Just a week after Mohamed Ahmed was arrested for making a homemade clock, a postgraduate student of counter-terrorism was falsely accused of being a terrorist after an official at Staffordshire University had spotted him reading a textbook entitled Terrorism Studies in the college library.
Mohammed Umar Farooq, who was enrolled in the terrorism, crime and global security master’s program, told the Guardian that in March, an official approached him in the library and grilled him about his views on homosexuality, the Islamic State and al Qaeda. He later discovered that he had been talking to the campus “complaints officer” who referred his “mostly academic” answers to security for “red flags.”
Farooq was stunned and so nervous that he retained the services of a lawyer to ensure he was not still being investigated and that he didn’t end up on any terror lists. He also was too nervous to complete the course for which he’d been reading the book – but that he felt he had to make a statement about what had happened.
“The implications if I did not challenge this could be serious for me. I could go on a police list, I could be investigated without my knowledge. This could happen to any young Muslim lad. I had to fight back,” Farooq said.
After three months of investigation into Farooq’s case, Staffordshire University admitted fault and apologised to the 33-year-old, saying it was responding to a “very broad duty … to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”.
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Staffordshire added that the official who had questioned Farooq had only had a few hours of training in December 2013. The university also warned that making a distinction between the “intellectual pursuit of radical ideas and radicalisation itself” was a significant challenge. When contacted, Noel Morrison, academic registrar and director of student experience at Staffordshire University, said that he was “very sorry that a misjudged situation has impacted on this student. “We do, however, have the right policies and procedures in place and are confident that the situation was investigated and concluded appropriately.”
“We have apologised to Mr Farooq and are in dialogue with him on how we can support him to continue his studies with us. In light of recent legislation, we are ensuring all staff at the university have the right guidance and training.”
Again this incident let us think: is this happened only because the student was Muslim?