We want to address recent media reports about two events held by KCLSU student groups
Response to recent media reports
We want to address recent media reports about two events held by KCLSU student groups: ‘Students Not Suspects’ on October 14 2015 and ‘Is It A Crime To Care?’ on November 19 2015.
· CAGE were not involved in the organisation of either event and no money was paid to speakers. ‘Students Not Suspects’ was organised by a student group alongside members of the NUS Executive Team and ‘Is It A Crime To Care?’ was also organised by a student group. Both these events went ahead following our robust risk assessment, as is the case with all 1,000+ events organised each year by our 300+ student groups.
We were informed about both events more than a month in advance, and both KCLSU and King’s College London undertook a series of checks to ensure that the events took place within the law and that our students would be safe. Details of the University’s assessments were provided to HEFCE and no issues were raised.
· The Daily Mail states that Moazzam Begg “appeared to encourage sympathy for jihadi groups” referring to proscribed group Al Nusra.
The quote highlighted in the Daily Mail was in relation to the point that no true Muslim could support Islamic State because Islamic State’s largest number of victims are their local Muslim neighbours. Referencing of a proscribed group such as Al Nusra is not the same as inviting support or sympathy for them. Moazzam Begg’s comments on the difference in reporting of deaths in the Western world compared to deaths in other regions mirror those of a number of media commentators.
We take all our legal obligations, including those of the Terrorism Act 2000 very seriously. The Government defines extremism as: “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.” No such views were voiced at these events, and had they been, the event would have been stopped.
· Using quotes taken out of context, the Daily Mail claims that students were being encouraged to break the law. Where Moazzam Begg questioned whether some forms of ‘extremism’ or ‘radicalisation’ were ‘bad things’, he was referencing the launch of the Suffragettes film that had opened at the time of the event.
It’s worth noting that the focus of ‘Is It A Crime To Care?’ was on how un-Islamic violence is, and that at the ‘Students Not Suspects’ event, Moazzam Begg said explicitly to the audience: “We all want to stop anybody being violent to anybody else whether here or abroad.”
From the KCLSU Officer Team
As an Officer Team we’re concerned that reporting like this is an attempt to undermine freedom of speech on our campuses and demonise the Muslim community. Speakers have been quoted out of context and reports have ignored the harmful effects of Prevent and the valid discussion that surrounds this. If these discussions can’t take place at university, where can they take place?
We’re proud of the fact our student groups are free to organise events where others can learn, debate and challenge opinions. Sometimes these events challenge the status quo or critique government policy, and we will continue to support our students’ right to do this whilst ensuring that they are safe and within the law. Anyone who attended the events in question knows that nothing ‘extremist’ or against the law took place.
We have always taken active steps to keep our membership safe and we wish to put on record our agreement with the NUS President that implementation of the counter-terrorism legislation could be counterproductive in preventing violent extremism, on campus and in wider society. In fact we think the legislation is harmful in that it curbs academic freedom and disproportionately targets our Muslim and BME communities.
We would also like to express solidarity and support for those targeted personally in the reports, including the NUS Vice President for Welfare, Shelly Asquith. Shelly continues to work incredibly hard for the benefit of students across the country and we condemn the Daily Mail’s attempts to smear her.
If you have any queries about this statement, please contact [email protected].