The story of PREVENT has now become routine. Stifling debate. Chilling impact on freedom of expression. Self-censorship. An affront to human rights. Plain unlawful. These are common descriptors and phrases which come to mind when talking about PREVENT.
Some of these were repeated in yesterday’s evidence submission to parliament’s joint select committee on human rights.
If we recall, the Daily Mail adopted a neoconservative strategy to categorise opposition to PREVENT as “extremism”, and smeared universities for not implementing the PREVENT duty for not ensuring an “opposing view” supporting PREVENT. It seemed like PREVENT is so embedded in government now that the need to give both sides of PREVENT – the non-neocon and the insane neocon – had been mandated. Thus, on the one side sat David Anderson QC, and the other Alexander Carlile.
Teachers “Watching their backs”
Anderson raised the precarious situation teachers had now been placed into, where they are too busy “watching their backs” rather than nurturing young minds and encouraging debate and discussion. Moreover, PREVENT was also being used in vendetta cases where one teacher is accusing another of some nefarious “extremist” activity. Schools, fearing Michael Wilshaw’s despotism, and a special measures rating, are only too willing to take firm action.
Also highlighted was the self-censoring impact of PREVENT among Muslims:
“[Muslim parents] …don’t like talking about these things in the home because if the subject comes up and the child goes into school the next day and perhaps gives an inaccurate or colourful account of what [was said], then some half-trained teacher may make a Prevent referral and the whole family would be in trouble”.
This is but the natural reaction to totalitarian policies. In the beginning of last year, I drew parallels with the PREVENT policy, and what occurred under the German Stasi regime. The Stasi, like PREVENT, was one of the largest surveillance operations conducted by the public:
“Schools, hospitals and most public services were extensively infiltrated. The pervasion was such that “many a conversation was subjected to a form of self-imposed censorship in the belief that it was being furtively recorded and analysed,” – a situation which Muslims can relate to as they struggle to determine which statement or action is classed by neocons as “extremist”. This point also demonstrates the fallaciousness of the PREVENT strategy.”
The human rights committee should consider the validity of the policy especially when parallels can be draw between it and a totalitarian policy from the cold war era.
Carlile and Regulation of Madrassas
Carlile’s submission was plain discriminatory. Carlile told the committee that he wanted to see regulation and inspections of private after-school madrassas where children are taught to recite the Qur’an:
“I believe there are child protection issues that need to be addressed”.
Are there no child protection issues in Yeshivas? Or Christian Sunday Schools? Given the context of the submission was the PREVENT policy, it is plausible that the “child protection issue” Carlile speaks of relates to possible influence of “extremism”. In that case, given the resistance towards the PREVENT strategy from Christian and Jewish quarters, there is even greater likelihood of “child protection issues” existing among these two religious groups. In fact, given Carlile’s religious heritage, his attention should be drawn to a government submission on independent Jewish schools, which states:
“many boys will stop secular studies at the age of 13/14 and start attending ‘yeshivas’ where the curriculum is solely religious. Most yeshivas are not registered as independent schools and are therefore operating illegally and without the most basic health, safety and child welfare checks. We understand that boys from abroad may attend yeshivas here on some kind of boarding basis – this is also completely unregulated.”
Despite this glaring problem in the Jewish community, Carlile only sought to highlight obscure “child protection issues” in the context of madrassas.
A Neocon Script
This is, however, per neocon script and fully in concert with the thinking of Carlile’s circle of friends. As highlighted in a previous blog, Carlile is linked to a research centre which enjoys close relationships with corporate security and arms companies, and has contributed to reports written by the bigoted fascist neocon Douglas Murray and published by the hate-financed, neoconservative Henry Jackson Society. He has even been endorsed by the Quilliam Foundation. The man has defended the widely reviled and highly “illiberal” control orders and supported counter terror laws and policies which have eroded civil liberties for all in Britain.
In fact, his “illiberal” antics were too much for the editor for of the Liberal Democrat Voice, Caron Lindsay. Noting he had “championed illiberal measures” by slipping in the Snoopers Charters into the amendments for the then Counter Terrorism and Security Bill she called on Lib Dems to “actively campaign for him to go”.
Now ponder over the fact that someone like Carlile is giving evidence to the joint select committee on human rights…