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26th September 2015

Staffordshire apologise to student accused under Prevent strategy

Mohammed Farooq was quizzed after being seen reading a textbook on terrorism. The university have flagged up the difficulties with implementing Prevent

A Master’s student from Staffordshire University was accused of being a terrorist after being spotted reading a textbook on terrorism in the university library.

33-year-old Mohammed Umar Farooq was studying towards a Master’s in Terrorism, Crime, and Global Security when he was approached by an official in March who questioned him on this thoughts about IS, Al-Qaeda, and persecution of homosexuals.

Farooq was under the impression he was being asked questions by a fellow student, but the official reported him to university security because his answers “raised too many red flags.”

“I could not believe it,” he said. “I was reading an academic textbook and minding my own business. At first I thought I’d just laugh it off as a joke.” He says his answers were mostly academic and he emphasised that he opposed extremist views.

He dropped out of the course as he felt unsettled and worried, and challenged the claims with the help of a lawyer. After three months of investigation, the university have apologised and admitted their mistake.

“We have apologized to Mr. Farooq and are in dialogue with him on how we can support him to continue his studies with us,” they said in a statement. “In light of recent legislation, we are ensuring all staff at the university have the right guidance and training.”

They acknowledged it was a result of the difficulties of implementing the government’s Prevent strategy, aimed at countering radicalisation on campus.

The university said its guidance “[contained] insufficient detail to provide clear practical direction in an environment such as the university’s.”

“I believe it is absolutely unacceptable for individuals or groups of students to be targeted because of their race, religion or mental health conditions,” said President of the NUS, Megan Dunn.

“I have consistently raised several serious concerns over the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act and Prevent.

“Students must feel free to learn, explore their politics and campaign on social justice issues while at university.”

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