Professor Scott-Baumann, ‘It is clear then that the Prevent and Channel Guidances are shifting on a quicksand of opaque lexical items. In particular, the term non-violent extremism must be challenged: in a functioning democracy, non-violent extremism means questioning the status quo . . . It is not the existence of non-violent extremism that threatens freedom of speech; on the contrary, it is the outlawing of ‘non-violent extremism’ that threatens freedom of speech. Perceived fear of terrorism is being used to exert control . . .’ click here.
Blogger coolnessofhind, ‘. . . 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 . . . My sources state that the past year has seen a shocking transformation take place in the masjid. According to locals, some period after Councillor Afzal’s statements, the masjid foyer became littered with PREVENT-related certificates. . . Whilst it is understandable that the masjid may have been bullied into pushing this outrageous behaviour (councillor Afzal still stands by his statements), the solution is not to capitulate to the detriment of the Muslim minority, but to reach out for support to organisations like PreventWatch, CAGE and Mend against alleged state bullying and possible misdirection.’ click here.
Chris Allen, writing in Political Insight, 16 March 2017, ‘. . . The notion that such ‘changes’ are easily identifiable are, however, far from new. Over a decade ago, then New Labour Home Secretary John Reid told Muslim parents in East London that they needed to be vigilant in watching their children for the ‘tell-tale signs’ of extremism. While oft-repeated since, no politician has yet to set out exactly what those ‘tell-tale signs’ might be. Nor indeed have any of the subsequent iterations of the Prevent strategy.
As naïve as it is dangerous, there is evidence to suggest that those looking for the ‘tell-tale signs’ are simplistically reducing them to markers equitable with merely being ‘more Muslim’. Whether visual as in growing a beard or wearing the niqab, or vocal as in talking openly about your religion or voicing political views about British foreign policy, students who appear ‘Muslim’ are increasingly finding themselves being unfairly scrutinised. The UK advocacy group Cage claims that since the new duty was put in place there have been more than 100 reports of similar incidents to Farooq’s across a number of Britain’s campuses.
One response to this has been the Students not Suspects campaign organised by the National Union of Students (NUS), the NUS Black Students’ Campaign, Federation of Student Islamic Students, University and College Union, and Defend the Right to Protest. Condemning the duty for effectively turning higher education staff and other public sector workers into ‘spies’, Students not Suspects argues that not only does this have the potential for normalising Islamophobia within the higher education sector but it is also blurring the line between dissent and criminality. As evidence it cites how some university Islamic societies have been pressured into providing membership lists to police while at other universities swipe cards have been introduced outside prayer rooms to monitor who are using the spaces. Recently, Kings College London publicly admitted to monitoring the emails of staff and students as part of the Prevent duty. It is widely believed that many others are currently following suit.
But there is an even more insidious side to all of this and that is the inference that being ‘more Muslim’ is an inherently bad thing . . . click here
Hugh Muir in the Guardian, 3 March 2017, ‘. . . Alex Younger, the boss of MI6 chose a Guardian interview to alert fellow compatriots, and particularly minorities, to the current and pressing needs of the deficient security services. There are too few minorities joining to meet the requirements of an age menaced by myriad threats, including jihadi terrorism. Quite the activist boss, Younger intends to go out and find them . . . But Younger must ask whether minority ethnic people feel part of our society to the point that they would complicate their lives and take the risks it might entail to protect it. When possible recruits raise the iniquities of the government’s cack-handed Prevent programme and its clumsy attempts at dialogue with Muslim leaders, what will he tell them? What will he say about the fact that elements of UK foreign policy have led to further emotional estrangement between some minority groups and the state?’ click here.
He might say that ultimately, the way to close the employment gap is for minorities to seize opportunities like this. He might say that with more minorities who grasp the subtleties and nuance of a multicultural world, MI6 will better serve the nation and everyone in it. There’s logic in both of those arguments. And I hope, in the national interest, that he finds his recruits. But his mission does not exist in isolation. It’s weighed with historical baggage, burdened by context. Another way in which a discriminatory society harms itself.
Arzu Merali in middleeasteye.net, 24 February 2017, ‘. . . Why is it now that we cannot accept even the meekest criticism of Prevent, let alone a meta-critique for the need or lack thereof of anti-terror laws? In this scenario, would diversity add anything meaningful to the position, its power or – wider still – the ever faster descent of British civil and political space into Stasi-state like paralysis?
Charlie Peters in the Telegraph, 13 February 2017, ‘. . . Prevent is sold to universities as a safe and sensible method of clamping down on radicalisation on British campuses and promoting ‘British values’. In reality, it is a messy programme that promotes state censorship, chills academic freedom, attacks the relationships between teachers and students and dilutes some of the most fundamental British values. It weakens free speech and religious freedom. If students and academics want to maintain their freedom to listen and respond to different or difficult ideas, then they must resist Prevent . . . The government’s patronising rhetoric is central to Prevent’s application. Throughout the policy’s early days, government ministers dressed it up as being all about ‘safeguarding’. Several problems arise from this. Firstly, and most importantly of all, who goes to university to be ‘kept safe’ from different or difficult ideas? This is antithetical to the basis of education’. click here.
|Children as young as four could be given anti-radicalisation lessons in order to shield them from beheading videos and terror propaganda posted on the internet, according to proposals being drafted by the Department for Education . . . Speaking at the same conference, Schools minister Lord Nash said the government was currently exploring how schools can better combat extremism, adding that he hoped teachers would feel more confident implementing the Prevent duty moving forwards. However, the plans have raised concern among headteachers, with some questioning whether it was suitable to be teaching anti-extremism to primary school children. click here.|
Quratulayn Haamidah in 5pillarzuk.com, 8th February 2017, ‘. . . The third-party organisation delivering Prevent to Alimas is called “STR!VE” or “Strive Women”. The organisation has been a vehicle for the Prevent agenda since 2010 . . . Touted as London’s “young leader” who is “proud to be a British Muslim woman”, STR!VE introduces Fatima Zaman to its Leicester audience. Raised in Tower Hamlets, Zaman is part of the “Extremely Together” initiative which is run by the Kofi Annan Foundation. The Foundation has facilitated the grooming of ten young people to be the next generation of counter-extremists and Muslim leaders . . .” click here.
Professor Ted Cantle, writing in his blog, 3 Februay 2017, ‘. . . I have written elsewhere about the need to move away from the ‘groupist’ philosophy of multiculturalism towards a much more intercultural approach, but we have a long way to go. At the present time, one of the worst offences is the way in which we categorise ‘Muslims’. This is not just the use of this in academic, policy and more general parlance, but it is institutionalised through the UK’s Prevent strategy. Both the last Government and the present one have only seen Muslims through the lens of their Muslimness and failed to engage with them as people with ordinary and everyday concerns. The last Government at least had their community cohesion strategy and whilst it struggled to keep this separate from its counter terrorism policy, the present Government has no form of engagement outside of Prevent. The stereotype is thus reinforced – and more worrying used to stir up fear and hatred. Let’s hope that Ministers (and policy makers generally) are convinced by this film, when so many words have failed!’ click here
Rob Faur Walker in Discoverysociety.com, 1 February 2017, ‘In 2014 the Muslim students in my classes stopped engaging in political debate. I am a secondary school teacher in London and such debates are vital. They ensure that views that at first appear extreme are aired and questioned, students and teachers alike are challenged on their views, and we all appear and become less extreme. Teaching in Tower Hamlets, where 90-100% of the students in any of my classes are Muslim, this shutting down of debate had a profound impact and caused me to worry about the effects that this was having on the students’ education. I carried out research at UCL Institute of Education to find out what was going on. I have run student focus groups, including for the Tower Hamlets Overview and Scrutiny Committee into Prevent, interviewed many pupils from across the country and I have also spoken about this with the hundreds of students who I teach. I have heard it repeated in all of these settings that students are scared to practice their religion and that they do not feel comfortable to speak openly with adults. Students include their teachers and their parents in those that they don’t speak openly with and while it was initially only Muslim students saying this non-Muslims have started sharing similar concerns more recently. When I question students on the causes for these concerns, the universal reply is that they fear being reported to the security services under the PREVENT Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which compels their teachers to report signs of ‘radicalisation’ and ‘extremism’ to the security services. Students tell me that fear of being reported is causing them to alter their behaviour. This has led me to analyse the PREVENT Strategy, revealing that its discourses of ‘radicalisation’ and of ‘extremism’ are at the core of this approach to counter-terrorism’. click here.
Esther Addley and Alexandra Topping in the Guardian, 25 January 2017, ‘A local education authority has admitted racially discriminating against two young boys and breaching their human rights when a school called the police after one of them told his teacher he had been given a toy gun as a present. The brothers, aged seven and five and of mixed Indian and Middle Eastern heritage, were questioned by uniformed officers in March 2016 after the school raised concerns they might be at risk of radicalisation. The boy’s teacher has insisted she never doubted the weapon was a toy. The school’s governors found teachers were unsure if they had a duty to report their concerns under Prevent, the government’s anti-radicalisation strategy, and called Bedfordshire police. The school cannot be named in order to protect the children’s identity.’ click here.
Rachel Robinson writing in the website of human rights NGO, Liberty, 23 January 2017, ‘In the Lords on Wednesday, Labour peer Alf Dubs will seek repeal of the Prevent duty in universities through an amendment to the Higher Education and Research Bill. He will be joined by prominent Green, Liberal Democrat and Conservative peers united in defence of free speech on campus. Meanwhile in the Commons on Friday, Conservative MP Lucy Allan will use a Private Members Bill to argue that primary schools and nurseries are no place for Prevent. The Prevent duty – together with the Government’s guidance – requires teachers, nursery workers, lecturers and others to monitor speech and behaviour for conduct deemed contrary to British values. There are severe consequences for failing to do so, but none for improper reports.’ click here.
PREVENT and infringement of liberties, reported in the Guardian, 20 January 2017, ‘One of the UK’s most prestigious universities has warned students and staff that their emails may be retained and monitored as part of the government’s Prevent programme to stop radicalisation on campuses. Campaigners have raised concern after King’s College London (KCL) introduced a warning on its email login page stating that by using the system students and staff were consenting to their emails being “monitored and recorded”. A spokesperson for KCL’s students’ union said it was a violation of trust, adding: “Students who have not committed any crimes are being treated as suspects.” The introduction of the Prevent duty within universities remains highly contentious, with both academic staff and students arguing that it risks creating a culture of mistrust and shutting down vital debate . . . The National Union of Students said it condemned any systematic monitoring of emails. “This is yet another example of how the Prevent agenda turns our educational institutions against their own students, perpetuates a culture of fear, restricts academic freedoms and normalises Islamophobia,” said the NUS president, Malia Bouattia.’ click here.
PREVENT and the Imams Online Digital Summit Initiative
This event planned for 11 January 2017 is advertised on social media in an unclear poster as a summit of ‘Policy leaders from Google, Facebook & Twitter education & technology/Muslims in the media/Extremism, Islamophobia, Rise of the Far Right/Launch of ‘What British Muslims really do’ video series.’ However, the event has prompted much adverse comment because key speakers – see the social media poster – are associated with Prevent-related initiatives, hence lacking credibility and confidence within most sections of British Muslims. There is now greater awareness of such projects, due to the work of the investigative reporting site, 5pillarzuk.com and the Coolness of Hind blog.
From cage.ngo, 23 December 2016
CAGE was due to launch its anticipated PREVENT national tour today in an attempt to educate and empower communities on how they can challenge the discredited PREVENT policy, and to highlight some of our cases that demonstrate its many failings. However in an ironic twist, PREVENT police have sought to silence these community events, by using all the tax payers resources at their disposal to block the PREVENT tour through the use of threats and intimidation. So far they have successfully intimidated four venues in Sheffield, Derby, Manchester and Luton, which were bullied into cancelling our bookings. Despite this, the events will go ahead as planned at alternative venues. click here.
Bob Hindle, Lecturer in Education at Manchester Institute of Education at The University of Manchester, 14 December 2016 ‘ There are clear conclusions – if Prevent is to be persevered, school and college cultures must focus on inclusion, with more robust staff awareness and training. Personal agency and interpretations of extremism must be avoided. But can there be commonality in what is seen as ‘extreme’? And who is ‘the other’? The threat from terrorism remains at ‘severe’. British citizens and others have lost their lives to acts of terror at home and overseas. The Director of MI5 recently noted there were 3000 Islamist extremists in the UK who posed a threat to security. However, rather than tasking teachers with identifying complex indicators of radicalisation and extremism, playing out anything from misunderstanding to prejudice, we need to strive for a commonality in what we consider ‘extreme’, build community resilience to challenge this and strengthen our commitment to inclusion around diversity . . .’ click here.
Diane Abbot MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary for Health, reported leftfutures.org 30 November 2016, ‘I’m calling for a major review of the strategy and a fundamental rethink from the government.’ click here.
Ruth Evans reporting on BBC News, ‘The NHS referred 420 patients and staff to police in England and Wales in a year over concerns they were at risk of radicalisation, the BBC has learned. National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) figures show an average of 35 referrals a month in the year to July 2016 – up from 21 a month the previous year. Since July 2015, public bodies have a legal duty to report people considered at risk of being drawn into terrorism. The government says its Prevent programme safeguards people at risk. BBC Radio 5 live used a Freedom of Information request to obtain the figures from the NPCC, which said that, following assessment, one in 10 were found to be vulnerable to radicalisation and offered support.’ click here.
Moazzem Begg’s 11 points for defeating violent extremism (in ceasefiremagazine.co.uk, 11 November 2016:
- You [HMG] must take full responsibility for the major causes of destabilisation in regions Britain has invaded.
- Stop any further bombing, droning or military incursions.
- Oppose the actions of allied nations that conduct or participate in the above.
- Have a foreign policy based on morality and ethics, not only interests.
- Place legal controls on the hatred stoked against minorities by the tabloid press.
- Open meaningful channels of negotiations with enemies and stop creating new ones.
- Challenge politicians who conflate, equate or define an entire group by the actions of a minority of individuals within it.
- Ensure that school curricula include the contribution to literature, history, culture, science and the arts by minorities, particularly – in the present context – Islam’s civilisational contributions.
- Stop treating students like suspects and educators as informants.
- Help make potentially radicalised youth feel like they belong in their own country.
- Introduce policies and programmes to prevent “white flight” from predominantly Muslim/ethnic minority areas and encourage the reverse through community-based programmes.’ click here.
|Alan Travis in the Guardian, 11 November. ‘The government’s controversial Prevent counter-radicalisation strategy is to be toughened rather than scaled back despite criticism that it is a toxic brand and a “big brother” security operation among Britain’s Muslim communities. The Home Office confirmed that a secret Whitehall internal review of Prevent, ordered earlier this year by Theresa May when she was home secretary, has concluded that the programme “should be strengthened, not undermined” and has put forward 12 suggestions on how to reinforce it.’ click here.|
GP Dr Clare Garada’s testimony in the New Statesman, 3rd November 2016, ‘. . . although Prevent has been running since 2003, last year the government created additional legislation which compels medics to tell the authorities of anyone they believe is at risk of being drawn into terrorism — including not just violent but also non-violent “extremism”. This is an “assessment” that is based on what the patient tells you in the consulting room . . . The current statutory duty to compel health professionals to report on patients risks turning doctors into counter-terrorism agents. Doctors have tremendous power over their patients, and the cornerstone of the doctor-patient relationship is trust. Prevent risks destroying that trust, particularly with respect to Muslim patients. We risk being seen by our patients as agents of the state, ready to act under Prevent on our conscious or unconscious biases, and report our patients for “extremism” to the authorities. . . ‘ click here.
Open Society’s report, Eroding Trust, 19th October 2016, ‘ First, the current Prevent strategy suffers from multiple, mutually reinforcing structural flaws, the foreseeable consequence of which is a serious risk of human rights violations. These violations include, most obviously, violations of the right against discrimination, as well the right to freedom of expression, among other rights. Prevent’s structural flaws include the targeting of “pre-criminality”, “nonviolent extremism”, and opposition to “British values”. This “intensifies” the government’s reach into “everyday lawful discourse”. Furthermore, Prevent’s targeting of non-violent extremism and “indicators” of risk of being drawn into terrorism lack a scientific basis. Indeed, the claim that non-violent extremism – including “radical” or religious ideology – is the precursor to terrorism has been widely discredited by the British government itself, as well as numerous reputable scholars. Prevent training, much of it based on unreliable indicators, appears to be largely unregulated. Moreover, the statutory duty creates an incentive to over refer.’ click here.
Amrith Singh in the Guardian, 19th October 2016, ‘. . . Prevent’s overly broad definition of extremism – vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values – creates a systemic risk of violations of the right to freedom of expression, the right against discrimination and the right to privacy. Scottish government officials told me that although the term “British values” was in the Prevent guidance, they “don’t ever use that phrase” because “it could be damaging or unhelpful if it endorses a ‘them and us’ mentality” . . . Having spoken to more than 80 experts and individuals affected by the programme, my research found that Prevent was creating a climate of fear and a chilling effect on free expression. Case studies in the report describe children in schools being targeted and intimidated under Prevent for expressing political views. In UK universities – considered by many to be bastions of academic freedom – Prevent is apparently leading to the cancellation of conferences and debates about Islamophobia, and students are being targeted for reading course materials on terrorism.’ click here.
David Anderson QC, ‘the top independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday (6th October 2016): “There is a strong feeling in Muslim communities that I visit that Prevent is, if not a spying programme, then at least a programme that is targeted on them”.’Reported by Aisha Gani, Buzzfeed. click here.
An-Nisa & other Muslim civil society groups issued a statement (3rd October 2016) addressed to the London Borough of Brent: ‘The Council believes its time to talk. But for two years now, An-Nisa Society and other local organisations have been trying to raise our concerns about the Prevent Strategy, and in particular the Public Sector Duty . . . click here.
Royal College of Psychiatrists, ‘Counter-Terrorism and Psychiatry’ in report published in September 2016 notes
. . . Data on evaluations of Prevent, as with any initiative requiring public services to alter their practice, must be in the public domain and subjected to peer review and scientific scrutiny. Public policy cannot be based on either no evidence or a lack of transparency about evidence. The evidence underpinning the UK’s Extremism Risk Guidance 22+ (ERG22+; HM Government 2011c), and other data relating to this guidance, should be comprehensively published and readily accessible.
Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrats, 13 September 2016: The Liberal Democrats are to push an amendment to scrap the counter-extremism scheme Prevent and propose replacing the term “British values” with “universal democratic values” in any successor strategy. Alastair Carmichael, the party’s home affairs spokesman, said the party had reached a point where it could no longer support the programme, which it worked to revise while in government and which the home affairs select committee said had become too toxic within communities to work effectively. click here
Tariq Ramadan in the Guardian, 5th September 2016: When programmes like Prevent were established, they quickly came under heavy criticism, both for their approach and for their poor results. Over a decade on, it is clear not a single anti-radicalisation scheme, either in Europe or the US, has proved effective. There are several reasons for this. To begin with there is the terminology employed. Religious radicalisation is described as a process through which individuals pursue a continuing trajectory, leading from a “moderate” understanding and practice of religion, to an increasingly violent or extremist involvement. Nothing could be further from reality.
. . . Undoubtedly religious interpretation plays a role: extremist and literalist readings of Islam’s source texts exist, and can only be countered by solid arguments produced by Muslim scholars whose credibility is widely recognised. Individual profiles are also a crucial factor, as are social status, unemployment, drug use and psychological imbalance.
. . . Politics must also be singled out as a prime cause of citizens slipping into violence – an issue on which deradicalisation programmes are almost entirely mute. Acts of violence do not take place in a political vacuum. As early as 2005, the then prime minister Tony Blair refused to admit any connection between British foreign policy and radicalisation. Though nothing can justify the killing of innocent civilians in London or Paris, any more than in Damascus or Baghdad, it’s clear that western policies in the Middle East have led to high levels of frustration and may well explain why some individuals have adopted extremist views . . . ‘ Click here.
Maria Norris in the Statesman, 26 August 2016, ‘As I have written previously, as Prevent has become more entrenched in British society, it has also become more secretive. For example, in August 2013, I lodged FOI requests to designated Prevent priority areas, asking for the most up-to-date Prevent funding information, including what projects received funding and details of any project engaging specifically with far-right extremism. I lodged almost identical requests between 2008 and 2009, all of which were successful. All but one of the 2013 requests were denied.’ click here.
John Dickens in schoolweek.co.uk, ‘A government programme aimed at stopping youngsters being drawn into terrorism is creating a climate of “suspicion and mistrust”, claimed headteacher Terry James. The second session of the Battle of Ideas asked whether the government’s anti-radicalisation programme Prevent was “turning teachers into spies”. James, head of Queen’s school in Hertfordshire, said he agreed with Labour MP Andy Burnham that the Prevent brand had become so toxic it “had to go.” “There’s a climate of suspicion and mistrust, instead of eradicating it [radicalisation], it is making conditions for it to flourish.” He described the Prevent training he was “subjected to”, as one of the “most depressing and annoying experiences of my professional life”.’ click here.
Smita Jamdar, Legal specialist writing in FE Week: ‘. . . the Government has chosen a very flexible definition of extremism – so inflexible in fact that attempting to enshrine it in statute through the Counter-Terrrorism Bill is now foundering on the grounds that it is not sufficiently legally robust. It was chosen deliberately because it can then be adapted to differing environments and changing trends. While such a broad definition may be a laudably pragmatic attempt at ‘future-proofing’ the legislation, it does leave it open to such vastly different judgements to be reached that even identifying what a “common” sense response looks like may be tricky . . .
Terrrorism is defined as particularl action or the threat of particular action (such as serious violence and damage to property) designed to influence the government or initimidate the public in order to advance a political, religious or ideological cause. This, most people would agree, is a relatively clear threshold to identify. The guidance (for the implementation of the new Prevent duty in the Further Education) sector however is based on the much broader definition of extremism as vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and a mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. So much broader is this definition that some legal commentators have questioned whether it is close to be being an unlawfully broad exercise of the power to issue guidance conferred by the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015.
Whether or not that is correct, colleges have to apply the definition as it stands. If there is a religious group (or indeed any other group not necessarily aligned to a religion) expressing views that were contrary to this broad definition of British values, then technically they fall within the Prevent guidance.
Consideration needs to be given, therefore, as to whether or not those exposed to these views could be drawn into taking or threatening action to intimidate the public or a section of the public as a result.
Some religions promote beliefs that raise questions about, for example, individual liberty: sexuality and abortion are issues in relation to which elsewhere in the world terrorist acts have been carried out by religious groups.
If there is a risk that the group’s views could lead to that result, then intervention by an institution is not only justified, but also arguably required in order to discharge the statutory duty. Having identified a risk, colleges are expected to eliminate it. In the case of open events, such as visiting speakers, that may be achieved by making sure contrary views are expressed at the event. But what can be done about private gatherings, other than perhaps ban them? This may not have been what the government had in mind when it introduced the latest version of the Prevent duty. But it is perfectly predictable response to a duty drawn so widely that it will capture views that are regarded as mainstream by some groups. Source: Feweek.co.uk 20th June 2016.
Andy Burnham MP, Labour Shadow Home Secretary, ‘The Prevent duty to report extremist behaviour is today’s equivalent of internment in Northern Ireland – a policy felt to be highly discriminatory against one section of the community’. click here.
MiddleEastEye.net reports, ‘Leading lawyers, medical professionals, academics and human rights campaigners in the UK have called for a widespread campaign of opposition to government proposals to outlaw so-called non-violent extremism amid concerns that the plans amount to an unprecedented exercise in “thought control”. Speaking at a conference in London on Saturday organised by a coalition of groups opposed to the Prevent counter-extremism strategy, human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce said the government was waging a “covert war” on political dissent.’ click here.
Jack Grove in the Times Higher Education Supplement, ‘Julius Weinberg, vice-chancellor of Kingston University, told an audience at the University and College Union congress in Liverpool, held from 1 to 3 June, that university chiefs are “under a lot of pressure” not to criticise new Prevent duties, which he worried might inhibit free speech via self-censorship within institutions.’ click here.
Simon Cole, police lead for Prevent programme, as reported by Vikram Dodd in the Guardian, 24th May 2016, ‘The police chief leading the fight to stop people becoming terrorists has said government plans targeting alleged extremists are so flawed they risk creating a “thought police” in Britain. Simon Cole, the police lead for the government’s own Prevent anti-radicalisation programme, said that the plans may not be enforceable and risk making police officers judges of “what people can and can not say”. click here.
Surabhi Ranganathan, a fellow of King’s College Cambridge and Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, 11th May 2016, (as reported in the Guardian by Siyang Wei & Louis Ashworth), ‘described the Prevent legislation as both “extraordinarily intrusive and extraordinarily vague”, citing its scope to regulate not just actions, but thoughts, and stating that “thought crime is not crime”. She explained that Prevent legislation does not describe “an aim to be achieved, means to be used, or standards by which we will be judged” as legislation usually does; Prevent merely states a “duty”, and leaves actual measures largely to individual institutions’ discretion. Ranganathan further argued that the danger of Prevent is its “co-option of members of the University” into surveillance and suspicion of our own students and colleagues, particularly those who are Muslim.’ click here.
UN special rapporteur Maina Kiai’s comments, 21st April 2016 (as reported in the Guardian by Damien Gayle: ‘The UK government’s strategy to counter Islamist extremism is affecting the discussion of terrorism, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to freedom of assembly has said. Attempts to identify and counter Islamist extremism through the Prevent programme had “created unease and uncertainty around what can be legitimately discussed in public,” said Maina Kiai, at the end of a three-day visit to the UK in which he warned Britain must live up to its human rights commitments. “I heard reports of teachers being reported for innocuous comments in class, for example,” Kiai said. “The spectre of Big Brother is so large, in fact, that I was informed that some families are afraid of discussing the negative effects of terrorism in their own homes, fearing their children would talk about it at school and have their intentions misconstrued”. Kiai warned that Prevent was having the opposite of its intended effect. “By dividing, stigmatising and alienating segments of the population, Prevent could end up promoting extremism, rather than countering it,” he said. The Kenyan lawyer has served in his role with the UN since 2011.’ click here.
A teacher writes, ‘ In 2015, when the addition to the policy was made, teachers were promised they would be adequately trained in spotting signs of terrorism. All teachers were sent to a compulsory training on prevent. Having personally experienced this training as a teacher in Oxfordshire at the time, I can share my experience. The training consisted of sharing scenarios of students being radicalised. We were shown a total of 6 videos, 5 of which were about the radicalisation of Muslims. Muslim students were shown to be lured into terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaida. The 1 video, that was not focussed on a Muslim student was about right wing terrorism and a student acting violently towards other students in school, as he had joined an extremist group within EDL. To sum up then, teachers now left this excessively biased training with the perception that they had to look out for their Muslim students being radicalised. Unfortunately, the training did not quite highlight what it was teachers were meant to be looking out for, and as a result, it was up to each teacher to decide for themselves what it was they associated with behaviour deemed to be ‘extremist.’ click here.
Jenna Corderoy and Ben Bryant in news.vice.com, 6th April 2016, ‘The UK’s Department for Education (DfE) failed to consult a single Muslim organization during its development of the government’s flagship anti-radicalization website, VICE News has learned. A Freedom of Information (FOI) response shows that the government consulted 29 organizations including government departments, faith-based groups, various teaching associations, and charities over the content of the Educate Against Hate website — but none representing Britain’s Muslim community.’ click here.
Richard Adams reporting in the Guardian, 28th March 2016, ‘Teachers have voted overwhelmingly to reject the government’s Prevent strategy, designed to tackle extremism, over concerns that it causes “suspicion in the classroom and confusion in the staffroom”. At the National Union of Teachers annual conference in Brighton, a motion was backed calling for Prevent to be scrapped, after a succession of speakers ridiculed its effectiveness and attacked the poor support offered to schools to implement it.’ click here.
Julian Hargreaves in theconversation.com, 3rd March 2016, ‘The strategy also ignores the main drivers of this so-called “extremism” among many young people – not just young Muslims. Young Muslims are angry about British foreign policy, about perceived injustices to Muslims living abroad, and the relentlessly negative reporting in the UK media of Islam. They bear the brunt of Islamophobia, now increasingly apparent in civil society (especially against women), as well as the social and economic disadvantage caused by high unemployment. These criticisms of perceived extremism fail to tackle the question of what sorts of attitudes and practices might be considered “less dangerous” and what exactly should lawful political dissent among British Muslim youth look like? What are the “acceptable” limits of social and religious conservatism within Britain’s mosques and madrassas, for example? How should increasingly online global communities of Muslims forge their identities? And how can we increase mutual trust between Muslims and non-Muslims in Britain?’ click here.
Nafees Ahmed in insurgeintelligence, 17th March 2016, ‘…The lack of evidence that Channel could ever do more than alienate the very communities that need to be engaged applies to the UK Prevent programme more generally.’ click here.
|Paul Peachey in the Independent, 11th March 2016: ‘A writer who charted Mohammed Emwazi’s passage from misfit schoolboy to the Isis executioner known as Jihadi John has pulled out of a speaking event at the extremist’s former university, claiming that he is being gagged . . . Mr Verkaik refused to sign the document, for fear that it would leave him unable to raise difficult issues, such as complaints by young Muslim men that they have been radicalised because of MI5 harassment. Such opinions have previously been criticised as extremist by the authorities.’ click here.|
Academics Anonymous contribution in the Guardian, 4th March 2016, ‘A few days earlier, I attended a presentation given by the Prevent team at my university. As a result of the Counter-terrorism and Security Act 2015, higher education institutions now have a statutory duty to report potential radicals to the authorities. “There are six terrorist groups in the UK,” the presenter explained. “Can you name them?” . . . If the lines are being drawn between “them” and “us”, it seems we academics have equal responsibility for creating them. Big Brother is watching and we are being asked to watch with Big Brother, too. But who decides what is radical? How do we decide that a person is a terrorist? Perhaps it’s about appearance – maybe they need a beard, or to be wearing a headscarf. Or perhaps we need to be looking out for individuals who sport peace tattoos, long hair and tunics. . .
As the presentation continued, we heard several theories about what drives young people to become radicals. But is being a radical really such a bad thing? Don’t we want our students to think radically? Don’t we want to be challenged? Don’t we want our students to question us, and to think outside the box? click here.
Dr Salah Beltagui, Muslim Council of Scotland, ‘Scottish Muslim leader says UK’s counter-terrorism strategy prevents open discussion and makes it harder to find and root out extremists’ click here.
Fuad Nahdi, community veteran: ‘Five years after the 7/7 London bombing we seem none the wiser – and not any safer, if you believe our intelligence services. The core PREVENT strategy adopted is in tatters – misunderstood, mistrusted and messy. Anti-terrorism initiatives remain pedantic, paradoxical and reactionary. The struggle for hearts and minds is in a stalemate – but in the global wired village our young and angry youth are increasingly vulnerable and at great risk.… Most amazing, however, have been the efforts to randomly label Muslims: analyses such as Sufis are ‘good Muslims’ and Salafis are ‘bad Muslims’ are as ridiculous as they are naïve. And so are efforts to engineer a theological context for British Islam through a bunch of social activists and commentators. The promotion of organizations, foundations and councils that are perceived as malleable at the expense of those deemed ‘difficult’ – because they legitimately question the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, or our policies in Palestine, for instance – was doomed to fail.’ click here.
Alison Jamieson (co-author of Radicalisation and Terrorism: a Teacher’s Handbook for Addressing Extremism: . . . Teachers are required to be conversant with terms like radicalisation, terrorism, extremism and violent extremism and understand how or if these terms relate to one another, yet Prevent provides neither clarity nor guidance to help teachers with confusing terminology. Radicalisation and terrorism are problems that young people also find deeply troubling. They know that hundreds of their peers, some as young as 15, have joined ISIS forces but are confused about how and why. They need reliable sources of information about terrorism but are aware that their online searches may be subject to suspicion and scrutiny. Especially since the attacks in Tunisia and Paris, adults have struggled to find answers to questions such as “Why are they so angry?”, “What do they want?” and ‘Why us?” Teachers need resources to help them respond, even if they can give few certainties . . .
Discussions around the terminology of terrorism can be a positive stimulus to classroom debate. It can be explained that the word terrorism was first used during the French revolution to mean the use of violence by the state to compel fear and obedience in its citizens, whereas nowadays it refers to a tactic of warfare with specific characteristics; often but not always waged by a weaker, non-state group against a more powerful entity. Pupils should learn that terrorism is often used subjectively to label a disapproved-of behaviour and that opinions change as to what we call “terrorism”. While nearly all countries have their own definition of terrorism, it has been impossible to agree on a universally accepted definition, the principal obstacle being that countries cannot agree on the distinction between acts of terrorism and acts carried out as part of a legitimate struggle for self determination and liberation from foreign, colonial or alien occupation, the latter being recognized as legal under the United Nations charter. What we call “extremism”may be limited to the holding of extreme views – views that not many people share or that many people find unacceptable, yet there are signs that the government wishes to legislate against the expression of views it considers “extremist” whether or not they encourage violence . . . click here.
University of Manchester staff and academics’ statement: . . . as lecturers, we are deeply concerned that our role as teachers is fundamentally compromised by the expectation that we also assume the role of the security authorities (i.e. monitor the character of students’ opinions). This extended remit sets a dangerous precedent in terms of what roles University lecturers, on the basis of their own private judgements, are expected to assume. . . perhaps most problematically, we strongly believe that the increased risk of ethnic and religious profiling engendered by the Prevent guidance significantly threatens the University’s broader ambition to recruit Muslim students as well as compromising its ability to provide a safe, inclusive and accommodating space for the Muslim students currently at the University of Manchester. This is a concern that is pertinent to the University’s ambition to develop a stronger local presence, as well as to its goals in Widening Participation from disadvantaged groups as part of its Social Responsibility agenda. In sum, there are a number of significant issues that the Prevent agenda poses to the academic freedoms and culture of inclusivity that the University of Manchester aspires to deliver.’ click here.
Whistle blowers at York University, as reported by Chris Owen in nouse.co.uk:
An email sent out to an undisclosed number of staff, later retracted by the University’s Human Resources Department, has prompted renewed concerns about the introduction of a legal responsibility to identify radicalisation, known as the Prevent Duty, among University faculty. The email told staff that they had been “nominated by [their] Manager/Head of Department” to “complete an on-line tutorial detailing the Channel process”. Channel is the element of the Prevent strategy that calls on local councils, educators and others to spot character traits that make an individual susceptible to radicalisation. The online tutorial is a series of slides displaying case studies that supposedly equips frontline staff with the skills “to intervene to steer vulnerable people away from being drawn into terrorist-related activities”. . . Miqdad Asaria, a Research Fellow in the Department of Health Economics, was one of the staff members who received the training email. He told Nouse that he asked a friend if they had also received the email, who told him she thought she had received it “because she was Irish”.’ click here.
Anonymous contributor to thecolumn.net:‘ … I first heard about WRAP from a friend who teaches in East London schools. The Prevent programme, the government’s strategy to counter terrorism before it has even been thought of, is causing concern among teachers and staff, both Muslim and not. Some teachers feel that government guidelines are turning them intoinformants against their own students. It’s not that Prevent or WRAPs point a finger at Islam and shriek for a mob; the workshop leaders are at pains to do nothing of the kind. But, as I learned when I finally attended a WRAP session for myself, there is a curious absence in the identification of potential terror suspects within the WRAP sessions, and a curious emphasis on vulnerability…
Let us be clear what the Prevent and Channel programme wants us to do. The government is asking us to watch our fellow citizens constantly for signs of ‘vulnerability’. If we find their vulnerability suspicious, we should then report them to the state, with a guarantee that the police and security services will be notified. There is one step between suspicion and reporting a person: checking with a manager or supervisor to ensure the suspicions sound reasonable. So if two people share a suspicion of a (probably Muslim) person’s ‘vulnerability’, that person ends up on databases from which they may never be removed.’ click here.
Simon Hooper in www.middleeasteye.net: ‘Teaching staff at British universities, colleges and schools are being encouraged to consider Muslim students who display an interest in Palestinian issues as vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism, leaked training documents have revealed. The advice is contained in e-learning presentations being offered commercially to schools and higher education institutions to help them train their staff to fulfil their obligations under the government’s Prevent counter-extremism strategy to monitor students for radicalisation. The presentations, which have been produced by educational consultancy firm Marshall E-Learning, list Palestine alongside Syria and the growth of the Islamic State (IS) group as issues that need “careful monitoring by those involved in safeguarding”. . . Palestine-related activism has been flagged up in other training material produced for teachers and public sector workers as a possible indicator of radicalisation. A police leaflet produced for schools in 2014 to help teachers make judgments about referrals to Channel included a case study in which a student’s discussion of “Palestine and other international conflicts” was deemed salient information.’ click here.
Dr Anisa Mustafa
“The highly contested policy of Prevent has dominated headlines recently, particularly its enforcement in education, which has precipitated campaigns like ‘Students Not Suspects‘ to highlight its detriment to civil liberties. Although there have been a number incarnations of British counter-terrorism since 9/11, all consistently feature an emphasis on the ideology of Islam as a key factor in the causes of radicalisation and terrorism . . . The focus on ideology, rather than politics, is evident in Prevent’s mission to target the hearts and minds of young Muslims, to address their sense of alienation and lack of integration into Britain which are also linked to the wrong kind of religious interpretation. Leaving aside arguments that such efforts to integrate Muslims are a smokescreen for spying on them, even if these assumptions are taken at face value, the conclusions drawn from them are contradicted by the active citizenship of 34 young Muslims who participated in my doctoral research.”
|Prevent’s authoritarian and intrusive reach
|For a dossier of similar cases http://www.preventwatch.org/cases/|
Professor Arun Kundnani and others in a letter to the Guardian (10th February 2016): … One year ago the Prevent duty became statutory through the Counter-terrorism and Security Act 2015. This imposed a duty on public bodies to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”.
As a wide cross-section of Muslim community activists, academics, lawyers and politicians warned, the duty has in practice charged teachers, doctors and other professionals with monitoring people’s religious and political views. This is undermining the very ethos and relationships of mutual trust and openness that are fundamental to education and our public services while endangering other legal rights and protections. It is eroding civil liberties and deepening discrimination against Muslims.’ click here.
Baroness Amos, Director of SOAS: ‘It is very important to take our reading from the legislation. That is what parliament has agreed. It is very, very important that universities can have challenging debates and critical inquiry within the boundaries of what is legal. One of the problems with the debate round Prevent is that, although the legislation applies to any kind of extreme behaviour, the whole way it is discussed is in relation to Muslims and Islam. We have to be much, much more sensitive to the broader environment. We have students who have faced harassment, sometimes on their way into the university or leaving it. There’s huge concern among those students that Prevent is feeding into that. They feel they are being particularly targeted.’ click here.
Other critics of the Government’s Counter-Terrorism strategies, including the Prevent, Pursue and Channel programmes:
Ken Macdonald, warden of Wadham College, Oxford (and former director of public prosecutions): ‘. . . while it was fair to ask universities to curb attempts to radicalise or recruit students, the government’s anti-radicalisation strategy, Prevent, could be abused to stifle otherwise legal debate. “The Prevent duty goes far beyond [existing] constraints. It requires a university to do much more than to report a terrorist in the nest if we can possibly find one.
“Read literally, it envisages a future in which people might be constrained from arguing, in a university of all places, that democracy is wrong in principle – goodbye Plato,” Macdonald told a seminar in Oxford last week. He said Prevent endangers freedom of speech and research in universities. “One is forced to contemplate a level of uncertainty that plainly risks a chilling effect on intellectual discourse and exchange, not to mention a deadening impact upon research into difficult contemporary questions,” he said. Macdonald – a barrister, whose role as director of public prosecutions between 2003 and 2008 made him one of the most senior legal figures in England and Wales – said under the government’s guidance “the list of unacceptable topics might plausibly include much philosophical discourse, any Marxist analysis of a supposed class basis for our rule of law, and many atheist deconstructions of religion”.’ click here.
David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism laws: . . the lack of confidence in aspects of the Prevent programme, particularly but not exclusively among Muslims, is undeniable . . . It is important not to accept all these claims uncritically . . . Nonetheless, it seems to me that Prevent could benefit from independent review. It is perverse that Prevent has become a more significant source of grievance in affected communities than the police and ministerial powers (extended arrest and detention powers, port powers, passport removal, TPIMs with relocation) that are exercised under the Pursue strand of the CONTEST strategy. The lack of transparency in the operation of Prevent encourages rumour and mistrust to spread and to fester.’ click here.
Miqdaad Versi:’… When asking why Northern Ireland (which like the broader international threat has an MI5 threat rating of “severe”) was not included in the counter-extremism strategy, Gavin Robinson MP claimed he was told by a government official, I assume on the condition of anonymity: “Don’t push the issue too far. It is really a counter-Islamic strategy”. This view of the government targeting Muslims in particular, is also supported in how the government’s documented Counter-Extremism Strategy targets Sharia courts – but not Jewish Beth Din courts, which work in a remarkably similar way… The government now needs to be honest and explicitly admit it is intentionally targeting Muslims. It can then try and justify its position, not only with public opinion but also with the courts who are likely to have something to say on an issue of explicit discrimination. To abide by the Human Rights Act, for example, the government would have to provide the “objective or reasonable reason” why it is discriminating (Article 14), demonstrating why it is “necessary and proportionate” given the impact on freedom of religion (Article 9). Failure to do so leaves the government open to a judicial review, the culmination of which could result in the legislation itself being declared unlawful.’ click here.
Councillor Muhammad Afzal, Chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque, reported in Birmingham Mail [22 January 2016]: ‘ Future Lord Mayor Muhammad Afzal also labelled David Cameron an ‘Islamophobe’ over the government strategy, designed to help authorities identify people at risk of radicalisation. Prevent has now been extended to include Ofsted inspections of out-of-school education settings including madrassas – Islamic religious schools – which the chairman labelled ‘racist’. Coun Afzal, who becomes Lord Mayor in May, claimed the ‘disgraceful’ legislation was discriminatory against Muslims and called on Birmingham MPs to fight against it. He hit out during a meeting jointly organised with Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) in Highgate, attended by almost 100 people.’ click here.
Professor Ian Cram: ‘… The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 places a legal duty on listed authorities, including universities, to have “due regard to the need to prevent people being drawn into terrorism”. Failure to comply could render vice-chancellors in contempt of court. The government’s guidance on implementing the act also mentions “non-violent extremism”, this being thought responsible for the creation of “an atmosphere conducive to terrorism”. “Extremism” is defined 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”. It should also be said that the act instructs the home secretary, when she issues such guidance, to have “particular regard” to “freedom of speech” and “academic freedom”….
Precisely what are “British values”, for example? Should a visiting speaker talking about Plato’s views on the desirability of rule by elite guardians be banned? This lack of certainty would also, in all likelihood, be fatal to the legality of the measures under European Convention law, which requires that domestic restrictions on the right to freedom of expression be framed sufficiently clearly to allow people to regulate their conduct accordingly. It might also fail the separate test of proportionality; under the Human Rights Act 1998, a court in the UK could find that the new rules caught a range of speech forms (such as criticism of UK foreign policy) that did not threaten public order or public safety. In July 2014, no less a person than the current independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson, said that the powers were too widely drawn and would catch people who have no intention of threatening or intimidating others.
Moreover, there already exists a range of legal controls on speakers, including laws on terrorism, public order and incitement to racial and religious hatred. By unnecessarily closing down free speech in universities, the government is handing the enemies of democracy a huge victory. click here.
Rizwan Sabir: … The creation of a legal duty on universities (and other public sector workers) to report extremists or “potential terrorists” therefore has a deeply damaging impact in so far as it creates a climate of fear and self-censorship. This undermines students’ ability to critically engage with contemporary and historical issues, especially within the social sciences. Repressing a particular idea or viewpoint does not eradicate it. Instead, it drives it off radar, into spaces that are largely ungoverned and impenetrable to everybody except the intelligence services. click here.
Jessie Blackbourn: …The goal of preventing students from being drawn into terrorism is commendable, and some restrictions on free speech are justified in exchange for increased security. But the Prevent duty is drawn too broadly; it diverts into Channel, the UK’s deradicalisation programme, students who may have no intention of engaging in or inciting others to engage in violent, criminal or terrorist behaviour. In effect, the government is instituting a type of thoughtcrime, penalising people for what they believe, not the actions they take. This runs counter to the fundamental values of free expression that lie at the heart of the government’s counter-extremism agenda. In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, therefore, we need more, not less, free speech on campus if we are to defeat extremism in all its forms… click here.
Angela Neustatter in the Guardian: ‘… Last summer, schools became legally required to prevent pupils being drawn into terrorism. Just before Christmas, education secretary Nicky Morgan announced plans for a further toughening of the rules, demanding that schools monitor pupils’ internet usage. …Now more headteachers and experts are calling on the government to change its approach amid fears that simply policing students risks alienating and isolating Muslim pupils, not protecting them…
A spokesman for the DfE says: “Prevent is about protecting those who might be vulnerable to the poisonous influence of extremist ideologies. Good schools provide a safe space for pupils to develop the knowledge and awareness to challenge radical beliefs. We have provided a range of guidance.” Islington council, in north London, has called on the government to modify its approach to avoid damaging “community cohesion”. This follows the case of a pupil at Central Foundation school in Islington who was questioned about terrorism links when he mentioned eco-terrorism in a discussion on the environment. Councillor Caroline Russell told the Guardian of an eight-year-old boy in the borough whose family was visited by officials after he was too afraid in class to say what his religion was.’ click here.
Tom Barns in OpenDemocracy: The ‘Counter Terror and Extremism Bill’, brought eagerly into force by the Conservatives just weeks after the recent election, has numerous worrying implications. As well as receiving criticism over the draconian immigration policing methods it describes, the Bill has enshrined the government’s “Prevent” strategy into law. Prevent is a government initiative that has been rolled out over the past five years under the guise of curtailing the formation of violent terrorist networks. Projecting the ‘war on terror’ into UK classrooms and community centres, Prevent seeks to position public sector workers as proxy security forces charged with stamping out extremism.’ click here.
Muslim Council of Britain: The Times has published a shortened version of a letter sent by the Muslim Council of Britain. The letter responded to the newspaper’s incendiary frontage headline which stated that Muslims were ‘Silent on Terror’. The Times made this claim because of reports of low referrals by Muslim communities to the government’s controversial Prevent programme, and a resolve by some Muslim groups and mosques to boycott the programme. Yet, Prevent is now a statutory anti-radicalisation programme incumbent on public services not a report instrument for the general public. Reporting potential threats of terrorism by the public is done via the police and the national anti-terror hotline and we as well as many Muslims across the country have encouraged this. The article gives the false impression that not engaging with Prevent means Muslims are not reporting potential acts of terrorism. click here.
Waltham Forest Council of Mosques: The Guardian reports, ‘A society of mosques that represents up to 70,000 Muslims has vowed to boycott the government’s anti-terrorism Prevent programme after accusing the policy of being a racist attack on the Islamic community. The Waltham Forest Council of Mosques made the move in the wake of increasing tensions between the area’s council and the Muslim community. It is the first time a council of mosques has issued such a boycott and it will be seen as a blow to the government’s attempt to involve religious communities in the fight against radicalisation. The WFCOM statement was triggered by a motion at a meeting of Waltham Forest council on Thursday endorsing the need for the controversial Prevent programme and an associated programme known as Brit, launched to identify signs of radicalisation in primary school children. click here.
Philip Britton, headmaster of Bolton School boys’ division, ‘As headmaster of a boys’ school in one of Britain’s most multicultural towns, radicalisation is definitely on my radar and I recognise the crucial role of schools in teaching tolerance and mutual respect. But sadly, the government’s new Prevent strategy seems to be stifling the very things that will help prevent terrorism: positive challenge and healthy discussion … The socialisation that happens in schools should help young people take responsibility to fit into society as they find it. If young people at my school and others are to make a difference for good, then they need to be shown strong positive role models at school, at home and in the mosque on how to do this, and be given advice on how to live a life confident in their faith within and accepting of wider society.’ click here.
Waqas Tufail writing in the Runnymede Perspectives report, Justice, Trust & Solidarity, ‘The extensive academic literature on the subject points to the racialised way in which the so-called ‘war on terror’ has taken place, with BME communities and those regarded as ‘Muslim’ subjected to intense police scrutiny through the discriminatory PREVENT and Channel government counter-terrorism initiatives… The CTSA 2015 is likely to significantly affect the sense of belonging felt by British Muslims, and the young people of this community in particular. In schools, colleges and universities, young British Muslims can anticipate an unprecedented level of scrutiny directed at them, focusing directly on their appearance, changes in behaviour, attitudes and opinions. The consequences of allowing counterterrorism policy and practice to be pursued within educational, healthcare and public-sector settings can only lead to deleterious outcomes for British Muslims. One outcome is likely to be the silencing of, or at the very least the marginalisation of, British Muslim voices within these institutions. click here.
Keith Vaz MP, as reported in 5Pillars, ‘The chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz MP, has told a Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) conference that he would “abolish” the Prevent counter-terrorism strategy and “start again.” click here.
Ben Stanford of Rights Watch UK, ‘The recent developments affecting universities are obviously disturbing for students, academics and members of the general public who are committed to free speech, academic debate and mutual respect on campus. The Prevent Strategy has already shown itself to have the potential to be applied in an arbitrary and discriminatory fashion whilst the new Counter-Extremism Strategy and any resulting Act will almost certainly add further challenges.’ click here.
William Eichler in The Tablet, ‘Harris and Nawaz (authors of Islam and the future of Tolerance) prioritise the role played by ideas in radicalisation. They give little weight to factors such as wars abroad and prejudice at home… this weakness can have political consequences. David Cameron’s counter-extremism strategy Prevent, heavily influences as it is by Quilliam, focuses on tackling extremist ideas. There is a risk that Muslims with grievances about, say, discrimination at work or the UK’s foreign policy may be tagged as potential terrorists. by declaring war on ideas – however pernicious they may be – the space for open debate shrinks.’ 24 October 2015
Will Hutton in the Observer, ‘ Universities as liberal public institutions are increasingly being undermined. Theproposed new counter-extremism bill now lays the responsibility on civil society in general, and universities in particular, to identify and inform on individuals who engage in non-violent, non-criminal but “extremist” activity. What is extremism? The guidance to universities following the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act tells us it is “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”. But as Ken MacDonald, warden of Wadham College at Oxford argues, literally understood this would mean that he – or I, as principal of Hertford College, across the road – would have to keep the government informed on a regular basis. We’d have to report that our colleges had, say, hosted lecturers teaching Marxist theory that the rule of law is a class construct to enforce bourgeois supremacy; or note any atheist logician who deconstructed the foundations of religious belief. Both would have challenged our values as the government defines them, but in a non-violent, non-criminal way. As MacDonald continues: “To the response that these forms of speech are not the ones the government wishes to target, we might ask: who is to say?”. click here.
Ian Hopkins, Manchester Chief Constable, ‘…It’s not just about counter-extremism, it’s also about protests. We are in a very difficult position. We tread a very thin line in terms of making sure people can air views, there can be proper debate, that people can protest peacefully. For me that’s the real challenge, just making sure that police maintain that line and don’t become the thought police because that’s dangerous. We always have to be careful with intelligence we’re given. You don’t just respond to the first piece of intelligence unless it’s absolutely nailed on and you’ve got to do something immediately. It’s that background analysis of what we’re being told and not just reacting to every piece of intelligence as soon as it walks through the door.’ click here.
Vince Cable, ‘… Instead of intellectual challenge there will be a bland exchange of views which are inoffensive and politically correct. This will not stop terrorism or terrorist recruitment, and may make the problem worse by driving underground those who are regarded as extreme but are currently non-violent. It seems highly likely that university authorities in particular will be risk averse and will seek to avoid the danger of legal action from the authorities in respect of extremist speakers.’ click here.
Rabbil Sikdar in the Morning Star, ‘… surveillance across the public sector is one of the most draconian and sinister acts in recent times. How does creating an atmosphere where Muslims are spied upon work in the interests of integration and Muslims feeling British, rather than alienated by the covert hostility from their colleagues now demanded by the government? And what of teachers watching children for signs of radicalisation? Young Muslims with views on foreign policy — a massive thorny issue within the community that has been long undiscussed — will be too afraid to air these views. Will these views actually go away or instead get driven underground? click here.
Peter Oborne in middleeasteye.net, ‘… the worries about the term “extremism” stretch far wider than free speech. Who defines who is and who is not an extremist? What are the British values which these so-called extremists are alleged to oppose? The latest Home Office document has not come up with anything resembling a convincing answer. This failure to come up with a definition leaves behind the suspicion that Conservative politicians are engaged in a form of dog-whistle politics. In other words, the latest document is sending out a message about British Muslims which is not made fully explicit: you are not wanted. click here.
Bill Bolloten, Educational Consultant, 22nd October 2015, ‘… I am active in #EducationNotSurveillance, a network of parents, teachers, educationalists, activists and academics, who argue that the new statutory Prevent duty is misguided, counter-productive and damaging to both pupils and schools. We have come together to challenge Prevent and how it is being implemented in schools and early education settings. We will shortly be launching the #EducationNotSurveillance website, aimed primarily at school leaders, teachers, parents, early education practitioners as well as teachers’ professional associations. We are developing a statement that we want people to get behind, and we aim to provide information, analysis and arguments explaining the consequences of the Prevent duty. As part of our opposition and challenge to Prevent we also want to give out a clear and positive message that we believe in education that is inspirational, that develops pupils’ critical thinking, celebrates cultural diversity, promotes equality and fosters the trust and goodwill needed to explore sensitive and difficult issues.
… In the UK therefore, but also in the USA and Australia, training for teachers, often delivered by police officers, urges teachers to report signs of radicalisation among their pupils, despite there being simply no empirical evidence at all to support the idea that terrorism can be correlated with factors to do with family, identity and emotional wellbeing. One writer described this as ‘orientalist pseudoscience’. Beneath the jargon on ‘risks’, ‘vulnerabilities’, ‘engagement factors’ and ‘psychological hooks’, is an invitation to limitless racial and religious profiling in which normal teenage behaviours, or a young person’s beliefs, can be seen as indicators of being on the pathway to violent extremism. In fact, again, studies show that there is no direct link at all between religious observance, radical ideas, emotional wellbeing and violent acts. But this is how Prevent operates in schools: identifying threats before they emerge in the so-called ‘pre-crime space’… click here.
JUST West Yorkshire, 22nd October 2015: ‘ … The government’s insistence on funding only “moderate” organisations has failed in the past as its strategic partners like ‘Quillaim Foundation’ have been ineffective in preventing British Muslims from joining the ranks of IS. Instead, JUST believes that there must be a clear competence framework and it must be evidence-led so that those funded to do this work as part of the £5 million anti-extremism package are qualified, competent and are targeting their work where the pull factors are the strongest. For a long time, JUST has been greatly concerned about the securitisation of the public sector and co-opting of doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers and refuse collectors into the security apparatus. The absence of independent audit trails evaluating the efficacy of the decisions that are being made and the lack of public and community accountability has serious ramifications for Muslims and those ethnic minorities caught up in the dragnet of the anti-extremism agenda. The government’s attempt to frame extremism as the ‘biggest issue of our time and a generation’ is flawed as poverty, inequality and austerity policies have an even more adverse and disproportionate impact on the lives of Muslims and minority communities.’ click here.
Samayya Afzal, Women’s and Liberation Officer at Bradford Student Union: ‘ At the University of Bradford Students Union, we organised the Students Not Suspects event because the PREVENT duty has brought with it one of the biggest attacks on students and freedom of speech. By cracking down on the open debate of ideas, the challenging of discrimination and encouraging of racial and religious profiling, the government has further narrowed the already narrow confines of acceptable thought and opinion. Student unions play an incredibly important part in ensuring the welfare of students is prioritised on campus. They are also best placed to communicate student’ views and experience in order for them to be taken into account by institutions before they implement policies. This has been completely side-stepped with the application of PREVENT, which has brought with it huge concerns over the profiling, silencing and demonising of students from ethnic minority and/or Muslim backgrounds, as well as an attack on the integrity of academic research and universities’ responsibilities to promote freedom of speech. click here.
The Conversation website, 20th October 2015: ‘… The ink is barely dry on the British government’s Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, yet it has decided to launch a new counter-extremism strategy. We Must Do Something syndrome, it appears, has struck again. Counter-terrorist legislation is passed almost as frequently as the average Premier League club changes its manager… One of the biggest problems with this plan and any legislation that will arise from it will be how you define in law what extremism actually is. … Without a clear definition of what extremism is, the government’s proposal to introduce a “community trigger” could seriously damage relations between the police and the people they serve. Although quite vague at present, the idea appears to be that any report of extremist activity the police receive will be investigated seriously … We have already seen how taking all reports of terrorism seriously can go wrong. Take the case of medical student Yousif Badri, who was accused of having “the intention to commit acts of terrorism” primarily because he had a tub of nails in his home but no hammer. The authorities suggested he might be using them to make a bomb when, in reality, they were left there by his father while carrying out DIY work. The hammer had been lent to a friend and not returned. Terrorism, although defined in section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000, is itself incredibly broad, resulting in vast discretion being exercised by the authorities. Extremism as a concept is even broader than terrorism and so cases like Yousif Badri’s may become even more common if the community police trigger is introduced.’ click here.
Matthew Goodwin, writing in the Guardian, 20th October 2015: ‘ … I was one of two academics appointed to the group to research the drivers of anti-Muslim hatred and how to build bridges between the research community, government and British Muslims. My time and involvement were all funded by my academic institution. That would not have been worth mentioning had there actually been research and support. But there was neither … Last week David Cameron announced the launch of a new “community engagement forum”, designed to give the prime minister a chance to “hear directly about their work in our communities, the challenges they face and so that they can be part of our one-nation strategy to defeat it”. Was this not the purpose behind the establishment of the working group on anti-Muslim hatred three years ago? I am not clear how this new group differs from the working group, aside from the fact that it once again includes individuals and organisations that are highly divisive within Muslim communities. Such is the disconnect in this area that the government did not even bother to notify community representatives on the working group about this new strand of work … The success of Britain’s counter-extremism strategy will ultimately hinge on its ability to engage across all communities and inspire their trust. Working in this way, in sharp contrast, is only likely to fuel their disappointment.’ click here.
Sir Peter Fahy, 19th October 2015: The Guardian reports, ‘[Fahy, chief constable of Greater Manchester police] told the Guardian that the government’s latest plans could be counterproductive, coming at a time when Muslims in the UK feel increasingly alienated. Fahy, who speaks for the police on the government’s Prevent strategy, said: “There is a concern that efforts to control extremist narratives will limit free speech and backfire if we don’t get the balance right. The efforts to control extremism and limit protest by those caught by too wide a definition may undermine the very rights and British values you seek to protect.”
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Islington Council, 17th October 2015: At last night’s meeting of the full council in the town hall, Cllr Caroline Russell proposed a motion to work with trade unions, universities and faith groups to request the government changes elements of the [Prevent] programme “that damage community cohesion”. Green Cllr Russell, the only non-Labour member of the council, also suggested working with schools, governors and faith groups to ensure effective implementation of Prevent. The motion, having been amended by the Labour group, was approved. Cllr Russell, for Highbury East, said: “Our schools, colleges and universities are grappling with the requirements of this with the threat of Ofsted hanging over them. In an age of cuts and teachers being over-worked, this is potentially counter productive.” click here.
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Bharath Ganesh, 12th October 2015 : Part 5 of the CTS Act makes the Prevent strategy statutory, enshrined in legislation. In Part 5 of the CTS Act, the foundations of a highly centralised, top-down Prevent apparatus come to light. Prevent, now updated for 2015, eschews community engagement for centralised control. The Prevent duty and its government-centred context, click here.
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The Standing Together Against Prevent network: We recognise and condemn the damage that Prevent’s “spot the potential terrorist” approach has made primarily in stigmatising and criminalising entire Muslim communities, but also to a growing number of political activists and campaigners labelled with ill-defined terms like “non-violent extremist” or “domestic extremist”. click here.
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Shelly Asquith, NUS: Why I won’t be working with Prevent, click here.
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Because of its stand on PREVENT the National Union of Students (NUS) is now facing pressure from Government and called to toe the line – a sign of the authoritarianism not in keeping with British political tradition. The Higher Education minister Jo Johnson’s statement quoted in the Guardian (17th September 2015) is ominous:
“It is my firm view that we all have a role to play in challenging extremist ideologies and protecting students on campus. Ultimately, the Prevent strategy is about protecting people from radicalisation.
It is therefore disappointing to see overt opposition to the Prevent programme …The legal duty that will be placed on universities and colleges highlights the importance that the government places on this.”
The Guardian report adds, ‘Although he concedes the NUS is doing some good work, he also asserts contradictory statements made by NUS officials, including those that described the government’s approach as a “racialised, Islamophobic witch-hunt”. Earlier in the year, another officer claimed that strategies such as Prevent “ultimately exist to police Muslim expression”. He said such views cause division, and points to motions passed by student unions in a series of institutions opposing Prevent, including King’s College London, Durham and Soas, University of London.’
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A new website has been launched to express educationalists concern with with the Government’s intrusive counter-terrorism strategy, PREVENT. It notes, ‘the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 jeopardises the relationship of trust between educators and students’. click here
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Today [30th September 2015] Netpol joined other campaigning organisations, including Campaign Against the Arms Trade and the Islamic Human Rights Commission, to launch a new way for opponents of Prevent, the government’s ‘anti-radicalisation’ programme, to make a public stand against its draconian surveillance methods and the systematic targeting of political dissent, particularly within Muslim communities.
‘Together Against Prevent’ involves a simple statement we hope many organisations can sign up to and a logo that they can place on their websites. At a time when many in the public sector see little option but to participate in Prevent after it became a ‘statutory duty’ over the summer, this enables different groups to demonstrate their open opposition to the flawed assumptions behind this discredited approach to countering terrorism.
Although Netpol has coordinated the launch, this initiative was conceived as a collaborative tactic belonging to everyone who signs up to it. The resources to enable groups to take part are available at togetheragainstprevent.org.
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Academics and civil society leaders’ letter (July 2015):
We, the undersigned, take issue with the government’s PREVENT strategy and its statutory implementation through the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 for the following reasons:
1. The latest addition to the United Kingdom’s counter-terrorism framework comes in the form of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (CTS Act). The CTS Act has placed PREVENT on a statutory footing for public bodies to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism by tackling what is claimed to be ‘extremist ideology’. In practice, this will mean that individuals working within statutory organisations must report individuals suspected of being ‘potential terrorists’ to external bodies for ‘de-radicalisation’.
2. The way that PREVENT conceptualises ‘radicalisation’ and ‘extremism’is based on the unsubstantiated view that religious ideology is the primary driving factor for terrorism. Academic research suggests that social, economic and political factors, as well as social exclusion, play a more central role in driving political violence than ideology. Indeed, ideology only becomes appealing when social, economic and political grievances give it legitimacy. Therefore, addressing these issues would lessen the appeal of ideology.
3. However, PREVENT remains fixated on ideology as the primary driver of terrorism. Inevitably, this has meant a focus on religious interaction and Islamic symbolism to assess radicalisation. For example, growing a beard, wearing a hijab or mixing with those who believe Islam has a comprehensive political philosophy are key markers used to identify ‘potential’ terrorism. This serves to reinforce a prejudicial world view that perceives Islam to be a retrograde and oppressive religion that threatens the West. PREVENT reinforces an ‘us’ and ‘them’ view of the world, divides communities, and sows mistrust of Muslims.
4. While much of the PREVENT policy is aimed at those suspected of ‘Islamist extremism’ and far-right activity, there is genuine concern that other groups will also be affected by such policies, such as anti-austerity and environmental campaigners – largely those engaged in political dissent.
5. Without due reconsideration of PREVENT’s poor reputation, the police and government have attempted to give the programme a veneer of legitimacy by expressing it in the language of ‘safeguarding’. Not only does this depoliticise the issue of radicalisation, it shifts attention away from grievances that drive individuals towards an ideology that legitimises political violence.
6. PREVENT will have a chilling effect on open debate, free speech and political dissent. It will create an environment in which political change can no longer be discussed openly, and will withdraw to unsupervised spaces. Therefore, PREVENT will make us less safe.
7. We believe that PREVENT has failed not only as a strategy but also the very communities it seeks to protect. Instead of blindly attempting to strengthen this project, we call on the government to end its ineffective PREVENT policy and rather adopt an approach that is based on dialogue and openness.
Prof. Baroness Ruth Lister, Loughborough University and House of Lords
Karen Armstrong OBE, Author and Historian of Religion
Prof. Paddy Hillyard, Queen’s University, Belfast
Prof. Tariq Ramadan, University of Oxford
Prof. Humayun Ansari, Royal Holloway University
Prof. David Miller, University of Bath
Prof. John L Esposito, Georgetown University
Prof. Laleh Khalili, School of Oriental and African Studies
Prof. Arun Kundnani, New York University
Prof. Augustine John, University College London Institute of Education
Prof. Gargi Bhattacharyya, University of East London
Prof. Tariq Modood, University of Bristol
Prof. Robert Gleave, University of Exeter
and about 270 others.