Given the toxicity of the PREVENT label, the Muslim minority is all too familiar with its problems. Its name results in an anxiety which now simply cannot be dismissed. As the highly problematic report “The Missing Muslims” published by Citizens UK recognised, the “Prevent Strategy on Muslim communities came up in most of the hearings across the country”. To deal with this breakdown, there is now a reversion to a “community-based” approach to tackling extremism and terrorism.
The “community response to terrorism” approach seeks to mask the issue that “buy-in” and trust of the community is absent and therefore the policy is not being co-opted by the community. The solution therefore operates on the assumption that PREVENT, or more accurately, a pre-criminal intervention is not necessarily the problem, and where there are problems, these are simply implementation detail which can be rectified. This is further supplemented by a co-existing effort to produce a response developed by the community in the hope that PREVENT would be rendered obsolete. Both however, posit the community and its exploitation central to the promulgation of pre-crime interventionism.
In this piece, I intend to outline a brief history of this resurgent “community-driven response” trend and highlight some of the organisations that seem to be pursuing this course of action.
The background to this and subsequent blog to be published are the subtle transformations taking place in the context of pre-crime counter-terrorism policies and their interaction with Muslims. Over the past few years there have been an increasing number of voices which seek to mask gaping criticisms of PREVENT by reviving previously failed strategies. The history, details and identification of events and organisations engaged (inadvertently or otherwise) in this revival will be outlined in a further detailed piece but suffice to say, the aim seeks to develop a “community-based” response to terrorism (and extremism) in order deal with the criticism that PREVENT lacks “community buy-in” and “trust”. From within the community, the argument goes that if Muslims develop their own responses then the significance of PREVENT diminishes and religious rights for Muslims are protected.
In response to this I will proffer some further points of discussion in order to determine whether such exercises are beneficial to the Muslim minority. This piece in particular will focus on restoring pre-crime policies like PREVENT as a method of control firmly within the discourse of colonial power relations. Pre-crime, it will be shown, is an exemplar of the colonial continuity.
Recent weeks have seen a sustained campaign of repressive bullying tactics against a Muslim doctor and vocal anti-racism, pro-Palestinian voice Dr Siema Iqbal by pro-Israel activist organisation North West Friends of Israel (NWFOI). The retweets by Dr Iqbal, which were contested as “anti-Semitic”, were clarified three years ago.
Despite this, NWFOI has resumed its harassment.
Recently, Dr Iqbal was invited to read a statement on racism at the Assembly of Greater Manchester Citizens UK. Seemingly unable to stomach a Muslim woman with strong pro-Palestinian views, NWFOI restarted its harassment, this time led by the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), an organisation which Alastair Sloan highlights has defended Israeli leaders from the principles of universal jurisdiction and therefore accountability of potential war crimes. Declaring Dr Iqbal’s tweets/retweets anti-Semitic despite being political in nature and directed in response to the Israeli government’s aggression against Palestinians in Gaza, the JLC seems to have pressured Citizens UK into distancing itself from Dr Iqbal. These statements were then circulated in the Jewish Telegraph (complete with a statement from the NWFOI), Jewish Chronicle and the Jewish News, and shared by the far-right-linked Quilliam Foundation’s Haras Rafiq.
So what do we know about the NFWOI?
I had not intended to write in the context of the most recent attacks. Ramadan is upon on us and hearts are in dire need of purification, especially when one can see the policies that are on the political horizon. However, a brief interjection into the incredibly loud echo chamber that has been created, if I may.
No doubt the lurch of the government will be authoritarian in the best of neoconservative moulds, with more calls to implement closed society measures. Hilariously, the precarious Theresa May has just announced that she will tear up “human rights laws” to fight terrorism. In doing so she will become the very PREVENT-defined “extremist” she and mafia of neocons endlessly harp on about. PREVENT officers, you may need to refer this unstable lady as she has very publicly and vocally opposed “British values”.
As for the Muslim response, much can be said on a number of alarming behaviours. However, I will for now limit it to a statement by some 200 Muslims scholars and activists urging Imams to refuse the burial of terror suspects.
The 22nd May Manchester Arena bombing has etched a particularly traumatic experience into the people of Britain. The attack in Manchester has claimed the lives of young teenagers, including an eight-year old. My sympathies go out to the victims of this atrocity.
I delayed writing on this topic for two reasons; the first being in respect of the lives lost; the second because so little had been established concerning the motive. With the Westminster attack, if we recall, there was a significant internalisation of blame by the Muslim minority without establishment of key facts – a dynamic that was fully exploited by neocons. Indeed, once the motive was established, it pointed to an uncomfortable motive, which is increasingly being marginalised in the discourses that seek to analyse the “causes” of terrorism: Western violence.
A PREVENT “Community” Event
Much to Britain’s, and in particular, the Conservatives’ shame, the UK fell in global rankings for child rights within a year, from 11th to 156th. The UK’s current position makes it sit among the ten worst countries including regions like CAR, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone. The KidsRights report notes that the UK could “do more to improve the enabling environment they have built for children’s rights” (p.5). The Independent reporting this appalling situation noted,
“Serious concerns have been raised about structural discrimination in the UK, including Muslim children facing increased discrimination following recent anti-terrorism measures, and a rise in discrimination against gypsy and refugee children in recent years.”
What has happened in the last year? Apart from increased prejudice and hate unlocked by a neocon/white supremacist-orchestrated Trump and Brexit campaigns, it has been a full of year Britain – and in particular the Muslim minority – has experienced the PREVENT Duty. The founder and chairman of KidsRights, Marc Dullaert, explicitly called for PREVENT to be “re-assessed” in light of the “increased discrimination” Muslim children face:
“…Muslim children in the UK face increased discrimination following recent anti-terrorism measures. Accordingly, the Index advises that counter-extremism measures such as the Prevent Strategy be re-assessed to ensure that they do not have a discriminatory or stigmatizing impact on any group of children.”
“O you who believe, do not enter any houses other than your own homes unless you seek permission and greet their inmates with peace. That is better for you, perhaps you may take heed.”
“Those who are faithfully true to their trusts and to their covenants; and those who strictly guard their prayers. Those are the inheritors, who shall inherit Paradise.”
“Irving Kristol came up with the solution that has become the cornerstone of neoconservative politics: use democracy to defeat liberty. Turn the people against their own liberty… if you can convince people that liberty undermines security, they will gladly renounce it.”
On the day US war crimes whistle-blower Chelsea Manning was released from military prison, CAGE’s international director Muhammad Rabbani was charged for essentially refusing to hand over passwords to devices holding confidential information. This followed his arrest at Heathrow airport in November – despite being told there was no reason for his detention under the unjust Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
Rabbani’s arrest and his principled decision to withhold passwords against the threat of imprisonment has implications which ripple across the security paradigm enveloping the Western world.