As noted previously, I was invited to present oral evidence to the All Party Parliamentary University Group (APPUG) in June this year.
In response, the APPUG has recently published notes from the meeting including an overview of the content of my evidence. These notes can be downloaded by clicking here.
An extract is reproduced below:
Dr Chris Allen focused his comments on the impact of counter-terrorism legislation on society, and in particular on Muslim students. He argued that legislators should look more closely on the social implications of further regulations and statutes before implementing them.
He described how the draft statutory guidance published in January 2015 suggested that university staff were well placed to witness any changes in students which may indicate radicalisation, but he suggested that when pushed for specifics as to what these changes might be they too often appeared to boil down to the student becoming ‘more Muslim’.
Dr Allen described that ‘Raising Awareness of Prevent’ training run by the Home Office often reduced radicalisation to visible signs of Islam such as a student adopting the veil, or a new interest in British foreign policy, for instance. He described the risk in this approach that Muslim students feel that there is tension between their identities as Muslims and as students – and particularly that there is some tension between their presence as Muslim students and the ‘liberal traditions’ of British universities.
Dr Allen described how Muslim students were notable by their absence in vocal opposition organised by students in response to some Islamophobic graffiti which appeared shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attack. When he asked some students why, they suggested they were wary of ‘putting their heads above the parapet’ on the issue – that they were unwilling to demonstrate their anger as Muslims in public for fear of being viewed as potential extremists.
He summarised his concerns about an increased focus on counter-terrorism duties on universities: that as the visibility of duties increase, Muslim students may feel increasingly marginalised on campus; that it my reinforce the (untrue) perception that university campuses are hot-spots of radicalisation; that it may increase fear and suspicion of Muslim students and staff among non-Muslim students and staff; and that as a result it may inadvertently reinforce extremists’ own narratives about the incompatability of Islam and ‘the West’, as it is represented by universities.
To download the full notes, click here.