The Curious Incident Of The Muslim Student in the University Library Who Was Reading A Book (Which Clearly Meant He Was a Terrorist)
The recent experience of Mohammed Umar Farooq at Staffordshire University confirms my worst fears about the statutory duties now placed on universities following changes to the PREVENT programme as part of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015.
Farooq was a postgraduate student on Staffordshire’s Terrorism, Crime and Global Security MA. Like all university students, Farooq was required to read a range of texts relevant to his studies. In his case, this included a text entitled, Terrorism Studies. Deciding to read the book in the library on campus, Farooq was approached by someone that he first thought was a fellow student. That individual went on to ask him questions about Islam, his attitudes to homosexuality, Islamic State and al-Qaida among others. To Farooq’s surprise, the individual questioning him was a member of staff who proceeded to report him to security guards as the conversation had allegedly raised “too many red flags”.
After being investigated for three months, Staffordshire University admitted fault and subsequently apologised to Farooq for the distress caused. The University did stress though that Farooq was never accused of being a terrorist and that only “concerns” had been raised. Noting that the member of staff “had only had a few hours’ training in December 2013”, the University added that guidance about the new duties “contains insufficient detail to provide clear practical direction”. Ironic that the University’s Masters programme Farooq was enrolled on includes a focus on “policy responses to terrorism and counter terrorism and their relationship with human rights”.
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