The discussion amongst securocrats on how to move beyond PREVENT is like a dog’s tail – despite attempts to straighten it by highlighting flaws, theoretical considerations and so forth, it has a tendency to bend back towards an ideology-only solution of dealing with “extremism”.
Moazzam Begg issues an interesting set of proposals. Last month, I too outlined an approach for the likes of MCB to take if it is sincere in contributing to concrete ideas on how to tackle terrorism.
This can be read here: Countering Terrorism with the MCB
CROSSPOST: Moazzam Begg
Last month, my colleagues at CAGE published a damning report on the classified research that the UK government is using to identify potential extremists. Incredibly, as the report reveals, the government’s programme, called the Extremism Risk Guidance 22+ (ERG22+), was based on nothing more than research conducted by two psychologists working for the National Offenders Management Service (NOMS) and collated based on interviews with a handful of British Muslim convicts. From this study, 22 “risk-assessment factors” were extracted that would go on to form the template for how the UK government would now seek to define the undefinable ‘extremists’ residing in our midst.
“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).
Crosspost: Jahangir Mohammed
In July of this year the Government’s Prevent policy became a legal duty upon most public authorities. It means that most sections of the public sector are required to identify and deal with “extremism”, something which remains loosely defined. Although the policies theoretically apply to all forms of extremism, in reality the greatest impact is being felt by Britain’s Muslim community. The duty means that schools, colleges, universities, health providers, local councils, youth and social workers, prison service and others have a duty to look at any Muslims who use their services, or work for them, for “signs” of “radicalisation”.
Thousands of workers up and down the country have received a few hours training on Islam and spotting signs of radicalisation. Armed with this new “expertise”, they are applying it to the Muslim community. The result is increasing evidence that Muslims are being identified as potential “extremists” for expressing everyday religious, political ideas, and beliefs and values.
Click on image to enlarge
In an earlier piece on the impact of PREVENT and the implication of “terrorist toddlers”, I drew attention to the fascist neoconservative impulse permeating the policy and the pervasiveness of the securitisation of public services. Under PREVENT and the Channel deradicalisation programme, public service employees would spy on people for signs of radicalisation and refer them to a PREVENT officer, effectively creating a modern police-state primarily for Muslims.
I likened this to the authoritarian East Germany of the 80s and 90s which popularly became known as the Stasi state. I noted that there were multiple levels of surveillance: those who were “officially” employed and those who spied in an unofficial capacity. At that time I had focussed on the “unofficial” spies: those who were employees of schools, hospitals and most public services tasked to monitor ideological leanings of people.
If one were to draw a comparison between the freedoms which were being slaughtered in the pen of Parliament vis-à-vis counter terror legislation, and the response from the people and the media to this, a serious indifference would be perceived. There has been more outrage about the restrictions on the type of porn being produced in the UK than the restriction of civil liberties due to the proposed bill. All three major political parties are in effect in agreement for the need to go ahead with such a legislation. The debate is not whether the Bill is grossly disproportionate to threat at hand, or whether established, unshakeable principles such as rule of law and non-derogable rights are being systematically stripped to be replaced with meekly fettered “powers” which build on the already abused “powers”. No. The debate is whether the “measures” are “strong” enough, and why the restrictions on the right of freedom of conscious and belief, a jus cogens norm of international law, are not more intrusive.
In this piece, the principles and human rights which are being, not eroded, but decimated due to the Bill will be highlighted. In terms of the provisions which place the controversial PREVENT strategy on statutory footing, I have elucidated on the impact this has had thus far on the Muslim minority in the following articles:
PREVENT and the Abuse of Women
PREVENT and the Public Surveillance State
PREVENT and the underlying erroneous “conveyor-belt theory”
PREVENT and the discussion of “extremism” and discrimination
The only additional point is that when children are assessed for signs of “radicalisation”, parents or guardians will not be allowed to be present during the assessment before the Channel panel. In other words, legal safeguards in the form of solicitors or appropriate adults do not exist to protect the child from misuse of powers, or more likely, a misapplication of what constitutes “extremism” and “radicalisation”.
The underlying motivation for the Bill points to the raising of the terrorist threat level and Syrian conflict.
And so the assault on the gloriously arbitrary “British values” of human rights, democracy and rule of law continues with the unveiling of the new Counter Terrorism Bill by Theresa May the extremist. As a concerned Muslim I felt it necessary to write on this for the simple fact that the Muslim perspective has been ignored through much of the debate around this thus far. Much of the mainstream media have not uttered a single word on the disproportionate and shot-gun style targeting under PREVENT. Even the dismal “Guardian View” ignored the discriminatory treatment resulting from the sledge-hammer being wielded by the neocons through the presumptively flawed PREVENT strategy.
Before looking at the proposals briefly it is worth recognising that the neocons pushing these policy are driven by a “persuasion” which believes in using “noble lies” to steer the “vulgar masses” towards a policy which serves the interests of the neocons. If this means bludgeoning “principles” of rule of law and human rights through their “prudence” unashamedly in name of these very “principles”, then so be it.
Building on a Successful Strategy?
The proposals make the draconian, Nazi-esque PREVENT policy a statutory duty to “prevent people from being drawn into terrorism” with this duty being imposed on schools, colleges, prisons and local councils to help with this totalitarian surveillance programme. In the words of Arendt, totalitarian societies like Nazi Germany employed,
“a system of ubiquitous spying, where everybody may be a police agent and each individual feels himself under constant surveillance.”
I have already elucidated on the problems the PREVENT strategy has been causing. The breadth of definition of “extremism” and the ambiguity in its application will mean a continued increase of miscarriages of justice. The report on PREVENT by CAGE outlines some of the absurdities which have been witnessed. Young children being referred under the Channel deradicalisation programme for merely possessing CD’s of Sufi scholars, Muslim women being referred for merely increasing in their religiosity, donning the niqab and jilbab whilst their families have been harassed by officers, female deaf patients at hospitals being referred under Channel, with their laptop and phone confiscated for simply browsing online reports about Syria. The examples are shocking as they are despotic. On top of this, ACPO figures reveal that the Muslim minority continues to be disproportionately targeted by Channel. Between April 2012 and the end of March 2014, 56 percent of those referred for deradicalisation were Muslim. The Charity Commission, a partner agency of PREVENT, is also disproportionately targeting the Muslim minority.
There is no mention of “terrorism” or “extremism”. Such is the reporting of a Royal Marine who is alleged to have sought to join the “Peshmerga/Kurdish Militia”– epithets which neatly omit a key point to support a disjointed, contradictory fight on terror- amongst the “militia” are PKK fighters and trainers. The PKK is a “terrorist organisation” proscribed by the UK, EU, NATO and the US. The US in 2007 considered (as usual) air strikes on bases run by the PKK whilst Gordon Brown, pledging full support to “suppress the PKK”, said that he condemned “absolutely and unequivocally the terrorist violence of the PKK”. The then Foreign Secretary stated,
“I call on the international community to be unequivocal in its condemnation of PKK terrorism”.
The police are reported to have investigated a 22 year old who was on a one way ticket to Turkey. To clear the air, the Daily Fail kindly informs its readers that the soldier is, “not Muslim”. The Muslim minority may breathe a sigh of relief, and withdraw their fingers about to type various apologies from their keyboards. According to the report in the Independent,
“US officials said the man was believed to have been in contact with a Kurdish group that had links in Turkey and the city of Irbil, where the headquarters of Peshmerga units fighting Isis are based.”