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Our student union was supposed to protect us, not spy on us

reposted from Liberal Conspiracy | 22.06.2012 13:16 | Anti-racism | Policing | Repression | Birmingham

by Sacha Hassan

reposted from Liberal Conspiracy

As a young Muslim student I’ve been increasing aware of intimidation and harassment of British Muslims by the police seemingly for no other reason than our shared religion.

However, I’m now waking up to the cold reality that my student union, the organisation that I thought was fighting for me to end this harassment, has instead been helping the government program which is spying on me.

They have been handing over details of Muslim students’ political activities to the police to assess the “security risk.” Apparently they are a “sector leader” in engaging with the controversial Prevent programme.

Thanks to other Muslim students organising and putting up a great fight, our Student Union Council recently passed a motion to stop working with the government’s Prevent programme. We had the same success story at the NUS national conference this year where a similar policy motion was also passed.

However, these victories are not reason to relax but for Muslim students to become more involved in their universities and student unions than ever before.

It wasn’t until last Friday, two days after the successful end of a large cross campus campaign to boycott Prevent, that an ex-trustee released the union’s secret engagement policy with Prevent and anti-terrorism police.

If the “the biggest spying programme in Britain in modern times” was able to go on behind closed doors for so long, what else could be going on?

One of the main concerns of the Prevent strategists and those who work with them is that Muslim students are vulnerable to “radicalisation” if they are depressed or isolated. Even by this warped logic, surely the best way to help these students isn’t to spy on them, but to tackle head on the reasons why they feel like this.

Some Muslims find it difficult to “integrate” as many do not drink or party, particularly during freshers week, which is a critical period for settling in. Many Muslims I know choose to stay indoors whilst everyone else goes to the SU bar. Does that make them ‘vulnerable’?

As a global institution in a city with the largest Muslim community in the country, the University of Birmingham needs to defend its students, not spy on them for the state.

Sacha Hassan is the Ethnic Minorities Officer at Birmingham University

reposted from Liberal Conspiracy
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