There has been somewhat of media blackout around CAGE’s blistering report exposing the lack of credible, scientific foundations underpinning PREVENT, as well as the accompanying 150 academics, professors and activists supporting the findings. At the time of writing, only the Guardian and the Independent (albeit indirectly without credit to CAGE) have actually picked up the story. When one considers that the entirety of Britain’s counter-extremism strategy which has resulted in a trail of societal damage is based on mumbo jumbo, this news should be headlining throughout Britain. Yet, the silence from major media outlets like the BBC, Times, Telegraph, Daily Mail et al is ear-piercingly deafening and is tantamount to keeping the public uninformed about the reality of policies which affect them greatly from a civil liberties point of view.
It has, though, triggered the ire of, and quite clearly annoyed, neocon policy architects and supporters. The loudest defence of PREVENT in light of the damaging CAGE report comes from the premier, fascist neocon kingpin of anti-Islam hatred: Douglas Murray.
It must be emphasised from the outset that at no point does Murray actually challenge the fundamental, crippling contentions raised by the report or the academics who have contributed to it. Instead, readers are entreated to 635 words of seething, ranting ad hominem attacks the subject of which range from the Guardian itself for publishing the letter (“For only in the Guardian would the reporting be so piss-poor that the ‘academics’ in question would include people who are not even academics.”), to a Muslim academic (“Or one Rizwaan Sabir, a strangely camp, shouty little man” – rich coming from Murray), non-Muslim academics (“the lowest-grade occupants of fourth-rate universities such as David Miller of Bath”), and even universities. It is a childish attempt to distract from the comprehensive deconstruction of PREVENT. In acting out his tantrum, Murray, in typical neoconservative style, over-stretches his critique to the point of absurdity. Indeed, to paraphrase his own words, this is how madness not only spreads, but takes a foothold in government and produces policies like PREVENT.
Neoconservative Method of Attack
In order to understand Murray’s petty assault on academia, one needs to grasp neoconservatism. Neoconservatism advocates a government controlled and monitored education system in order to “serve the interests of the state as a whole”. By extension, where the professoriate acts contrary to the “interests of the state”, Murray’s blog is the response. Explicating the neocon method of attack, former neoconservative and American academic C. Bradley Thompson writes that when neocons are in “attack mode” against their “political enemies”, they typically “portray their ideological and political adversaries as intellect lightweights, buffoons”.
Hence, whilst unable to respond to the actual critique of PREVENT, Murray resorts to attacking headlines and people. Thus the Guardian’s reporting is poor because although its headline refers to academics, there are non-academics among the signatories. However, anyone with some degree of rationality can see that the headline is not specific enough to preclude non-academics from its statement and remains factually correct: academics have criticised anti-radicalisation strategy in an open letter.
Murray strains to smear Rizwaan Sabir, or David Miller, although with the latter, Murray alleges anti-Semitic “undertones”. Of course, this is Murray we are talking about here, whose definition of anti-Semitism most likely now matches that of the pro-Israel activist organisations’. This definition includes anti-Israel speech, curtailing Murray’s vaunted but highly selective, silent-on-Israel free speech.
The best Murray can do is reserve his vitriol for two Muslims. Thus, Murray homes in on Asim Qureshi, the author of the report, and Shaykh Haytham al-Haddad:
“Deferring to Asim Qureshi and Haitham al-Haddad in the matter of counter-radicalisation policy would be like deferring to the late Jimmy Saville on a matter of child-care.”
The crude analogy is reflective of Murray’s hatred of Islam and politicaly active Muslims. One is an orthodox scholar of Islam who is frequently attacked for views that are effectively normatively Islamic, but is also a keen activist for Palestine and against foreign interventions and therefore directly at odds with Murray. The other is a person dedicated to holding the government and its policies to account concordant to the rule of law and due process –principles which are a hindrance to neocons like Murray.
His strategy is not unsurprising. He has merely implemented the official recommendations produced his organisation, the hate-financed Henry Jackson Society, in dealing with criticism of PREVENT: smear them as Islamist. Ignoring some 121 professors and academics many of whom are non-Muslim, Murray concludes:
“Anybody with any knowledge of this area would see from even a glance at the list of signatories that it is dominated by people who do not simply disagree with this UK government policy to tackle extremism but would disagree with any UK government policy to tackle extremism. The reason for that being that they are Islamists themselves.”
Naughty Islamists. Now even Professor Marc Sageman is one of them!
The attempt to discredit CAGE’s report and the accompanying letter signed by academics is a failure, but who exactly is Murray to criticise the report and letter?
Douglas Murray’s Ideas and Views
Murray advocates neoconservativism, a “persuasion” which employs the use of deceptive “noble lies” to steer the “vulgar masses” towards a fascism-based closed society that serves the interests of the neocons such as obtaining and maintaining power. This entails bludgeoning “principles” like the rule of law and human rights through their “prudence” unashamedly in name of these very “principles”. Among his neocon ideologues is Leo Strauss, who he praises and defends in his book Neoconservatism: Why We Need It. Strauss regards the “closed society” facing a constant threat of war better than the “open society”, and seeks to leverage “the principles of the right, that is from fascist, authoritarian and imperial principles”. Strauss believes the best way to establish his discriminatory, hierarchical order is through subtle Machiavellian ploys enabling a “gradual replacement of the accepted opinions of the truth or approximation of the truth”.
Unsurprisingly, this fascist, instrinsically subversive tendency materialises through Murray’s statements which help constructs the closed society’s Machiavellian enemy. Exuding the PREVENT-based British values of tolerance and mutual respect, some of the quotes below on Islam and Muslims make for colourful reading.
His hatred is particularly pronounced when it comes to Islam:
This bigoted perspective naturally flows into the discriminatory targeting of the Muslim minority. Thus, he has infamously stated,
“Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board: Europe must look like a less attractive proposition.”
Regarding Muslims and immigration he has stated,
“It is late in the day, but Europe still has time to turn around the demographic time-bomb which will soon see a number of our largest cities fall to Muslim majorities. It has to. All immigration into Europe from Muslim countries must stop.”
Demonstrating the fascist influence drawn from his philosophic inspiration Leo Strauss, Murray advocates education policies for Muslims only, which reflect the Nazi state’s treatment of Jews:
“The attitude towards Muslim schools should be exceptional… if any Muslim academies are allowed to exist, they should be funded entirely privately, with no taxpayer assistance and should be subject to uniquely strict regulation and inspection. If such conditions are considered unbearable, then Muslims will have to try their luck in other countries…””
Of course, we now have an Ofsted which is obsessed with Islam and Muslim schools. Advocating second-class citizenry for Muslims in the context of human rights, Murray writes,
“The rights of the West’s people override those of the Islamist’s in their midst. And extradition should also include sending suspects away from our shores.”
Murray’s tyrannical pronouncements are not without basis. Citing Irving Kristol, he believes that the concept of equality – including racial equality – is a piece of “bad logic”.
Such dangerous rhetoric provides resonance with the far-right. Murray’s link to and praise of the Home Office-banned, Catholic anti-Muslim activist Robert Spencer, whose writing inspired Anders Breivik, are well known. Murray has also praised the EDL as an “extraordinary phenomenon”, and a model “grass-roots response for non-Muslims to Islamism”. He finds support from far-right activists like Anne Marie Waters and hate-fuelled blogs such as Gates of Vienna, (see here and here). Late last year, I exposed Murray’s cordial relationship with pro-Israel neocon conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney, the source for Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim policies and vitriolic outpourings.
There is so much more one can write on Murray’s views and affiliations. I have also not touched upon his support for torture and drone assassinations, however the above synopsis is sufficient to demonstrate the type of thinking driving Murray’s PREVENT critique.
Murray: PREVENT is “Limited”
What spectacularly demonstrates Murray’s fascist, closed society views are his statement on PREVENT itself. PREVENT, premised on the neocon doctrine of pre-emption and not genuine science, regulates thoughts and ideas, and sanctions (through intervention and resultant pecuniary and reputational losses etc.) at a pre-crime stage. If the law has not been broken, there ought to be no state interference as per the rule of law. The pervasiveness of this thought-regulation is such that every public body and educational institution has become eyes and ears for a deeply ideological state and its policy of persecution. It is the British rendering of the authoritarian German Stasi state. Yet for Murray, PREVENT has not gone far enough:
“I am far from being the greatest fan of the Prevent strategy which I think has all sorts of flaws and is arguably too limited in its range and ambition.”
One can criticise the report. That is of course, if there are any points of criticism. However, one thing is for sure, Murray’s blog post is not a critique but a tantrum in the finest neoconservative mould. Taking his atrocious views into account, Murray trying to critique the report and supporting academics is like Hitler trying to excoriate the Solf Circle, a group of German intellectuals against Nazism and the adverse treatment of Jews. Murray has no legitimacy, moral or intellectual, whatsoever.
In publishing his blog, Murray has provided anti-PREVENT campaigners more reasons to oppose PREVENT.
 Thompson/Yaron, Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea, Boulder: Paradigm, 2010, p.18