And so the assault on the gloriously arbitrary “British values” of human rights, democracy and rule of law continues with the unveiling of the new Counter Terrorism Bill by Theresa May the extremist. As a concerned Muslim I felt it necessary to write on this for the simple fact that the Muslim perspective has been ignored through much of the debate around this thus far. Much of the mainstream media have not uttered a single word on the disproportionate and shot-gun style targeting under PREVENT. Even the dismal “Guardian View” ignored the discriminatory treatment resulting from the sledge-hammer being wielded by the neocons through the presumptively flawed PREVENT strategy.
Before looking at the proposals briefly it is worth recognising that the neocons pushing these policy are driven by a “persuasion” which believes in using “noble lies” to steer the “vulgar masses” towards a policy which serves the interests of the neocons. If this means bludgeoning “principles” of rule of law and human rights through their “prudence” unashamedly in name of these very “principles”, then so be it.
Building on a Successful Strategy?
The proposals make the draconian, Nazi-esque PREVENT policy a statutory duty to “prevent people from being drawn into terrorism” with this duty being imposed on schools, colleges, prisons and local councils to help with this totalitarian surveillance programme. In the words of Arendt, totalitarian societies like Nazi Germany employed,
“a system of ubiquitous spying, where everybody may be a police agent and each individual feels himself under constant surveillance.”
I have already elucidated on the problems the PREVENT strategy has been causing. The breadth of definition of “extremism” and the ambiguity in its application will mean a continued increase of miscarriages of justice. The report on PREVENT by CAGE outlines some of the absurdities which have been witnessed. Young children being referred under the Channel deradicalisation programme for merely possessing CD’s of Sufi scholars, Muslim women being referred for merely increasing in their religiosity, donning the niqab and jilbab whilst their families have been harassed by officers, female deaf patients at hospitals being referred under Channel, with their laptop and phone confiscated for simply browsing online reports about Syria. The examples are shocking as they are despotic. On top of this, ACPO figures reveal that the Muslim minority continues to be disproportionately targeted by Channel. Between April 2012 and the end of March 2014, 56 percent of those referred for deradicalisation were Muslim. The Charity Commission, a partner agency of PREVENT, is also disproportionately targeting the Muslim minority.
In the Trojan Hoax affair, the schools targeted in Birmingham and smeared in the media were blatantly those with an overwhelmingly Muslim demographic. Aside from genuine issues of governance which can be easily found in non-Muslim majority schools, the desire to more accurately represent and cater for the needs of the Muslim pupils was interpreted and convoluted into an “Islamist plot”. The definitions used to determine extremism was that which is found in the PREVENT strategy. The policy is already being implemented discriminatorily with Christian and Jewish schools not being similarly labelled for the same contentions.
So when May reveals that the proposals are “building on a successful strategy”, let it be known that the only thing PREVENT has been successful in achieving is discrimination based upon the non-derogable right of holding a belief and disproportionately focussing on the Muslim minority exasperating as opposed to countering negative stereotypes. The fact that the Strategy continues to single out “Islamism” as a threat ignoring “Christianism”, and “Jewishism” (see also here) reinforces my point. At this juncture, it’s worth addressing a point I have seen regularly regurgitated to the effect that “well, its Muslims who are blowing up places here”. Firstly, this type of argument is a justification for discrimination, which flies in the face of liberal values of non-discrimination currently being imposed on children in schools. Secondly, it completely ignores the point as iterated by “terrorists” over the past years which directly points to Western foreign policy and economic exploitation as the cause of their anger. The west continues to extra-judicially bomb Muslim civilians to pieces without expecting repercussions and blaming the resulting grievance on theology. As Glen Greenwald sarcastically writes,
“Right: can you believe those primitive, irrational Muslims get angry when their countries are invaded, bombed and occupied and have dictators imposed on them rather than exuding gratitude toward the superior civilized people who do all that – all because of their weird, inscrutable religion that makes them dislike things such as foreign invasions, bombing campaigns and externally-imposed tyrants?”
University and Extremist Speakers
The Home Secretary is to be given increased powers to ban extremist speakers from campuses. Universities will need to show they have in place policies to deal with “extremist speakers”. As noted many times on this blog, the definition of extremism has entailed the holding and expressing of traditional, mainstream Islamic viewpoints on the khilafa, sex separation, music and homosexuality. People like Maajid Nawaz of Quilliam regard “Islamism” as a form of extremism, which is ambiguously defined in the PREVENT strategy as a Muslim who “deem[s] Western intervention in Muslim-majority countries as a ‘war on Islam’, creating a narrative of ‘them’ and ‘us’. They seek to impose a global Islamic state governed by their interpretation of Shari’ah as state law, rejecting liberal values such as democracy, the rule of law and equality”. Again the breadth of this definition is such that it can entail traditional mainstream Islamic beliefs as well as political dissent.
Thus as happened at Sir John Cass’s Foundation and Redcoat School, sanctions will be imposed for merely listening to an orator who holds Islamic beliefs, even though he may not even address any of the above issues in the lecture referenced. The elasticity of definitions means it can be stretched to encompass most mainstream Muslims. Yesterday’s Al-Muhajiroun member is now being equated to Sufis who hold classical beliefs. Yesterday’s “moderate”, as per the first version of the PREVENT strategy under Labour, has become today’s extremist resulting in what is tantamount to discrimination on the basis of religious belief: an Islamic scholar or speaker can no longer articulate an opinion at a venue where opinions are supposed to be debated and discussed.
As alluded to earlier, “extremism” has also been extended to political viewpoints. As per Peter Clarke’s report into the false Trojan Hoax allegations, posting of anti-Israel, anti-American and anti-Western news links was regarded as “extremism” (p.72). In 1964, Malcolm X eloquently debated a Conservative, rather fittingly, on the topic of extremism at the Oxford Union. Malcolm X, labelled a militant, a radical and definitely an extremist using the PREVENT definition (his views on Israel were blunt to say the least), would simply not have been able speak were his timeless words uttered at the Union today. Being categorised as an extremist, Theresa May would relish in ordering a ban on a black man fighting for equality. As if the worst could not be increased upon, the proposals also target organisations who “repeatedly invite extremist speakers” – British McCarthyism reaches its zenith.
Excluding Britons Suspected of Fight Abroad
Other powers of abuse would include powers to exclude from the UK British citizens suspected of involvement in terrorism-related activity abroad. Their travel documents will be cancelled and their names placed on no-fly lists for up to two years.
Note that this “terror activity” has yet to be tested in court. When it was to be tested in the case of Moazzam Begg, the charges against him were curiously dropped before seeing trial. The inherent incoherence in defining terrorism means Britons fighting abroad for the Kurds, which inevitably involves indirect support of proscribed terrorist group, PKK is “different” for David Cameron. Fighting to over throw a dictatorship whose brutality has far exceeded that of ISIS’ though, is most likely terrorism.
Crucially, the crux is that the burden of proof required is that of merely a “suspicion”. This suspicion will never even be tested in a court of law, it would seem, jeopardising (again) the “British values” of rule of law. And we are not talking about those hated human beings that are “immigrants”. We are talking about British citizens, born and bred in the UK. Those who have gone to fight for humanitarian causes will thus be left in limbo, as they are now, even when there is no credible evidence of them posing a threat.
Such irrational proposals ignore the motivations, actions and background of returning fighters as well as other options which may prove more effective in dealing with them (such as rehabilitation).
Theresa May highlighted some statistics to soften the blow of the tearing up of democratic principles, rule of law and due process. She said there had been 753 counter-terrorism arrests, 212 people charged, 148 convicted, and 138 now in prison since May 2010.
Prima facie it would seem that perhaps more measures are needed to protect the security of Britain. However the argument can be flipped on its head too – this highlights the failure of the PREVENT strategy and its Channel deradicalisation programme. Clearly it isn’t working.
A superficial analysis of the stats also highlights that of the 753 counter-terrorism arrests, less than 20 percent are actually convicted, which means 80% are not. Only 6 percent were in fact convicted on terrorism charges. A little-discussed issue also contributes to the increased perceived threat. The possibility of entrapment is being ignored. This is where naïve or easily exploitable individuals are duped into committing an act which would be deemed terror-offence-worthy by police and/or security services. The common tactic which has been exposed across the pond, (where the FBI actively trick individuals and encourage terrorism to secure arrests), leads to manufacturing terror threats.
More significantly though, lawyers are not challenging the assumptions of terrorism, encouraging defendants instead to plead guilty as an easy way out (the sentence is reduced if a guilty plea is secured). Human rights organisation CAGE notes that,
“Defendants often feel that they have no chance to receive a fair trial due to the islamophobic climate.”
The possibility of a terrorist attack is not being denied here. What is being highlighted is that metrics are being thrown around without proper analysis to inflate the perceived threat which, whatever level it was at before has only increased with Britain’s involvement in Iraq as inadvertently attested to be David Cameron and Boris Johnson himself.
It is little wonder that leading human rights organisations like CAGE, Amnesty International and Liberty have slammed Theresa May’s proposals. The Muslim minority has largely been the guinea pigs of these “strategies” and “programmes”. It needs to be made loud and clear: these proposals disproportionately target the Muslim minority, are a source for fuelling resentment and is very possibly a causal factor of radicalisation. This on top of the fact that the government refuses to accept its own wrongs as contributory factors to potential backlash sets up the counter-terror strategy to fail. Foreign policy has been a primary factor whilst the backbone of the PREVENT policy, the empirically-wanting conveyor-belt theory is pedalled as truth and applied discriminately to the Muslim minority which is now resulting in anyone believing in the integrals of the Islamic belief, much like the yellow badges that Jews were made to wear during Nazi Germany, publically castigated and discriminated against through the labelling of “extremism”.
The PREVENT policy, and those proposals hanging off it are an unremitting assault on principles of human rights and rule of law. It must be scrapped.