Twitter talk and feverish Facebook frenzy over the newly announced Commission for Counter Extremism (CCE) has continued for the past few days, but perhaps disproportionately for the wrong reasons. The government’s announcement of the Commission came alongside the announcement of the lead commissioner Sara Khan of Inspire, a self-styled feminist who counters “extremism” has triggered vociferous responses in the media. MEND led a petition against her appointment and whilst it opens with a question as to why the Commission is necessary, it goes onto attack Khan on the condition of it existing, rendering the opening statement somewhat incidental. Mend CEO Shazad Amin also centred on Khan, reinforcing this perception.
There are certainly problems with Khan (these will be elaborated upon in a subsequent, detailed piece), however, they are an extension of far more important concerns that need to be raised.
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 deformation of Islam has not always had its roots in what are today clearly identifiable subversive “reform Muslims” and organisations. Traditional Ulama (Islamic scholars) have been politically exploited to provide the means by which neocons can push their agenda to deconstruct Islam. These “moderate” scholars would provide the legitimising face behind which lurked an insidious agenda to deform Islam into what Cheryl Bernard’s RAND corporation publication would call a “democratised Islam”; a postmodernist faith devoid of substance or meaning.
The push for the creation of a “British Islam” during the late 2000s was rooted in an underlying aim to create an “institutionally approved, ‘mainstream’, and ‘moderate’ expression of Islam”, which, through state-funded Muslim organisations (like Radical Middle Way and National Muslim Women’s Advisory Group), would “engineer if not exact power” in the Muslim community. Of course, scholars that had initially given backing to such organisations have now distanced themselves from the counter-extremism policies which these initial projects engendered.
The effort to abuse Sufi Islam into courting a political agenda has seen a resurgence domestically and internationally. These trends and movements are, tellingly, monitored and advocated by Israel due to the somewhat misplaced assumption that it provides for a pliant Islam which is amenable to Western military escapades in Muslim lands.
Recent reports and events demonstrate an evolution of this tired trickery.
On the 8th of March, Fiyaz Mughal’s Faith Matters submitted written evidence to the Home Affairs Committee’s countering extremism inquiry. Written in an interestingly critical style, it certainly hit all the high notes from the perspective of the Muslim community.
For instance, it drew attention to the current Counter Extremism Strategy as having disproportionately focussed on the Muslim community “leading to claims that it renders Muslims a ‘suspect community’.” It highlights the problem of Home Office holding disproportionate power in defining “extremism” and that the definition should be the “product of scholarly debate”. Even the label “Islamism” comes in for criticism, noting it leads to McCarythism and alienation of partners that can “support the fight against violent extremism”.
A superficial reading certainly makes for a promising one.
But then we recall that this is a submission by Faith Matters, whose head is Fiyaz Mughal. If anything, this submission only further exposes his hypocrisy, political opportunism and the complete discrediting of his pet project Tell MAMA.
“We will be absolutely clear about the people and groups we will not deal with because we find their views and behaviour to be so inconsistent with our own.”
~ Counter-Extremism Strategy document
Following on from my previous blog, I take brief look at the Counter-Extremism Strategy which has been published to much neocon fanfare and celebration. Most of the measures have been either already implemented unofficially, or announced as upcoming proposals. I have covered these parts in detail in the following blogs:
In short, it’s the usual inevitable neoconservative mix of Machiavellian fear (“dangerous”, “poisonous”, “harmful”, “threat”, “extremists”, “Islamists”!), double speak (protect freedoms by curtailing them/“targeted powers” which are “flexible”/claiming “not about Islam” but advancing only “liberal” Islam), and irrationality (the Strategy is based on the PM’s assertions rather than empirical evidence, whilst conflating crime into the extremism discourse), not to mention implicit association with negative cultural practices with Islam and Muslims (or the phantom menace that are the “Islamists”), adding to the stigmatisation of the Muslim minority.
Any additional points? There are few which twiddled my whiskers as they say. Below is my elucidation of those points.
CAGE has published the PREVENT training DVD for public consumption, thus ensuring government transparency and therefore accountability. The dismal “training” video will turn teachers, for instance, into surveillance specialists fit to discern the “signs of radicalisation” “vulnerable individuals. Note that PREVENT has been heavily influenced and penetrated by GCHQ, which has encouraged “intelligence analysis” as part of the Strategy. Muslims have been discriminatorily bearing the brunt of this policy for many years.
Decades from now, when books are written about Britain’s, dark Stasi-esque era, I envisage a chapter on PREVENT and the accompanying miscarriages of justice. Who knows, perhaps it will be called the “MayCarthy” era after Theresa May the extremist.
A point to note is that some in the DVD may not hold the same views, having being exposed to the PREVENT policy. Jahan Mahmood, for instance, who features in the DVD, has now become a noted critic of the policy and has frequently raised the issue of neocons in power, and their duplicitous policies, both foreign and domestic in public interviews.
(London, UK) A source has leaked crucial elements of the PREVENT training module WRAP to CAGE and now for the first time, and in the interest of greater public debate and scrutiny, CAGE is publishing the material.
The DVD clips can be downloaded from these links (here, here, here, here, here, here and here.)
The training DVD makes several simplistic assumptions that are empirically untested, ineffective and raises more questions than it seeks to answer. This may increase the likelihood that ‘extremism’ will be over-reported contributing to growing islamophobia.
Crosspost: Seumas Milne
The anti-Muslim drumbeat has become deafening across the western world. As images of atrocities by the jihadi terror group Isis multiply online, and a steady trickle of young Europeans and North Americans head to Syria and Iraq to join them, Muslim communities are under siege. Last week David Cameron accused British Muslims of “quietly condoning” the ideology that drives Isis sectarian brutality, normalising hatred of “British values”, and blaming the authorities for the “radicalisation” of those who go to fight for it.
It was too much for Sayeeda Warsi, the former Conservative party chair, who condemned the prime minister’s “misguided emphasis” on “Muslim community complicity”. He risked “further alienating” the large majority of Muslims fighting the influence of such groups, she warned. Even Charles Farr, the hawkish counter-terrorism mandarin at the Home Office, balked. Perhaps fewer than 100 Britons were currently fighting with Isis, he said, and “we risk labelling Muslim communities as somehow intrinsically extremist”.