One of Scotland’s largest further education institutes has dropped the government’s controversial counter-terrorism Prevent programme from its staff training.
Edinburgh College finalised the decision after the college branch of the Education Institute Scotland (EIS) threatened to boycott Prevent training.
The college educates approximately 20,000 students across 4 campuses in the Scottish capital and Lothians.
Penny Gower, EIS learning rep/branch secretary, told staff on Wednesday: “In June, Edinburgh college EIS members at meetings on the four campuses voted to boycott Prevent training, following EIS and EIS-FELA national opposition to Prevent. The latter seeks to turn lecturers into informers on their colleagues, and students into suspects.
“EIS branch officials (Donny Gluckstein and myself) met with the college BSafe working group today, and have been assured that Thursday’s training session is not a form of Prevent training for staff. Furthermore, the group was receptive to requests to remove references to Prevent, and the subconscious targeting of particular ethnic minorities has been removed from the case studies. The meeting was an impressive example of partnership working, where all sides were amenable to dialogue, and consensus was reached. There was input from ECSA and Unison too.”
The Prevent strategy defines extremism as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values”. this vague definition along with its requirement to report cases of “non-violent extremism” has led to widespread criticism.
In December last year, Richard Haley of Scotland Against Criminalising Communities, and Abdel Choudhury of the London based Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) described the counter-terrorism programme as “state sponsored Islamophobia”.
With school pupils being suspected of terrorist involvement because of the misspelling of words, and other cases of innocuous behaviour being deemed suspicious, the UN Special Rapporteur, Maina Kai, said earlier this year that Prevent has “created unease and uncertainty about what can legitimately be discussed in public” and was “stigmatising and alienating segments of the population”.
Last week, Scottish human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar spoke of the need to develop an alternative counter-terrorism programme. He told Scottish newspaper The Herald: “We need to be able to tackle the reasons why young people are attracted to a perverted from of Islam.
“The Prevent strategy is not working and for many people it has a huge flag above its head saying don’t cooperate with us.
“We desperately need an alternative strategy to deal with the radicalisation of young people that involves the community, but at the moment there is no strategy.”
Anwar added: “There has to be something for engaging with those young people that have come back from Syria and are disillusioned.
“We have to get out someone who was a bride or who fought and get them to speak in schools and the communities about what the reality of life is like with Isis.”