wish to combat terrorism but say the new strategy is an infringement of students’ civil liberties.
Officials implementing the government’s revamped Prevent strategy are training frontline university employees in how to spot students vulnerable to extremism.
Documents handed to staff claim that students who seem depressed or who are estranged from their families, who bear political grievances, or who use extremist websites or have poor access to mainstream religious instruction could be at risk of radicalization.
However, the National Union of Students has told its officers that they do not have to provide police with details about students unless they are presented with a warrant.
Local authority workers and police officers have been introducing the new strategy over the last month.
“Inquiries by the Guardian show that colleges in Lancashire and London have been approached by police and local authorities,” the report said. . James Haywood, president of Goldsmiths college students’ union in south-east London, met two Prevent officials last week.
He said they began by asking about Muslim students and whether the college had problems with its Islamic Society.
“We were appalled to have Prevent officers asking us to effectively spy on our Muslim students,” Haywood said.
A recent government report said there were 40 English universities where there could be a “particular risk” of radicalization, although the names of the universities have not been released.
The University and College Union (UCU) said that the government strategy risked damaging the relationship between staff and students.
“Staff have made it quite clear that they do not wish to police their students or engage in any activity that might erode the trust between them and students,” it said.
The Federation of Student Islamic Societies, an organization that provides support to Muslim students across the UK and Ireland, said: “Spying on a completely innocent group of people is an affront to our human rights.
“Islamic Societies and Muslim students make a positive contribution to British civic life – and they must be supported.” -PTI