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.
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Christmas, it seems is another issue which annually crops up to force the “Muslim Question”, whilst curiously obviating the uncomfortable issue of religious rights to hold, and by implication exclude particular beliefs and practices. Of course, this discriminatory focus on Muslims (the Jewish minority, for instance, are comparatively absent from this discourse) has consequences. Over a week ago, it was reported that a Muslim woman in Australia was subjected to a brutal verbal and physical attack after she replied “happy holidays” to the attacker’s “merry Christmas”. Incidentally, I doubt Louise Casey would regarding uttering “merry Christmas” as a sign of vulnerability to “extremism” and consequently, “violent extremism”.
There are milder but still manifestly detrimental consequences here in Britain too. Last year, Police Commander Mak Chishty moronically stated that children who regarded Christmas as religiously prohibited were subscribing to an “Islamist” view. They were therefore not “moderate”. As I highlighted at that time, this absurd notion was discriminatory as other religious groups, such as orthodox Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses, whom regard Christmas as deriving from pagan customs, held similar views, but were not tarnished with the rhetoric of securitisation. It seems however, that this dangerously irresponsible statement is seeing some manifestation in the education context.
The interrogation and assault on Muslims and their faith is uniquely focussed, with most of the distinctly colonialist, alienation rhetoric directed towards orthodox Islam. This is ironic given that the Review claims social interaction is good because it results in “a better understanding of differences”. Further “mutual respect” (a quality which Muslims fair better than their Christian peers in the context of faiths according to the Review) is also considered by Casey as a value “integral to a cohesive nation”. Yet Casey then speaks of a “growing concern” about a “divergence of attitudes and values among minority communities”, which she then categorises as “extremist” and “regressive”. Surely, if there is conviction in the value of respecting differences, “divergence of attitudes and values” should not be problem? Not so. Whilst demanding respect of for “quintessentially British” things like queueing and the Queen, Casey weaponises the alternate beliefs of Muslims in order to render the Muslim minority an alien community.
Part 1 (Introduction): A Review of the Casey review (1)
Part 2: A Review of the Louise Casey Review (2) – A Paper Influenced by the Transatlantic Neocon Hate-network
Having established the influence of the transatlantic neocon hate network in the Casey Review, and in order to better appreciate the content of the report, it is worth better understanding the neoconservative narrative which underpins the Casey Review.
The Far-Right/Neocon Eurabia Conspiracy Theory
The reduction of the “white population”, Muslim population growth, and Muslims living together in areas, are sinisterised constituents of a particular narrative which states there is an existential Muslim “takeover” threat to Europe aided by a secretive deal between Arabs and Europeans. This narrative was first promulgated by conspiracy theorist Gisèle Littman, better known by her pen-name Bat Ye’or. The myth has been heavily criticised as a conspiracy theory and debunked by prominent scholars including Professor Arun Kundnani, who has likened its evidentiary credentials to the Protocols of Elders of Zion.
The conspiracy theory, however, has been adopted by neoconservatives and the far-right, including prominent actors of the Islamophobia industry Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes and Pamela Geller. It has been advocated by supremacist neoconservatives, fanned by the far-right “counter-jihad” movement, and adopted by paranoid, mass-murdering neo-Nazi terrorists. For full details of this myth and its promoters see here.
Last year, the hate-financed Henry Jackson Society published a report on how to spin away criticism of PREVENT. One of its suggestions was to recast the public surveillance programme as “safeguarding”. There has been an amplification of this spin by most government-paid PREVENT practitioners, promoters and careerists since then. This claim both from a historic and conceptual point of view, is woefully inaccurate and a continued demonstration of how the PREVENT industry is deceptively manipulating narratives.
Ignoring History? PREVENT’s Discriminatory “Influence Campaign”
As I have explicated in some detail, the counter-productive pre-crime approach to countering terrorism was not based on empirical evidence but the paradigmatically neoconservative military doctrine of pre-emption. McCulloch and Wilson (2015), in their book exploring “pre-crime” intervention state,
“The declaration of the “war on terror” was the catalyst for a more pre-emptive approach to threats.”
With the War on Terror aimed at Muslim countries, PREVENT’s focus from its very inception has been to control Islam and Muslims through what Ruth Kelly once called the “winning of hearts and minds” – a punch line which inherently denoted propaganda warfare and which usually accompanies hot war. The fundamental difference to normal propaganda warfare during military campaigns and the PREVENT Strategy is that PREVENT is being waged against Britain’s own Muslim citizens. In 2007, PREVENT funds were directed to those local authorities in England with 5 per cent or more of their population identifying as Muslim. In other words, funding was allocated based on the number of Muslims as opposed to risk. This discriminatory focus on Muslims has continued through the years, with the Guardian last year reporting that PREVENT was being prioritised to target mainly Muslim areas.
The Sun is not exactly a paper reputed for its unbiased reporting. Rather, it has been a vehicle for the propagation of neocon policy. Take, for instance, the odd counter-extremism campaigns by Sara Khan and Inspire, that did more to damage the credibility of the counter-extremism industry given the paper’s stature as the bastion of anti-Muslim hate and hyperbole.
A recent report, however, evidenced some peculiar PREVENT politics.
The atmosphere of political Islamophobia, anti-Muslim hatred and media stigmatization of Muslims and Islam, is something that has become normalised today. Interference with Islam, its beliefs and practices has reached such heights that one wonders whether the vaunted secular distinction of the public and private sphere actually exists. It increasingly represents an arbitrary distinction which moves with the prejudices and hatred of those in power of an increasingly penetrative state.
We now have non-Muslim judges that have become Mujtahid Imams, formulating fatwas on the basis of a single reading of the Qur’an, Sayyid Qutb’s Milestones and a dossier compiled by a half-baked “expert” concerning which beliefs are regarded as “extreme”. The courts have, in other words, regulated the beliefs of Muslims without expressly doing so through the notoriously nebulous “extremism” discourse.
The regulatory colonialism continues into the final bastion of Islam in a post-colonial, legally fictitious world of nation states: the area of Muslim “personal law”. Muslims who wish to accord their faith a centrality in the arena of civil matters often desire to have their marital issues overseen by Islamic precepts. Given the varying conditions for a marriage, intricate regulation of the types of divorce and annulment, as well as the need for a neutral, learned arbitrator(s) when matters become grey or sour, Muslims also seek recourse to Islamic scholars, or panels of Islamic scholars. These panels advise couples concordant to Islam. On the face of it there is no problem with this. Bata’i Din, or Halachic arbitration “courts” have been set up for some three centuries. In fact, according to the London Beth Din website, it is forbidden for Jews to seek a remedy from “secular civil courts”. Yet Jews, far from being framed within the far-right “Trojan Horse” trope of setting up a “parallel legal system”, are welcomed as being an integration success story.
Why are Muslims being treated differently?
Birmingham. The geographic centre of the “Trojan Horse” fabrications unlocked varying manifestations of hatred. Among other things, it empowered racist, anti-Muslim teachers to bully and intimidate Muslim teachers and attack Islamic practices; it legitimised political Islamophobia through the entrenchment the discriminatory PREVENT Strategy; and it led to state-sanctioned psychological child abuse within schools thanks to PREVENT. The fickleness of the bevy of allegations, which I challenged and exposed throughout 2014 and 2015, are being found to be groundless even by the inquisition panels specifically set up by the Department of Education to try Muslims. However, the PREVENT implementation has rapidly permeated the public structures of society and continues to do so whilst remaining toxically anti-Muslim, yielding damaging results.
“Extremism” Hierarchy based on Mosques
Counter-extremism and terrorism strategies and laws have decimated the rule of law. The Countering Violent Extremism agenda is being slated by the professoriate and resisted by Muslim minorities in the West. Calls are being made to scrap PREVENT.
Despite this picture, it is “business as usual” in Britain. The scandalous nature of PREVENT peaks as taxi-drivers are now being trained to become the “eyes and ears” of local authorities and police. One can envisage the scenario of an overzealous taxi driver reporting individuals heading to protests, a mosque or a get together at the local Arab restaurant. The insidiously suppressive nature of counter-extremism makes this all possible.
Prisons have been the latest theatre of ideological war for the neocon counter-extremism craze. With the imprisonment of Anjem Choudhry came proposals which were last dog-whistled by original Quilliamite and current Tony Blair Faith Foundation senior advisor Ed Husain. It has been suggested that in order to combat the “pernicious” ideology of “Islamist extremism”, prisoners ought to be kept apart from the rest of the prison population. As I commented back in March, such measures are counter-productive and not needed.
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.