It has become routine now. Take a minor issue, concoct a dark, Muslim-linked conspiracy theory around it which reinforces far-right narratives of Muslim hoards taking over Europe any time soon, sell it to the public via the right-wing media which is connected to neocon think-tanks, and after thoroughly hyping the situation, push through a policy, which, to normally sane minds, would be unpalatably surreal. The prime example for this is the 2014 Trojan Hoax scenario and the resultant roll out of the PREVENT Duty. Since then, minor operations broadly using the above design, have seen Muslim governors banned and Muslim MPs smeared under bogus “entryism” allegations to form the basis of the new Counter-Extremism Strategy.
This pattern of neocon behaviour is trite but is still used.
The preceding weeks have seen trickling news around Muslims “prisoner radicalisation”. In keeping with the demonisation of Islam and the dehumanisation of Muslims, the theme of attributing every social ill to the Muslim remains buoyant.
After David Cameron announcing his plans of tackling extremism (i.e. orthodox Islam) in prisons, pegging Michael Gove to lead a review of prisons, and with Gove in turn manoeuvring in his muscle man Peter Clarke, we enter upon yet another vapid tactic. Of course, nothing dampens the impact of discrimination than getting a member of the target community to deceive its people into believing everything is going to be alright and that the proposed discriminatory policies are “needed”, adding fuel to the anti-Muslim fire.
The one filling these treacherous shoes is the brown validator, Ed Husain. Husain is the notorious founder of the Quilliam Foundation with his latest article on Muslim prisoners and crime. Whilst feeling confident to write on such a topic, Husain remains listed as a “senior advisor” and the “Director of Strategy” for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, Tony Blair’s pet organisation dedicated to globalising the dangerous CVE agenda. Blair established the Foundation in 2008, because “he believed that religious ideology and its impact on the world would be the biggest challenge facing the 21st Century.”
The irony of a person working for an extremist neocon and possible war criminal whilst discussing ways of stopping “extremists” spreading their hatred in prisons would be hysterical but for the dangerous influence Blair wields over David Cameron.
Propaganda for the State
Unfortunately, we know the government prefers to listen to such state-groomed individuals who sing from the neocon hymn sheet. And such reports are timed to coincide with particular events. In this case, Michael Gove’s review of “Islamist radicalisation” is due this month.
Cutting through his populist spiel in his latest contribution, Husain brings nothing new to the table, and merely bolsters what Cameron has already articulated in the context of prisons. Last month Cameron said,
“We have around 1,000 prisoners who have been identified as extremist or vulnerable to extremism… And we know, through intimidation, violence and grooming, some of these individuals are preying on the weak, forcing conversions to Islam and spreading their warped view of the world. We will not stand by and watch people being radicalised like this while they are in the care of the state.”
Of course, we have no empirical evidence to determine these one thousand prisoners: who classified them as vulnerable? What criteria was used? Were orthodox beliefs used as a factor to determine their vulnerability? These are questions which will be alluded to further below.
Additionally, Cameron floated the idea of moving Muslim terrorism convicts to an isolated prison, effectively creating a British Guantanamo.
Husain spends ten paragraphs reiterating the same in his own verbiage. For instance:
“Prison authorities should protect vulnerable non-Muslim prisoners by adopting a zero-tolerance attitude towards the brainwashing efforts of extremists. Where such measures do not work, Salafist Jihadists should be placed in separate units where they only bicker among themselves. Amid their own arguments, they often see the flaws of their ways. They do not possess the unquestioned truth — theirs is a man-made worldview full of holes.”
This is of course somewhat nonsensical. In the case of the IRA, separating off paramilitaries proved counter-productive with the UK government in 1984 adopting a position of non-segregation. Men like Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela, variously regarded as “radicals” and terrorists throughout their lives, were regularly isolated by the British and South African governments and even placed into solitary confinement. Despite this, within their own movements, they were seen as heroes and their movements grew.
Further, expert analysis on this issue indicates that such efforts are not even needed. In Professor Andrew Silke’s 2014 book on prisons and radicalisation, Colin Murray in his contribution on UK prisons, notes that,
“There is no discernible pressure from prison authorities for new powers over inmates to constrain radicalisation, and instead their attention has focused on the effective use of their existing powers.”
Husain, further reinforcing the government’s misdirected focus on religious ideology, buttresses his arguments, by arguing that “modern Jihadism” was born in the prisons of Egypt in the Sixties. This is a reference to Sayyid Qutb, a neocon favourite in the “Islamist” discourse on extremism. Husain conveniently omits that political factors – oppression by a Western-supported Egyptian government for, instance – which drove Qutb ultimately into a prison where he was tortured, and where he would author his exegesis of the Qur’an and pen Milestones.
Husain’s Endorsement of Targeted Interference in Religion
Indeed, as I have previously detailed, most of the attackers in the British context continue to cite Western foreign policy as the driver for their actions. Experts have moved away from the notion of religious ideology driving terrorism. In the words of Professor Andrew Silke, “[t]he evidence isn’t there to say ideology is the prime reason why people are becoming terrorists”. Such a focus for Professor Silke is a “mistake” which is only reserved for Muslims. For shysters like Husain though, the “rise of radicalism” is because of a “type” of Political Islam. From this thesis Husain jumps to an Islam which is not of the “Qutbi” variety:
“The brand of Islam that spreads in our universities, mosques, schools and prisons has an impact on our country’s security. Whether in prisons or elsewhere, we cannot turn a blind eye to Saudi-style Wahhabi intolerance.”
And with this descent into targeting of particular minorities within a minority, Husain struggles to let go of his old habit of supporting state-sanctioned targeting of whole Muslim communities, proffering his recipe for colonialist Muslim profiling:
“Our Government would be mistaken “to leave Islam to Muslims”.
“Instead, we must take sides in this battle of ideas within Islam.”
In other words, the neocon, secular government must interfere with religion and engineer an Islam plaint to Husain’s decrepit neoconservative world view, where even the likes of Muslim Council of Britain are “extremists”.
The Dynamic of Religion in Prisons and PREVENT
This simplistic, reductionist analysis is further compounded by the following statement:
“Gang violence and intimidation are yesterday’s problems: now, the new cool kids who provide protection in prisons are international terrorists and their networks.”
Gang violence and intimidation are in fact central to prisons. Just like religious ideology operates as an ex post facto output for preconceived ideas and drivers, gang violence and intimidation are elements which often determine the move of a prisoner into whichever community system provides sanctuary.
Murray, noting that the media regurgitates the examples of Richard Reid, and Muktar Ibrahim, as “supposedly” being radicalised in Feltham Young Offenders Institute, explains,
“Many such prisoners, however, convert or manifest faith as part of the ‘temporary and opportunistic alliances’ forged to create a support network during incarceration. In such circumstances, as Home Office Minister Crispin Blunt recognises, ‘[c]onversion to Islam does not equal radicalisation”. Instead, many offenders are in fact particularly susceptible to radicalisation immediately after their release from prison, when there is a ‘tendency for a family to reject the offender’.
In other words, prison survival trends adopt garbs of belief to survive. Of course, fettling with Islam makes neocons feel better about themselves and is easier than formulating policy off academic explanations which deviate from their hateful agenda.
With Gove and Clarke at the helm, the focus on PREVENT-based “extremism” will surely be absolute. Murray, however, warns that “the danger remains that an overzealous application of the Prevent Strategy will on serve to reinforce a perception amongst Muslim prisoners that they are under perpetual suspicion of constituting a terrorist threat.”
The neoconservative agenda, however, must be pursued. PREVENT must be enforced.
Quilliam as Consultants?
The Trojan Hoax fiasco necessitated teachers to be scapegoated. In the prison context, Ahtsham Ali, the Muslim advisor to National Offender Management Service, and the Muslim chaplains he has appointed are the scapegoats in yet another scheme to achieve the multiple neoconservative objectives of deforming Islam, purging orthodox Muslims from the public sector roles, and enforcing the PREVENT Strategy in every societal sphere by installing neocon-compliant actors. The Quilliam hand became evident when “extremism” was assessed by individuals associated to the organisation for various Ofsted reports.
My sources state, the terms “passive extremism” are being frequently used now in the context of prisoner radicalisation within official circles. These denote traditional Islamic practices and manifestations which Whitehall officials have declared would encourage “extremism”. Furthermore, in order to identify and assess this “extremism”, my sources add that Quilliam-connected individuals have been drafted in once more to judge Muslims.
All of sudden Husain’s piffling regurgitation of Cameron’s words on prison radicalisation make sense. It is marketing for a policy which will financially benefit his friends at his founding organisation.
More disconcertingly, the dubious Quilliam Foundation has influenced the prison/radicalisation policy outright. Quilliam researchers have concluded in the past years that prison radicalisation posed a serious threat to UK security. Murray, after analysing the research notes that there is no rigorous evidence to prove this conclusion, stating that few of the published accounts of convicted terrorists used in Quilliam reports “suggest overt radicalisation”. Most of the allusions that there is security threat are in fact “conjecture”. Despite this, the impact on UK Counter-Terrorism Policy (CONTEST) has been “profound”. He concludes,
“But their [Quilliam et al] warning of direct radicalisation by inmates convicted of terrorism or terrorism-related offences risks perpetuating a caricature of radicalisation which obscures the complexity of this issue.”
If Husain’s recent, academically desolate article is anything to go by, this risk has already materialised.
The story annoyingly, like a broken record, repeats itself.
Hypocrisy is something which this whole prisoner radicalisation hyperbole is riddled with. We have someone like Husain who has no moral scruples about working with someone as blood-stained as Tony Blair encouraging Muslim profiling and colonialist division of Islam. Meanwhile, the neocon government continues to operate on discredited, failed radicalisation theories, discriminatorily targeting the Muslim minority in their rhetoric and practical application of resultant policies. It promotes “British values” in prisons, whilst Muslim citizens are arrested and thrown into prison for months if not years without trial. Babar Ahmed’s case is perhaps the greatest stain upon the cardinal British value of the rule of law and a dark chapter in the history of Britain.
Yet the “extremism” that is neoconservatism, which has propelled this insane reality, remains at large in the corridors of power, pulling the strings of their puppets to the detriment of the Muslim minority.
 Murray, C., in Silke, A. ed. Prisons, Terrorism and Extremism, Critical Issues in Management, Radicalisation and Reform, Oxon: Routledge, 2014, p.22
 Ibid., p.29
 Ibid., p.19
 Ibid., p.30