There is an entire industry built on the back of Muslim demonisation. This “counter-extremism” industry utilises the rhetoric of preventing terrorism, but perpetuates structural terrorism against the Muslim minority through policies and rhetoric which have the cumulative effect of producing a “suspect community”. This reinforces Islamophobic stereotypes that Muslims are inherently, potentially violent unless “civilised” (assimilated) into “British values” as defined for everyone by neocons. Whether victims or criminals, it is their culture and religion which is to blame. It is a demonising narrative that has recently subsumed into its toxic discourse the attacks Muslims are currently enduring.
Muslims have been experiencing an increased intensity of anti-Muslim hate over the years and through various rhetorical and physical transformations, from the Paki-bashing by skin-heads, BNP, EDL and now Britain First and National Action, to the elderly man/woman walking across the road whilst angrily pointing a finger at a veil mumbling – like Sayeeda Warsi – that it has no place here. In recent days, it has been reported that hate crime targeting masaajid more than doubled in the last year.
On the 25th of August, Hurricane Harvey struck areas in and around the US leaving 71 confirmed deaths and an estimated economic loss approaching $180 billion dollars – eclipsing Katrina – in its wake. Five days later a tropical cyclone developed into the category 5 “Hurricane Irma”, hitting the Atlantic basin and unleashing destruction. With Irma now weakening as I write, its carnage has taken at least 24 lives, with a further five people perishing in the US. Major cities including Jacksonville, Florida, and Charleston, South Carolina have been flooded, leaving millions without power.
PREVENT continues to attract significant criticism. A northern-based human rights organisation – JUST Yorkshire – is to launch a report supported by the Open Foundation on the 29th of August. It concludes that PREVENT is built on a “foundation of Islamophobia and racism”, with a “reliance on stereotypes”, contributing to a “climate of fear”, self-censorship and discrimination. These are findings which are have been repeated through the years by, academics, organisations like CAGE and SACC, and reported by teaching and student unions. In this piece, contrary to the PREVENT propaganda pumped by the Home Office, it will be shown that these are natural outcomes based on inhering conceptual problems.
I found the title of this soon-to-be published report particularly interesting however. The title “Rethinking PREVENT: A Case for an Alternative Approach” plays on the trends that see efforts to develop “an alternative to PREVENT”, which is community-owned. It is my assertion that there is no “alternative approach” to PREVENT, be it ostensibly rooted in the community, civil society or the state. Further, it is not PREVENT that requires a rethink because it is symptom of a much bigger problem. It is the injection of “pre-crime” into laws, policies and the criminal justice system as a whole. It is the encroaching sceptre of pre-crime that is producing new risks and threats across society that not only needs to be re-thought, but arrested and reversed – de-precriminalised if you will. And it is in this vain that I endeavour to critique the misguided call for a “community-based” response to the state-defined threat of terrorism.
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.
Another attack and another opportunity to demagogically exploit emotions of the public and catalyse the rising far-right by presenting an authoritarian like, machoistic “strength”. Theresa May has explicitly expressed her intention to “rip up human rights laws” that impede new terror legislation dealing with suspects. In other words, those that have not committed any crimes will be targeted at the expense of human rights. She stated,
“I mean doing more to restrict the freedom and movements of terrorist suspects when we have enough evidence to know they are a threat, but not enough evidence to prosecute them in full in court.”
There are a number problems with this statement. If the burden of proof is not satisfied then per the rule of law nothing illegal has been committed. If there is evidence that a suspect is a “threat”, then they should be prosecuted or dealt with under the “pursue” strand of Britain’s counter-terrorism strategy. Principles like the rule of law and legislation like the Human Rights Act are there to safeguard citizens from arbitrary power and arrests. It is precisely this type of bombastic, fascist rhetoric which it guards against. It is a very short slippery slope for the state to target those it does not like. Right-wing papers are hell-bent on labelling the opposition leadership “terror-apologists”. If a law is brought in which violates human rights and requires little to no evidence to action, will measures be placed against the opposition leadership too?
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.”
I have been monitoring the situation in Birmingham and specifically the Birmingham Central Mosque since early last year.
If we recall, Muslim Labour Councillor and Chair of Birmingham Central Mosque, Muhammad Afzal, called PREVENT racist at a crucial period where Muslim communities were issuing statements up and down the country rejecting the policy with similar rhetoric. The media and political spin machine took action and a campaign was launched to discredit the elderly Councillor. Deformist Shaista Gohir and neocon Khalid Mahmood also contributed to the assault.
Bullied by the Charity Commission?