Monday, June 27 2016

The new Prevent strategy

 The Prevent strategy is now out and can be read here.

The review is best summarized in this passage from Lord Carlile’s report:

“…at the root of this Prevent strategy is the basic assertion that extremism breeds terrorism; and that extremism is the vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. This includes any stance which seeks to justify or excuse attacks on British armed forces and other British citizens who act within the rule of law.”

No mention at all of the role of foreign policy in contributing to radicalization and terrorism. "Intellectual dishonesty" as Craig Murray succinctly puts it.

The strategy is laid out in sections 7.1 and 7.2:

7.1 - The new Prevent strategy:

• The aim of Prevent should be to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.

• Prevent should address all forms of terrorism, but continue to prioritise according to the risks to our national security. Its principal focus will therefore remain terrorism associated with Al Qa’ida and related groups.

• Prevent needs to deal with extremism where terrorism draws on extremist ideas; and where people who are extremists are being drawn towards terrorism-related activity.

• Prevent will depend on wider Government programmes to strengthen integration and should be carefully coordinated with them. Other than in exceptional circumstances, Prevent should not fund these programmes and should be distinct from them.

• Prevent will remain one part of our counter-terrorism strategy, CONTEST. The relationship between Prevent and what we call Pursue (such as work to investigate and disrupt terrorist activity) must be very carefully managed. Prevent is not a means for spying or for other covert activity.

• We intend that agencies and Departments work to a common set of objectives in this area. But we look to local authorities and communities to consider how those objectives can best be implemented: they will have the expertise and the understanding of local context which in this as in many other policy areas is vital.

• Funding for local authority projects will be precisely targeted and dedicated to ensure it is used for the purposes for which it is intended. But central Government should not seek to micro-manage decisions about local delivery which are properly the responsibility of local partners.

• Funding will not be provided to extremist organisations.

• It will not be part of this strategy to use extremists to deal with the risk from radicalisation.

• Public funding for Prevent must be rigorously prioritised at home and overseas. The balance of investment within domestic Prevent work and between that work and Prevent overseas needs to be regularly assessed. All our Prevent programmes need to be relevant to Prevent objectives.

• The evaluation of Prevent work is critical and must significantly improve. Data collection must be more rigorous.

7.2 “…the new Prevent strategy will have three objectives. It will:

• respond to the ideological challenge of terrorism and the threat we face from those who promote it;

• prevent people from being drawn into terrorism and ensure that they are given appropriate advice and support; and,

• work with a wide range of sectors and institutions (including education, faith, health and criminal justice) where there are risks of radicalisation which we need to address.”

Central to the new strategy is the argument that “Terrorist groups can take up and exploit ideas which have been developed and sometimes popularised by extremist organisations which operate legally in this country. This has significant implications for the scope of our Prevent strategy. Evidence also suggests that some (but by no means all) of those who have been radicalised in the UK had previously participated in extremist organisations.

“…preventing terrorism will mean challenging extremist (and non-violent) ideas that are also part of a terrorist ideology. Prevent will also mean intervening to stop people moving from extremist groups or from extremism into terrorist-related activity.”

The “enabling environment” argument is further buttressed by claims that the Government

“…believe[s] that radicalisation – in this country – is being driven by: an ideology that sets Muslim against non-Muslim, highlights the alleged oppression of the global Muslim community and which both obliges and legitimises violence in its defence; a network of influential propagandists for terrorism, in this country and elsewhere, making extensive use of the internet in particular; and by specific personal vulnerabilities and local factors which make the ideology seem both attractive and compelling.

“In June 2009, qualitative research on issues relevant to Prevent was conducted in a small number of local areas. This research broadly corroborates the Survey. Support for violence is associated with a lack of trust in democratic government and with an aspiration to defend Muslims when they appear to be under attack or unjustly treated. Issues which can contribute to a sense that Muslim communities are being unfairly treated include so-called ‘stop and search’ powers used by the police under counter-terrorism legislation; the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy; a perception of biased and Islamophobic media coverage; and UK foreign policy, notably with regard to Muslim countries, the Israel-Palestine conflict and the war in Iraq.”

The above paragraph is shocking for its emphasis on “perception” and “sense” of Muslim communities being “unfairly treated” when the facts of Muslims being treated as a “suspect community” are plenty and pervasive.

Are the findings of the Open Society Justice Initiative report on Ethnic Profiling not sufficiently robust to assert with confidence Muslims’ experience of discrimination in policing? Or perhaps the report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission on Stop and Search, or research conducted by academics at Birmingham University on the impact of counter-terrorism policing and damage done to trust between police forces and Muslim communities?

The report further claims that “there have been allegations that previous Prevent programmes have been used to spy on communities. We can find no evidence to support these claims.”

What then of the “spy cameras” installed by Birmingham City Council in a part of the city largely populated by Muslims?

Lord Carlile writes in his accompanying report that “The dissipation of this sense of victimhood, which is rarely justified in any objective way, is a proper and important part of CT activity. Actions and language that may exacerbate mistaken perceptions should always be avoided. Where such things occur, we should not be afraid to challenge them with confidence.”

Examples of “exacerbat[ing] mistaken perceptions” are given as follows:

“Even the remarks of Mohammed Abdul Bari MBE, former Secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, have included the extravagant warning that the treatment of Muslims in Britain might eventually lead to comparison with the Nazis of Germany: remarks of this kind have the effect, however inadvertently, of feeding assertions of victimhood, and   are unhelpful. More generally, a recent event in London on 21 May 2011 advertised itself as part of the “campaign against anti-Muslim hatred in Britain”, an infelicitous use of implicit language which could be questioned strongly as whether it is constructive, and certainly merits challenge.”

The remarks made by Dr Abdul Bari, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, were as follows:

"Every society has to be really careful so the situation doesn't lead us to a time when people's minds can be poisoned as they were in the 1930s. If your community is perceived in a very negative manner, and poll after poll says that we are alienated, then Muslims begin to feel very vulnerable. We are seen as creating problems, not as bringing anything and that is not good for any society."

The comments Dr Bari made were merely stating that the pernicious and persistent demonisation of minorities in European societies is not without precedent and its consequences are well known.

On the “recent event in London on 21 May 2011” – this was the conference hosted at the London Muslim Centre on the dangerous and alarming rise in Islamophobia in the UK and Europe.

It is beyond belief that Lord Carlile should look upon these comments and conferences, designed to create awareness of the growing manifestations of anti-Muslim prejudice and hate crimes as “feeding assertions of victimhood”.  And it is plain hypocritical to label them as such while championing as a key focal point in the new strategy the objective of “developing a sense of belonging to this country”.

It is precisely because Muslims DO belong to this country that conferences of this nature are hosted and similitudes developed so that Muslims might well enjoy “equality under the law”.

Lord Carlile goes on to say of FOSIS, “[it] could and should do more to ensure that extremists will be no part of any platform with which it is associated, alongside demonstrating that it rejects extremism...Any group purporting to represent students can be expected to take a clear position against extremism, as well as terrorism.”

The presumption that FOSIS have not done so is at best specious, at worst, invidious.

There is also the evidence used to defend the causal link developed between “extremism” and “terrorism”. The Prevent review states:

“In assessing drivers of and pathways to radicalisation, the line between extremism and terrorism is often blurred. Terrorist groups of all kinds very often draw upon ideologies which have been developed, disseminated and popularised by extremist organisations that appear to be non-violent (such as groups which neither use violence nor specifically and openly endorse its use by others).

“Some politically extreme organisations routinely claim that: the West is perpetually at war with Islam; there can be no legitimate interaction between Muslims and non-Muslims in this country or elsewhere; and that Muslims living here cannot legitimately and or effectively participate in our democratic society. Islamist extremists can specifically attack the principles of participation and cohesion, rejection of which we judge to be associated with an increased willingness to use violence (see pages 24-25). Islamist extremists can purport to identify problems to which terrorist organisations then claim to have a solution.

“Evidence also shows that some people who have engaged in terrorist-related activity here have previously participated in extremist organisations. According to the open source survey to which we refer above, about 15% of people convicted for terrorist-related offences here between 1999 and 2009 had been connected with the extremist group Al-Muhajiroun (which, with its various successor organisations, is now proscribed under terrorism legislation). We know that a handful of others have been connected to Hizb-ut-Tahrir.”

And in the footnote, the document adds, “It is important to note however that it will not always be clear to what extent a person who engages in terrorist-related activity here has been involved with extremist groups, so these statistics need to be treated with some caution.”

The definition of extremism in the document is given as:

“vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. We also include in our definition of extremism calls for the death of members of our armed forces, whether in this country or overseas.”

As we stated earlier, surveys and polls commissioned in recent years demonstrate that British Muslims adhere to and observe these values sometimes to a greater extent than members of society at large.

Moreover, it is odd that Lord Carlile should refer to comments and events organized by British Muslims to highlight their growing apprehension at levels of anti-Muslim prejudice and hate crimes as exacerbating a sense of “victimhood”; a remark that is all the more offensive as the EDL and BNP target Muslims in their “anti-Islamisation” campaigns, while the review claims to take issue with those who oppose “individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”.

A point reinforced by David Cameron’s injudiciously making the speech in Munich the day the EDL rampaged through Luton, again.

Little surprise that the Prevent review has merited enthusiastic support from Dean Godson of Policy Exchange, the Quilliam Foundation (who champion Lord Carlile as best suited to oversee the implementation of the policy) and Paul Goodman of Conservative Home.

The question the Government needs to ask itself is whether a policy guided or influenced by PX, QF and Paul Goodman is one that can or would engender trust and confidence of British Muslims if indeed, as Theresa May put it, “we are all in this together”?

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 June 2011 17:15

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