Over the past month a major change in the Muslim socio-political landscape took place. The Guardian reported some shocking incidents which have taken place in Newham, with Muslims raising their concerns about the Council’s Quilliam connection.
The report notes that since former Quilliam Foundation director Ghaffar Hussain joined Newham Council as a PREVENT officer, Islamic practices have been targeted as the basis for intervention:
“Imams point out that earlier this year a school attempted to ban the wearing of the jilbab, a long and loose-fit coat or garment worn by Muslim women, and had to back down after appeals from parents. Another free school, with 200 Muslim students, closed down its prayer room – forcing pupils to pray on Friday in the local parks.”
Similar trends have taken place since the PREVENT duty in Birmingham, where schools have attempted to change or already have changed long established dress codes and Friday prayer arrangements.
In the context of Hussain, this is unsurprising; Maajid Nawaz of Quilliam has targeted traditional Islam as the focus of attack after Islamism, while David Cameron himself has placed deformist reformists alongside “moderate Muslim voices”. Usama Hasan, meanwhile, participated in the far-right/neoconservative-linked “Muslim Reform Movement”, whose Muslim-profiling, Quran-tearing, “mainstream moderate Muslim” Asra Nomani recently declared the hijab to be “Islamist” and called on Muslim women to abandon the headscarf. Of course, bringing the hijab into the discourse of “Islamism” in neoconservative circles also makes it “extremist”.
The Guardian article suggests that PREVENT has been involved in pulling a photographic exhibition looking at Islamophobia. Presumably, this was in a bid to inhibit “grievances”.
Fundamentally, however, the Muslim community of Newham have vocally denounced PREVENT in a statement for “spying on our children”, fostering “division and a breakdown of trust in schools and colleges”. One of the Imams noted that PREVENT was resulting in Islamic practices being targeted as a basis for PREVENT intervention:
“My biggest problem is that these are normal religious values and for many Muslims are considered obligations of the faith.”
Less than two weeks after the Newham rejection, arguably the most critical of London boroughs saw a similar renunciation of PREVENT: Waltham Forest. Waltham Forest has been a hotbed for counter-extremism social experimentation and spying. It was embroiled most recently with the secretive and controversial BRIT project, which operated as a clandestine, PREVENT-based Muslim profiling programme. The council for this borough has connections with the global counter-extremism industry directed by Zionists and neocons.
Waltham Forest Council of Mosques – representing 70,000 worshippers – has announced a boycott of PREVENT in a strongly-worded statement, noting the lack of transparency, they stated:
“The project itself and Prevent in general is an ill-conceived and flawed policy. It is racist, and overtly targets members of the Muslim faith. This has been demonstrated by organisations who are collecting data on referrals to the Channel programme. At the time of its implementation in the guise of the BRIT project, we gave no credence to it, or any sense of affiliation, for its roll out… we see the BRIT project as another tool being used (like the Prevent strategy) to spy and denigrate the Muslim community and cause distrust. We have no confidence in the BRIT project and the Prevent strategy overall.”
PREVENT Impact Continues
With Muslims increasingly becoming aware of the colonialist reality which PREVENT represents, it will only be a matter of time that the massive impact from these two brave Muslim communities reverberates across the UK and in the faces of neocons.
And the boycott must spread.
PREVENT continues to manifest a discriminatory focus on Muslims. The helpful infogram courtesy of PreventWatch UK aptly demonstrates this:
Greenleaf Primary School in Waltham Forest sent names of seven pupils thought to be at risk of radicalisation to the Council following the implementation of the BRIT project (this case was explicitly referred to as “fruits of the poisoned BRIT Project” in the WFCOM statement). The names of the children were leaked into the public domain, further rupturing relations between parents, schools and councils. The impact of this upon the children in the future remains uncertain, however, having such a negative assessment based upon spurious social engineering programmes will likely taint future possibilities of the children both in and out of school as they are stigmatised with the label of “radicalisation-vulnerable children”.
In yet another example of disgusting clandestine psychometric testing of children in schools, one mother in a Facebook post noted, that her 12 year old son was given homework asking him and his fellow pupils to research “using Google” the following queries:
“Suggest 3 possible solutions to solve the ISIS crisis”
“What are your thoughts on the recent Paris attacks?”
“Discuss your views on the Charlie Hebdo incident?”
The school pupil demographics are predominantly Muslim/Asian. As explained before, such questions are used to “set up” children and even the parents of pupils to determine and police thought, often resulting in radicalisation referrals to PREVENT officers.
An organisation of Islamic scholars, Wifaqul Ulama, used their Twitter account to highlight a further case of PREVENT censorship and possible resulting child abuse and intimidation. A thirteen year old questioned the teacher’s false claims that “schools for girls don’t exist” in Pakistan. That evening, the police visited the child’s home accusing the child of “showing signs of radicalisation”. Again, the impact on the child needs to be pondered over; in a society where he is taught about “British values” of human rights and democracy, hypocrisy is being demonstrated over what the child will see as frank discussion with the teacher. Furthermore, this inquisitional secular liberal piety will only serve to increase self-censorship – the notorious quality which existed in the East German Stasi state – leading to potential loss in confidence and trust.
The nature of PREVENT is also leading to teachers surfacing their anti-Islam bias. PreventWatch reports of a case where children were handed out questionnaires related to British values and extremism. One female pupil asked why such questionnaires were being handed out, and the teacher, in explaining his reasons, referred to different legal system such as Hindu and Christian law, and then proceeded to derogatorily call the Shari’ah “brutal”. When Ofsted has moved from being a value-free regulator to actively attacking Islamic orthodoxy under the pretence of British values, then teachers will have free reign to make their prejudiced views known.
West Midlands police Chief Constable Chris Sims recently stated the obvious and raised the issue of this culturalist assault on “religious conservatism” under the guise of extremism stating,
“I think there is a danger in tackling extremism that we get mixed up between religious conservatism and violent extremism and terrorism”.
This “danger” has already moved from possibility to reality and is further exasperated by the fact that this derogatory conflation only seems to be occurring with the Muslim minority.
Only a societal boycott of PREVENT will undo the securitisation of society imposed by neoconservatives. The Muslim communities of Newham and Waltham Forest have paved the way for the rest of the Muslim communities across the UK to reject the surveillance culture, the atmosphere of distrust and suspicion, and the child abuse resulting from the government’s counter-extremism strategy. With the increasing encroachment of the counter-extremism rhetoric into the private sphere, now is the time to act.