How – consistent with democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and the preservation of cosmopolitan community cohesion and public confidence in law and its enforcement – should the UK respond to the threat posed by terrorism and, in particular, how should it seek to prevent people, especially vulnerable young people, from being enticed into it? In answering these questions, this paper examines the Counter-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2015 (CTCSA), which brings these issues into sharp focus, and the criticisms it has received. These include that it constitutes a thinly-veiled form of spying and intelligence-gathering driven by official Islamophobia and directed at harmless, law-abiding Muslim communities, which legitimizes Islamophobia in society at large, violates the rights to privacy and freedom of expression, has a chilling effect on public debate and that, in the higher education context, seriously threatens academic freedom, stifles campus activism, requires staff to engage in racial profiling, and jeopardizes safe and supportive learning environments. We argue instead that terrorism poses a clear, serious, and prevalent threat to national security, and that institutions of further and higher education cannot be exempt from contributing to preventing young people and others from being drawn into it because this is both a universal democratic obligation and the battle of ideas is a key arena of conflict in the struggle against it. In our view, the Prevent counter-terrorism strategy and the CTCSA, while not unproblematic, do not inherently conflict with democracy, human rights, or the rule of law - although their implementation might - and that the most appropriate response to them lies in constructive engagement rather than in denunciation or boycott.
|Published - 10 Nov 2016