“Journalists need to check basic facts and ask simple questions about the identity and motivations of the people making these claims…”
So says Hannah Stuart of the Henry Jackson Society in Andrew Gilligan latest article attacking those critiquing the PREVENT Strategy. The irony could not be more profound.
It has been a while since I have given some space here on the blog to our favourite neocon propagandist, Andrew Gilligan. Perhaps it is because his role has been lately filled by David Daily Mail Cameron.
It seems the momentum against the civil-liberties violating, discriminatory PREVENT Strategy which has roused Muslims up and down the country to reject it outright, has unsettled some in the Home Office. RICU, its propaganda department has gone into over drive and the right-wing press have been all too happy implement the Henry Jackson Society’s spin bible for damage limiting the reputation of a failed policy.
He certainly delivered the trademark Gilligan goods: spin, distortion and unconvincing attempts to smear. His target this time is a relatively new organisation which has been documenting abuse cases resulting from PREVENT, Prevent Watch (PW).
Over the past month a major change in the Muslim socio-political landscape took place. The Guardian reported some shocking incidents which have taken place in Newham, with Muslims raising their concerns about the Council’s Quilliam connection.
The report notes that since former Quilliam Foundation director Ghaffar Hussain joined Newham Council as a PREVENT officer, Islamic practices have been targeted as the basis for intervention:
“Imams point out that earlier this year a school attempted to ban the wearing of the jilbab, a long and loose-fit coat or garment worn by Muslim women, and had to back down after appeals from parents. Another free school, with 200 Muslim students, closed down its prayer room – forcing pupils to pray on Friday in the local parks.”
Similar trends have taken place since the PREVENT duty in Birmingham, where schools have attempted to change or already have changed long established dress codes and Friday prayer arrangements.
In the context of Hussain, this is unsurprising; Maajid Nawaz of Quilliam has targeted traditional Islam as the focus of attack after Islamism, while David Cameron himself has placed deformist reformists alongside “moderate Muslim voices”. Usama Hasan, meanwhile, participated in the far-right/neoconservative-linked “Muslim Reform Movement”, whose Muslim-profiling, Quran-tearing, “mainstream moderate Muslim” Asra Nomani recently declared the hijab to be “Islamist” and called on Muslim women to abandon the headscarf. Of course, bringing the hijab into the discourse of “Islamism” in neoconservative circles also makes it “extremist”.
An ideology is a set of beliefs held by individuals or a collective. Given the way in which the counter-extremism discourse, as propounded by the neoconservative elements of the government and its associated “think-tanks”, possesses underlying assumptions which have been comprehensively rejected the intellectual milieu (see here, here and here), one can reasonably conclude that neocons are dogmatically promoting counter-extremism as a subset of their ideology and imposing it on people.
Given the pervasion of neoconservatism, its proponents in government, and the veritable control of the broad-spread permeation of this counter-extremism ideology by them, it would also not be reasonable to state that in the context of counter-extremism, the government has become both authoritarian and totalitarian. It is authoritarian because those who dictate the policies on counter-extremism can be traced to a small, elite cabal of neoconservatives, and it is totalitarian because extremism policy has taken societally-driven surveillance and thought-policing to a whole new penetrative, fascistic level.
Over one Spy for Every Muslim
I have already drawn parallels between today’s PREVENT surveillance programme and East Germany’s Stasi. Professor Arun Kundnani, has shown how the FBI has one counterterrorism spy for every 94 Muslims in the U.S., which approaches Stasi’s ratio of one spy for every 66 citizens.
Yet again we have another round of reports targeting in the majority, Muslim faith schools in Birmingham. A number of reports published in the BBC, Telegraph Guardian, Sky News, and Independent, regurgitated Michael Wilshaw’s letter to Nicky Morgan parading his team’s hard work in failing faith schools which were formerly inspected by the now defunct Bridge Schools Inspectorate (BSI).
The issue is, in order to come to a decent headline typically scapegoating Muslims, the inspectors tried a little too hard, it seems. So hard that in the case of one school, it is alleged Ofsted not only acted outside its remit during its inspection, but littered its report with inaccuracies and misleading statements, based off compromised trademark Inquisitional-style extremism-based questioning of young children.
In my previous piece drawing parallels between the PREVENT duty and the Inquisition, I drew attention to Ofsted’s invasive line of questioning, unsettling children, and assessing the beliefs of children in accordance with the State’s contrived civic religion of “British values”.
My sources in Birmingham have brought attention to an Ofsted inspection which yields yet another example of Inquisitional, “radicalisation profiling”-style of questioning echoing the much despised Waltham Forest Council’s BRIT Project fiasco. If we recall, the Council in London had deceptively disseminated psychometric tests into Muslim majority schools which purported to analyse the level of “radicalisation”. The Council was exposed for lying and slammed for its Nazi-style ethnic profiling exercise as “shockingly Orwellian”.
This “shockingly Orwellian” reality has manifested again through Ofsted. My sources state that Inspectors at a Muslim faith school behaved in a similar fashion to the BRIT Project questionnaire and asked questions tailored to the “extremism” agenda, interrogating young children.
There were some rich words coming from David Cameron in the Guardian of all papers. It seems when Cameron wants to ride the wave of fear of “immigrants” he uses the Daily Mail, and when he wants to demonstrate his social responsibility for poor “immigrants”, albeit laden with typical neocon doublespeak which dresses up neocon warring and global neoliberal fiscal policies as benevolence, he (ab)uses a lefty liberal paper.
Cameron, in typical neocon hypocrisy tells the Guardian readers that,
“Our aid budget also enables us to promote British values around the world. It helps us to lay the building blocks for prosperity and opportunity – the rule of law, strong and accountable government, gender equality and education for all.”
Rule of law. Accountable government. These two attributes of a just government have been suffering from severe attrition resulting from neocons raining down their policies over the years. The government’s PREVENT Strategy to tackle extremism is one such policy which is indirectly increasing the opacity of the British state.