A large conference last Saturday showed the potential to build a campaign to stop the government’s Prevent strategy, which targets Muslims.
Over 300 anti-racists attended the Prevent, Islamophobia and Civil Liberties conference in south east London. It was hosted by Students not Suspects but involved many other groups.
It drew out criticisms of Prevent, which forces public sector workers to spy on Muslims and report anyone they suspect of “radicalisation”.
Luton school student Rahmaan Mohammadi described how he was targeted by teachers and police at school for carrying pro-Palestinian badges and leaflets.
He said, “I was brought to a special constable who was employed by the school to deal with Prevent.
“He sat me down and questioned me for a good ten to twenty minutes on my views about Palestine and Israel.
“At the end he said, ‘Rahmaan, I don’t want you to be speaking about Palestine.’ I said, well what about lunchtimes and break times. Surely I can talk about what I want with my friends.
“He said, well no you can’t. I don’t want you to be talking about Palestine.”
Mohammadi said police were also sent to his house to interrogate him.
He added that the reason he was targeted “wasn’t just about Palestine. It was that a Muslim person was supporting Palestine.”
Writer Arun Kundnani said that Prevent is part of a wider Islamophobic agenda pushed by both Labour and Tory governments.
He said, “David Cameron talked about a generational struggle against Islamist extremism. We have our own generational struggle for the right to be radical.
“Since Prevent was introduced we’ve repeatedly been told by ministers the story about why terrorism happens.
“It says terrorism is caused by the presence of extremist ideology. The government defines extremist ideology as a minority version of Islam—sometimes it refers to it as Islamism.
“But it claims it’s capable of capturing the minds of Muslims and turning them into terrorists.”
Sessions throughout the day discussed how to fight Prevent.
Irfan Raja is from the Waltham Forest Council of Mosques. He said Muslim organisations should not engage “knowingly or unknowingly” with Prevent programmes.
She described how the NUS’ Students not Suspects campaign had led the fight against Prevent on campuses.Malia Bouattia, the NUS student union’s president elect, also spoke.
She said, “What needs to be done is for Prevent to be dismantled and uprooted.
“We need a broad coalition of opposition to defeat Prevent.”