Do we choose between security or rights?

In reaction to media frenzy on the radicalisation of individual (Jihadi John), this week Cameron has outlined his extremism PREVENT strategy, but not without much scrutiny from the public and the press.

In short, the government aims to end what it calls ‘entryism’, defined by the Home Office as ‘extremist individuals, groups and organisations consciously seeking to gain positions of influence to better enable them to promote their own extremist agendas’.

To do this the government will be conducting a full review on all public institutions over the next year, both to identify extremists already in place and to develop safeguards against ‘entryism’. The main goal of this strategy, supposedly, is to reduce the risk of terrorism and to keep society safe from extremism.

The main debate around the PREVENT policies boils down to whether we value freedom of speech first, or the security of the individual. Is it right for the government to limit what we can say to one another for the sake of – maybe – reducing the possibility of violence and terrorism, or is this part of a huge conspiracy whereby the government aims to squeeze us of our fundamental human rights?

This debate can be brought to our University where ‘extremist’ and ‘fundamentalist’ speakers such as the BNP have been banned from speaking on campus- a concept that seems utterly absurd.

At university you are provided the opportunity to live, work, and learn with people from all walks of life with a whole range of differing views and opinions to offer. One of the reasons people go to uni is to ‘grow up’ and escape the clutches of their parents influence. It is also at this time where we are considered mature enough to make decisions for ourselves.

The University has the ability to provide these people an academic forum where they can be challenged, questioned, and debated on their beliefs. We as a student body are more than capable of carrying this out to further understand the rationale behind their thinking and the wider social issues that also need to be combatted as a result.

As adults we can look at the views and opinions that people share with us and, using our own reasoning, decide whether or not we agree with those opinions and views – we’re not all going to join ISIS, but maybe we should be provided the option to make that decision for ourselves.

We should not fall for the scare- mongering from the government, we must take the time to understand our peers who are sitting at the other end of the table and invite them over, not to adopt their views necessarily, but understand where they are coming from.

Policies such as PREVENT should not stand in our way of reasonable debate and discussion.

Original pre-edited published by Johnny Brighton

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