The sinking tanker that is the PREVENT Strategy seems to be sinking faster with a further series of setbacks. And as the conveyor-belt theory crew from Quilliam and the Henry Jackson Society, propagandists from establishment media and smearists à la Harry’s Place go into overdrive to wrest the inevitable, the tanker keeps on losing its ballast.
It was meant to be plain sailing, it seems. The “Jihadi John” unveiling would have provided a convenient pretext to introduce further exclusionary and discriminatory measures: a Londoner radicalised presumably by hate-preachers who went onto become the most hated-man on earth. The measures have been introduced as conveniently “leaked” to the anti-Muslim government mouthpiece Andrew Gilligan, with the details being published in the Telegraph. The PREVENT surveillance programme has now been extended to job centres, there is a call for an “independent review” of Sharia courts, as Jewish Beth Din courts remain untouched, a ban on “radicals” working unsupervised with children for fear of brainwashing, and a raft of other measures to “get tough” in enforcing radical nationalism that is the neoconservative antidote to liberal laxity: “British values”.
Of course, Jihadi John would have been the perfect narrative for the above set of Stasi measures, but for a CAGE-shaped rock shearing the underside of the PREVENT tanker. Since then, it hasn’t been a stable ride. CAGE’s position has practically demonstrated the inefficacy of the PREVENT Strategy and in doing so, it has proven the academic deconstruction of PREVENT.
Since then, PREVENT has been criticised from different angles. Aminul Hoque, a lecturer and author on British Islamic identity at the University of London said it has increased the “us and them” thinking and that,
“As a strategy, as a government policy document, it has not worked. The irony is that it has become counter-productive.”
Dr Matthew Wilkinson, director of the think-tank Curriculum for Cohesion, also added that it has been “largely unsuccessful” at affecting “hearts and minds”.
Thereafter, Dal Babu, a chief superintendent until 2013, went onto clarify that Muslims did not trust PREVENT and saw it as form of spying. In his words, it had become a “toxic brand”. “Toxic theology” would perhaps be more pertinent, especially when one fully grasps the pseudo-civic religion it seeks to carve. The fact that a senior-ranking former police officer has said what has been on the minds of many, albeit in a circumambulatory way, is revealing.
Even John Prescott decided to contribute to common sense:
“He [Tony Blair] should put a white coat on with a red cross and let’s start the bloody crusades again… When I hear people talking about how people are radicalised, young Muslims. I’ll tell you how they are radicalised… Every time they watch the television where their families are worried, their kids are being killed or murdered and rockets, you know, firing on all these people, that’s what radicalises them.”
In this period, the Joint Muslim Community statement condemning the government’s scapegoating has also rattled some cages. This isn’t a simple case of “extremists” complaining. As I write, there are 239 Islamic scholars, academics, organisations from diverse backgrounds and even non-Muslim signatories to the statement. If anything it, it represents the manifestation of broad spread, negative government-targeting the Muslim minority is experiencing and the rejection of state-interference with Islam, which the PREVENT form of counter-extremism so aggressively advocates.
The propaganda aimed at discrediting these challenges to the government’s strategies, has been relentless. CAGE, which arguably started the ball rolling, has been bearing the brunt of a second wave of smears.
Recently, the Mail on Sunday’s Abul Taher sought to implicate Moazzam Begg, the outreach director for CAGE, in the training of Mohammed Emwazi. It was akin to reading a young Andrew Gilligan’s hatchet-job. I had intended to write a detailed critique, however a video dissecting the insanity has been produced by Asghar Bukhari and Raza Nadim. It is certainly warrants a watch (see here).
It is worth noting the extent to which the authorities are expending their efforts in discrediting CAGE. It seems like RICU has been circumvented with security services/authorities upping their propaganda directly through cheap hacks. The “uncovered evidence”, the smoking gun is a photo, which was used in the trial against Begg, and which “definitely puts Begg in Syria”. The only problem is that Begg had disclosed his activities to the Mi5, alongside lawyers, before he left for Syria. In short, they knew where he was going and what he was doing. The photo, in other words, was a piece of evidence which was used in a case which collapsed in light of further vindicating evidence provided by the Mi5. A brilliant starting point I must say.
Other key phrases in Abul Taher’s PhD-level propaganda are “the possibility of a connection”, “suggests an overlap”, and “likely”.
It may be the case that security services are actively disseminating disinformation to continue the smearathon against those exposing their malpractices. We can see this due to the fact that the source which gave the information does not wish to be named and the evidence submitted in court had never been seen until now. This “suggests an overlap” between the existence of a previously unseen photo of Begg, Counter-Terror police who are “likely” to have previously held the photo and Abul Taher, an opportunist hack, who works for a paper known to disseminate anti-Muslim bigotry and defending the neoconservative establishment. The “possibility of a connection” is incontrovertible! Tenuous doesn’t even begin to describe the Daily Fail diatribe.
RUSI’s Rafaello Pantucci demands that Begg should reveal what interactions he had with the camps in Syria. Neocon Alexander Carlile adds to the chorus by hoping that Begg makes “full disclosure” of his activities. Perhaps Pantucci and Carlile should ask the security services. They seem to be drip-feeding “evidence” to journalists which has already been thrashed out and subsequently dismissed by the CPS.
The policies of the neoconservative government have come under fire from varying angles and will continue to hit icebergs as the authoritarianism inherent within it continue to get exposed. The fact that the arguments and concerns raised by CAGE, or the academic analysis presented by professors and experts which undermine PREVENT, still have not been engaged highlights the difficulty the government is experiencing in defending the indefensible. When this happens, the only recourse left to manage the perceptions of a failing counter-terror strategy is to use age-old tactics of smear and propaganda, attacking not the arguments, but the people making them. The Daily Fail piece by Abul Taher is a sorry, desperate example of this.