The bill, which will see universities compelled to monitor rising “extremism” among students, is said to restrict free speech
Numerous Muslim student societies across the country are campaigning against the Home Secretary’s proposed counter terrorism and security bill.
The bill outlines new anti-terrorism measures to confront what it described as the greatest threat “before or since” the 9/11 attacks, and is said to be seriously restricting free speech.
Part five of the proposed bill includes plans to place a legal duty on educational institutions including universities, schools, NHS Trusts and even nurseries, to implement measures in order to monitor rising radicalism.
Home Secretary Theresa May has criticised the “complacency” of universities, stating that they were not taking the issue of radicalisation seriously enough.
May said: “They need to be prepared to stand up and say that organisations that are extreme or support extremism or have extremist speakers should not be part of their grouping.”
She said that the policy is aimed at helping “prevent people from being drawn into terrorism” and, “where organisations consistently fail, ministers will be able to issue directions to them—which will be enforceable by court order.”
The strategy also believed to have named 25 boroughs most at risk from Islamic extremism, including Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, areas of London and Bradford.
The bill, which stated that university staff will be expected to refer students at risk of being drawn into terrorism into external anti-radicalisation programmes, has been met with various challenges.
MPs and peers have warned that universities should be exempt from this bill, at the risk of restricting academic freedom of speech.
Parliament’s joint human rights committee, which came before the second reading of the bill in January, expressed concern about the implications for freedom of expression.
They said that the legal uncertainty around the term “extremism” will have “seriously inhibiting effect on bona fide academic debate” in universities.
The Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), has also suggested that “the proposed legislation is both unnecessary and ill-conceived” and calls on the government to “take appropriate steps to ensure that academic freedom remains uncompromised by an efforts to tackle extremism in the UK.”
This bill has increased significance since the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris, and in speaking to the Huffington Post UK, Vice-President of FOSIS, Ibrahim Ali, said: “I worry that, in light of recent events in Paris, politicians who would previously have made major amendments to the bill, are now being too hesitant to do so.”
He added: “In an environment where Muslim students already feel like they are under increased surveillance, the measures outlined in this bill will only serve to reinforce those concerns.”
Students across the country are also acting to raise awareness of these restrictions, and FOSIS have taken to twitter with the #studentnotsuspect campaign.
Societies at LSE, UCL, SOAS, Queen Mary’s, Cardiff and Kingston University last month submitted emergency motions to their Students’ Unions urging them to make a stand against the bill.
LSE’s student Islamic Society has been urging supporters to visit www.stopthebill.co.uk to sign a petition which has already gathered over 9000 signatures.