The Home Affairs Select Committee report into radicalisation has rightly recognised the toxicity of PREVENT. Yet, instead of scrapping the failed policy, it only proposes a rebranded version of it, named ENGAGE. This programme seeks to implicate community organisations in order to gain a veneer of credibility, while the underpinning premises of PREVENT are left firmly intact.
It is an attempt to force the Muslim community to take ownership of the problem of political violence, while at the same time reinforcing the good Muslim, bad Muslim dichotomy, with the government’s overarching narrative as the determining factor. Ironically, the report refers to and quotes non-independent organisations who are state sponsored as outlined in our report “We are Completely Independent”, and gives them a semblance of legitimacy.
Underpinning flawed theories remain the same
There is no attempt to engage and seriously question the science behind counter extremism, as CAGE urged in its letter to Keith Vaz, dated 20th November 2015. ERG22+, a programme formulated with colluding psychiatrists and that underpins the entire counter-terrorism strategy, escapes scrutiny and remains a mystery.
The whole notion of identifying suspects using “radicalisation factors”, was sharply critiqued by eminent US psychologists who concluded “We do not read minds, and we know that none of us can predict the future.” The lack of acknowledgement of the opaque scientific basis behind the prevailing radicalisation theory, is a glaring omission in the report.
Despite questionable foundations, and the fact that the report recognises the problems of defining “extremism”, it proceeds to make a number of recommendations which broaden the surveillance apparatus and empower the upcoming Counter Extremism and Safeguarding Bill. This includes recommendations to considerably broaden the powers of social media and internet companies and even “smaller community organisations” to identify, monitor and take down content deemed to be “extremist”.
Certain flawed assumptions still prevail. Again, parents’ weak English language skills are equated to an inability to counter radicalisation in children, and grievances around foreign and domestic policy are said to be “perceived” as opposed to being real.
PREVENT is not addressed as a flawed policy that needs to be scrapped
The concerns surrounding PREVENT, that it securitizes a whole community and that it criminalises ordinary religious behaviour and in some cases movements for social justice, are not highlighted. They are all explained away through implementation problems like transparency, or communication lapses or due to a lack of good PREVENT training.
The report also claims there have been too many counter-terrorism laws and yet it still welcomes the new Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill, seeing further legislation as a remedy for the effects of previous legislation. This is a weak justification for unnecessary laws that have only further codified Muslim existence.
A discriminatory expectation to condemn
The report also made several comments about CAGE: “We were deeply concerned to hear CAGE’s views on not condemning terrorist acts, which we believe simply increases the sense of isolation from society that some individuals within the community feel. We also note CAGE’s sensitivity about the use of the term ‘religious fascism’.”
CAGE is deeply concerned at the Committee’s inability to move beyond political posturing. No other community, minority or majority, is forced to condemn acts of political violence in a similar fashion. This demand for selective outrage is but a manifestation of the discriminatory attitude permeating the report. Contrary to what the report asserts, this subtle, unique coercion to condition condemnation for particular acts of violence reinforces isolation of the Muslim community from society.
CAGE’s position is clear: CAGE abhors all forms of violence against civilians, and we adopt a policy of fairness that relies on the assumption that all human life is equal.”
In short, the report is a “rebrand and tweak” effort, which effectively revisits the first version of the Prevent strategy under Labour, while maintaining the problematic underlying counter-extremism theory.
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