“Journalists need to check basic facts and ask simple questions about the identity and motivations of the people making these claims…”
So says Hannah Stuart of the Henry Jackson Society in Andrew Gilligan latest article attacking those critiquing the PREVENT Strategy. The irony could not be more profound.
It has been a while since I have given some space here on the blog to our favourite neocon propagandist, Andrew Gilligan. Perhaps it is because his role has been lately filled by David Daily Mail Cameron.
It seems the momentum against the civil-liberties violating, discriminatory PREVENT Strategy which has roused Muslims up and down the country to reject it outright, has unsettled some in the Home Office. RICU, its propaganda department has gone into over drive and the right-wing press have been all too happy implement the Henry Jackson Society’s spin bible for damage limiting the reputation of a failed policy.
He certainly delivered the trademark Gilligan goods: spin, distortion and unconvincing attempts to smear. His target this time is a relatively new organisation which has been documenting abuse cases resulting from PREVENT, Prevent Watch (PW).
Thus we begin with the typical HJS smear: associate with Mend/CAGE, the “terrorist-sympathisers”/”extremists”/”terror-apologists” – the epithets Gilligan gives to organisations which uphold the cardinal British value of rule of law and protect Muslims and civil society from neocon incursions. Perhaps Gilligan ought to write a piece about esteem British jurist Thomas Bingham too. The celebrated legist wrote a book expounding the principle of the rule of law in which he scathingly criticised Guantanamo Bay as an affront to the principle. He also led the law lords in holding that it was unlawful to detain foreign terror suspects without charge. Presumably he, along with other non-Muslim organisations like Reprieve that have supported organisations like CAGE as “vital” are also terror-apologists.
Given Gilligan’s propensity to utter complete lies, my sources contacted PW to ascertain some of the points. The thrust of the smear is that PW activists are “planting” stories whilst posing as “ordinary Muslims”. Presumably, this upsets Gilligan because this is what the government does through its propaganda department.
Eco-terrorisme Case and the Muslim Brotherhood Smear
Gilligan alleges that the mother of the child in the “eco-terrorisme” case is one such activist, and proceeds to whitewash the abuse suffered by the child by claiming that a legal claim raised by the mother is to be rejected by a court. Without knowledge of the nature of the claim, it is obvious that this does not negate the inquisitional experience of the child, who was left “scared and nervous” and “alarmed and extremely scared” by the treatment by school officials. This is typical Gilligan. Play down abuse suffered by Muslims as if they mean nothing.
More pertinently however, PW confirmed that the claim the “mother is an activist in the Prevent Watch campaign” is fabricated. She does not work for PW.
Further below in his piece, Gilligan adds that the mother is connected to the “Ennadha”, which he explains is the Tunisian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Laughably, whilst quick to point out the highly criticised, Gulf-sponsored “review” (Trojan horse?!) into the Muslim Brotherhood, Gilligan, fails to mention that he himself was one of the journalists being prostituted by UAE to be their mouthpiece. An investigative report revealed that the UAE paid a London-based public relations firm connected to an associate of David Cameron millions of pounds to lead attacks in the UK against Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other opponents of the Gulf state. Those connected to the PR firm who were hell-bent on portraying the Brotherhood as “extremists”, were passing information to Gilligan, who duly churned them out into his propaganda articles. He clearly has no problems being used and abused by “undemocratic” countries.
More perverse is the dehumanising allusions being drawn; does being “linked” to the Muslim Brotherhood somehow justify the abuse experienced by a child?
Allegations about Haras Ahmed
The claims around Haras Ahmed stretch Gilligan’s story-making abilities. The case Gilligan cites was another disaster for PREVENT and its proponents as it exposed express discrimination against the Muslim minority, with Muslim children controversially and deceptively subjected to radicalisation psychometric tests. I have followed this story since it was exposed by a think-tank and have commented on the undemocratic nature of the whole fiasco. The FOI requests which I now understand to be made by Ahmed were picked up by the think-tank and published in a report exposing the suppressive nature of PREVENT. At the time the FOI requests were made, PW did not even exist. It seems that Ahmed supported the work of PW after having experienced the disastrous consequences PREVENT manifests.
Terrorist House Twist
Gilligan then proceeds to use another piece of “evidence” to tar the credibility of PW. In another PREVENT child abuse case, a child was visited by Lancashire police after spelling terraced house as “terrorist” house. In a conspicuous sentence, Gilligan both negates and then opens the possibility of the case being connected to PREVENT:
“Police said the visit had nothing to do with Prevent, terrorism, or the spelling mistake and was, in fact, carried out because the child also alleged that he was the victim of a violent assault.”
The word “also” suggests that there was something to do with PREVENT, yet the opening sentence denies it. In any case, the response from PW was emphatic: the case is a prime example of PREVENT being discriminatory, confirming that PREVENT was involved somewhere in the process. This is backed up by the family’s assertions which are still present in the reports which Gilligan claims have been “corrected” (updated with additional information from police would be more accurate (e.g. see here) but this is Gilligan we are dealing with).
“Nothing to do with Prevent”
The piece then attacks certain cases on the website which Gilligan believes have nothing to do with Prevent. At this point, it is clear Gilligan is desperately clutching at straws. One has to simply go to the PW website to see the cases which are being cited and the purpose for which they have been logged to dismiss Gilligan’s petty efforts.
HH was put up because the lecturer and later a fellow student made references to her about joining ISIS and describing her as the “Islamic State” girl. The website notes:
“HH’s case displays the climate in which the implementation of PREVENT is taking place. Individuals are being targeted due to their apparent religious background. This will invariably lead to the over reporting of individuals to PREVENT based on prejudices and misconceptions.”
In other words, in an already bigoted atmosphere, PREVENT will serve as a catalyst for baseless reporting and such rhetoric is potentially detrimental not only to one’s future but also personal well-being. The case of Umar Farooq is a glaring example of this – a case Gilligan conveniently ignores.
SA, which Gilligan also downplays provides an example of PREVENT-based profiling of religious beliefs. It is well-established that teachers are setting up pupils to analyse their views as noted by the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson. Again the reasons for the citation of this case are on the website.
In the case of DF, Gilligan fails to highlight (again from the website) the dangerously counter-productive manner in which security policies are being employed:
“DF’s case reveals that there was no evidence of terrorist intent or criminal wrongdoing; a point supported by the fact that PREVENT officers had wanted her to work on de-radicalisation projects at the community level, yet she was still prosecuted. Her case also illustrates that PREVENT is being inappropriately used to collect intelligence on an individual, and then the individual, if they disagree to being mentored or to working in partnership with PREVENT, is then prosecuted for terrorism offences.”
PREVENT is being used as a coercive tool for intelligence gathering. Indeed, if DF was an “extremist”, questions are raised as to why PREVENT officers approached DF for intelligence gathering purposes in the first place.
Gilligan then proceeds to attack comments made by PW on Twitter, specifically taking issue with, “a child simply praying has now become an act that requires state surveillance and intervention.” After searching for the Tweet, I found that the Tweet was actually quoting an incident related by SOAS Islamic society, where a teacher was threatened by the head of the school with PREVENT for accommodating a child’s request through his father for prayers.
The National Union of Students (NUS) are also not spared as he attacks PW for praising their handbook explaining the “radicalisation indicators” as per the Channel vulnerability framework. The attack in itself is misleading; whilst not constituting a ground for “intervention” as Gilligan claims, they certainly constitute grounds for a possible referral.
Gilligan Justifies Profiling Muslims
After whitewashing PREVENT-related child abuse with comfort statements that “few real Prevent interventions are directly police led” and that “most incidents are resolved quickly and informally”, Gilligan justifies profiling:
“Almost all terrorist plots and attacks in Great Britain over the last ten years have involved Muslims, and all those who have joined Isil are Muslim. However, only 56 per cent of those referred for Channel interventions are Muslim.”
This echoes the sentiments expressed by the “extremist” Christian MPs and is gross violation of human rights norms and a justification for active discrimination against the Muslim minority. If we take estimates of 700 Muslims who have fought in Iraq and Syria (not for ISIS, because this figure is unknown), they represent 0.023% of the Muslim population (3 million), and 0.0011% of the total UK population (64.1 million), the stastic of “only” 56% of those referred being Muslim proves how grossly disproportionate PREVENT is. Indeed, the percentage becomes even smaller when one considers that half have already returned, and not all have gone to join ISIS but to topple the inhumane Assad regime.
In 2008, Gilligan’s propaganda outlet of choice reported that dissident republicans from Northern Ireland were engaged in suspicious activity “more than any other radical group in the UK including Islamic extremists”. December 2015 brought reports of an “upsurge” in dissident republican attacks, and warnings have been issued from the Mi5 about Irish republican terrorist groups who aspire to target the UK posing an “enduring threat”, which is “four times greater than figures suggest”. It is little wonder that Northern Irish MP Gavin Robinson raised the question as to why the counter-extremism strategy, which as it turns out is a counter-Islamic strategy, makes no mention of Irish extremists.
Gilligan, to support his piece, references Hannah Stuart of the hate-financed, democracy-undermining, pro-Israeli Henry Jackson Society. This alone is a reason to dismiss him and his claims. HJS published its spin bible to suppress PREVENT dissent, and the precipitating articles in right-wing papers with the start of the New Year curiously adopt the strategy highlighted therein. The perversion of neoconservative spin is aptly demonstrated where Stuart claims that PW and CAGE are “frightening and alienating Muslims with their campaign of lies”. Whilst presenting an interesting basis for an IPSO complaint under clause 1, the swathes of Muslims up and down the country furnish ample evidence against this claim as they, and those affected by PREVENT, rise up and resist a discriminatory policy.
The elephant in the room is the citation of a “researcher” working for a hate-financed organisation led by a person with abhorrent and “illiberal” views (Douglas Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board Murray), and which advocates war and the erosion of civil liberties through censorship strategies and support for unethical policies like PREVENT. Its executive director, Alan Mendoza, is implicated in criminal allegations involving “fraud, blackmail and related offences” and is connected to those linked to the bullying of a young Tory activist who went onto commit suicide.
Neoconservativism poses a civilizational threat to Britain: its supporters possess an appetite for endless war and belligerent foreign policies; they blindly cooperate with autocratic regimes, despots, murderers, and support terrorist states like Israel; actively undermine democracy, systematically erode the rule of law, human rights, and due process; institute fiscal policies which line the pocket of banksters and hedge fund managers as the national debt hole drills £1.6 billion pounds wide and the financial inequality gap continues to dilate. All of this contributes to the Straussian, fascism-based closed society nightmare which neocons regard as an ideal.
And yet Gilligan has absolutely no problems citing the “expertise” of an organisation whose weltanschauung is misery for the masses at the expense of the oligarchic few.
The attempted smears by Gilligan of organisations like PW, NUS, NUT and other upright individuals mentioned in the article* should be taken as evidence that the hard work of the people to fight off these 21st Century “Sus Laws” is working. Resorting to so much spin simply demonstrates the failing nature of defending the indefensible. The neoconservatives are only exemplifying their desperation to rescue a totalitarian policy by airing their views through discredited, discriminatory, anti-Muslim state propagandists.
* UPDATE: Another distortion: At a community response meeting to the Counter Extremism Bill and PREVENT Policy held on Wednesday 2rd February (7.00pm) in Walthamstow, Jahangir Mohammed confirmed, contrary to Andrew Gilligan’s assertion in his article, that he is “not a member or activist with CAGE”, and CAGE is one of the many organisations he has acted as a consultant for.