Crosspost: CAGE. LONDON – Minister of State for Universities and Science Jo Johnson’s warning to the NUS to stop opposition to PREVENT is a blatant assault on the union’s independence, and ignores the fact that CAGE is one of an increasing number of organisations that are opposed to PREVENT.
CAGE authored a letter published in The Independent, signed by over 300 academics, activists, legal and medical professionals saying that PREVENT will have a chilling effect on free speech, open debate and political dissent. These core values influence the intellectual character of Britain and are important to preserve the global appeal of our universities.
By singling out CAGE, a small organisation , the government betrays the weakness of its stance and diverts the public from the core issues, which centre on the effective banning of speakers deemed to fit a variable and broad definition of ‘extremism’. Such measures threaten academic freedom, where open debate naturally roots out unpopular views.
Using this broad definition of ‘extremism’, the government’s PREVENT strategy seeks to criminalise dissent. Under PREVENT, one police officer has said that anti-fracking campaigners and anti-capitalists could be deemed ‘extremist’.
CAGE has numerous case studies illustrating that PREVENT has the propensity to alienate the communities it seeks to engage, thereby increasing the potential for political violence rather than countering it.
Ibrahim Mohamoud, Communications Officer at CAGE, said:
- “In the past few weeks we have seen the government and large sections of the media calling the leader of the opposition “a threat to our national security”, because he offers an alternative to the political status quo, in which only a minority of the population feel inclined to vote. “Extremism” has become a politically loaded term employed to stifle debate.”
- “If universities and other educational institutions are being dictated to by the government over who can or cannot speak, this is fundamentally against the “British values” trumpeted by David Cameron.”
- “In an age of the Internet, it is futile and showboating to try to police thought at universities as a means to tackle “extremism”. The government needs to go back to the table and review policies that have left us no safer 10 years later. Instead, racial and religious prejudices have been exploited by securocrats to build a template and an atmosphere whereby dissenters are openly labelled as the ‘enemy within.’”
- “Scaremongering by talking about community cohesion is meaningless when the rhetoric from Westminster and sections of the media has whipped up xenophobia to such a degree that attacks on Muslims are up 70% in London, far right parties are on the rise in Europe and a 14 year old Muslim teenager can be arrested at a Texas school for making a clock. It is high time that the hate preachers that populate the corridors of power in Westminster and the corporate media are tackled and their “extremism” is challenged.”
- “Freedom of expression and student independence is vital to a civil society – it is the fabric that creates the rich diversity of opinions and knowledge that has made the British university sector a global attraction. Any attempts to thwart that independence risks creating a stifled and acerbic environment controlled by the state that is more reminiscent of a dictatorship than a pluralistic and dynamic society.”
- “The sector can only produce innovation and free thinkers if it promotes dialogue and the unhindered free flow of ideas. If we accept what the Minister seeks, then we betray the traditional and well established values that have created a world class sector.”
- “We must resist such oppressive measures and CAGE calls on all right thinking people to speak out against state control.”
Please find here the most recent CAGE work on PREVENT:
Graphic: PREVENT case study 1
Graphic: PREVENT case study 2
Graphic: PREVENT case study 3
 CAGE is a independent advocacy group that campaigns for due process and the principle of the rule of law as a means of ending the War on Terror. It is a small organisation with a handful of staff, with access to no banking facilities and only a 3 month operating budget due to undue political pressure applied on it. Please see the following articles in the Telegraph, Open Democracy and Third Sector attesting to this:
- Please view our brochure which highlights our work: http://cageuk.org/publication/cage-brochure
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