It has reached a point where elements of the government, in their efforts to salvage whatever they can, are resorting obvious spin tactics. From seemingly planted stories (Sara Khan’s incredibly artificial efforts to sell PREVENT, her Home Office-approved book, along with vague success stories – which cannot be corroborated – to an incredibly welcoming media comes to mind), to sham select committee “reviews” of PREVENT, which far from questioning PREVENT’s basis, strengthened it, the methods demonstrate signs of desperate.
Despite these manoeuvres, there have been several key reports over the past few weeks which have indicated to the final throes of Britain’s PREVENT counter-extremism strategy.
More Muslim minority Discrimination
Proving once again the anti-Muslim, discriminatory nature of counter-extremism, PreventWatchUK published an image of the data fields in the Channel (PREVENT-based deradicalisation programme) Case Management Information System showing that a special category has been designated for Muslims.
This blatant Muslim minority discrimination, however, should come as no surprise given that MPs sitting in Parliament have openly described Britain’s counter-extremism strategy as a “counter-Islamic strategy”.
Home Office: Corporate interests over Public interest
Another blow to PREVENT has come from the government itself, which has deemed PREVENT training courses on sale to schools “poor quality”. In a response to an FOI request from Middle East Eye, the Home Office confirmed that twenty-four products had been removed from its catalogue of authorised training providers. However, the Home Office refused to issue the names of the organisation on the basis that it was not in the public interest because it could “lead to misunderstandings around the capability of these organisations, leading to loss of reputation affecting commercial interests.”
However, this excuse for opacity is nonsense. Given that the Home Office requires PREVENT products to be “broadly consistent with Prevent policy”, and be “broadly effective”, how bad must have these courses been to not have fulfilled this fuzzy criteria? The pertinent question is, how many children have been indoctrinated with rubbish by teachers whom have lapped up these products, treating them like the paragon of truth? The public, i.e. the parents of children whom have been subjected to this indoctrination born of an already empirically and practically dubious ideological strategy would surely like to know. Instead, the Home Office is more concerned about protecting corporate interests, rather than the concerns of parents.
Scrapping PREVENT “in its entirety”
CAGE then brought attention to an Early Day Motion (EDM) submitted by Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael calling for the scrapping of the PREVENT Strategy “in its entirety”, following the lead by CAGE and over three-hundred academics and civil society members articulating the same. The EDM further stated that PREVENT was “no longer fit for purpose”. The chairman of the civil liberties group Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC), Richard Haley, stated in a brilliant press release regarding the EDM,
“EDM425 invites the House of Commons to agree that Prevent is ‘longer fit for purpose’ to keep Britain safe from terrorist attacks. It was never fit for that purpose, but rather for the purpose of keeping government safe from effective opposition to its foreign policy. I hope MPs will support the call for Prevent to be scrapped in its entirety and that they will reject any suggestion that Prevent should be recreated under camouflage. The roots of terrorism lie in government, not in the Muslim community.”
This provides ample evidence that facelifting efforts proposed by the Home Affairs Select Committee, or anyone else for that matter, are simply not going to wash with reasonable people.
Awareness of the poisonous nature of PREVENT and its impact on civil liberties is a point which has now become mainstream.
Back in July, I criticised NSPCC’s decision to co-opt what seemed like the PREVENT Strategy. In particular, I stated that,
“Where this [PREVENT-based] advice has been formulated based on a dangerous concoction of shaky empirical foundations, dubious organisations, and woefully reductionist training programmes, will the result be like that of schools (teacher-student relationships) and broader society, i.e. yet another relationship of trust breaking down, and tainted by fear?”
Since then, a report authored by journalist David Jamieson and published earlier this month confirmed that NSPCC staff were indeed being trained “under the terms of the UK Government’s prevent strategy”. Haley of SACC is quoted reflecting the concern I raised in July:
“If it works with Prevent, the NSPCC will be exploiting children to assist a police intelligence-gathering exercise and to put pressure on Muslim families to align their views with the government.”
In other words, yet further relationships of trust and confidence will be ruptured with the outcome being coerced compliance with the State narrative.
Interestingly, the report states that the NSPCC initially denied it was operating under the PREVENT Strategy stating that it was “independent”. The Home Office however confirmed that NSPCC staff received PREVENT training before starting their job. Why did the charity feel the need to deny its connection with PREVENT? Is it because it too acknowledges the toxicity of the counter-extremism strategy?
Make no mistake, PREVENT is untenable. Even Owen Smith, a New Labour/pro-Israel activist leading the Labour leadership fight against Jeremy Corbyn, about-turned his position on PREVENT, from championing it in August to declaring in September that it is seen as a “racist project”.
Root and branch PREVENT, and by extension CVE, is taking a battering and rightly so. This dark chapter needs to come to an end. However, beyond Britain and in countries like the US and Australia, CVE is gaining a foothold. Given what has been covered in this blog, this is a cause for concern.
I will be exploring this further in an upcoming piece.