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We are all extremists, according to Javid

28th Dec 2018
We are all extremists, according to Javid

(Image: Creative Commons)

Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, may have ambitions to eventually replace Theresa May as the next Prime Minister after she was damaged in a party confidence vote. But it is hardly prime ministerial material to make derogatory remarks about critics of the Government’s controversial Prevent extremism programme.

If critics of the divisive strategy are “on the side of extremists” then the majority of experts in the field are extremists. Of course, Javid would not consider non-Muslims critics as extremists, that tag is exclusively placed on Muslims who are constructively criticising the discredited programme.

The Muslim News has campaigned against this ill-conceived and self-defeating strategy that has mushroomed into a disaster since its 2006 inception by the Labour Government.

The latest figures released this month confirm the growing fears about the increasing terrorism risk from right-wing extremists. The number of people referred to the Government’s failed Prevent programme was 7,318 in 2017/18, with Muslims as usually grossly disproportionately targeted.

The increase though was largely due to a huge 36 per cent in the number of referrals related to right-wing extremism and the number subjected to Prevent’s Channel Panel discussions rose by more than half.

As a result, the number of individuals actually receiving Channel support was similar for the first time between those related to right-wing extremism and so-called “Islamist” extremism.

A growing concern about the use of the controversial powers has been the targeting of children and the figures also showed that of the 3,197 individuals referred for concerns related to Muslims, the age category with the largest proportion were the 26 per cent aged under 15.

The proportion was even higher rising to 30 per cent of those discussed at a Channel Panel and up to 33 per cent who received Channel support.

Among the 1,312 referred for concerns related to the extreme right, the largest proportion was not children but the 35 per cent of youths aged 15 to 20. This number grew to 41 per cent when discussed by a Channel Panel and 42 per cent who received Channel support.

Claims of the effectiveness of the controversial programme were mocked by Cage, highlighting that all but a tiny handful were “false positives” whereas the reality was “blind to the intrusiveness, trauma and stigma attached” to being investigated under Counter-Terrorism measures.

“The idea that future ‘terrorists’ have been somehow dissuaded through Prevent, particularly when the numbers do not correlate to actual violent of the campaign organisation,” said the organisation’s Research Director Asim Qureshi. “What is always missing from these discussions is the long-term impact of false referrals,” he said.

Regarding the worrying focus on children, Javid tried to deflect the criticism by equating the controversial programme with others designed to protect children.

“What Prevent is about is safeguarding people from those who wish to do them harm. Just in the same way we want to safeguard people from child sexual exploitation, from county lines drugs and gangs, you would also expect the Government to work hard to turn people away from extremism.”

In other comments, the Home Secretary warned there were organisations putting out propaganda and false information to turn people away from Prevent, which aims to combat radicalisation that might lead people into terrorism.

Without naming anyone, he claimed that they were “trying to find ways to warp young people’s minds and they put out what you might call propaganda or false information to try and turn people away from it. We have to fight against that.”

His comments, which also included claims that critics were “actually are on the side of extremists” are deeply worrying for such a senior politician. Prevent has been extremely polarising for many years and has left Muslim communities feeling marginalised and alienated.

The Home Secretary must be challenged as he cannot be allowed to simply stifle debate that is not favourable to the Government.

Critics of Prevent not only include Cage, Prevent Watch, the Muslim Council of Britain as well as this paper, but also an array of human rights groups including Amnesty International, Article 19, Committee on the Administration of Justice, Human Rights Watch, Index on Censorship, Liberty, Medact, Rights Watch (UK), the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Assembly, the UK’s own terror watchdog, Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, plus numerous academics.

Many have often called for the deeply flawed programme to be scrapped or at least subject to an independent review – a view shared by the House of Lords.

It is no answer to basically smear opponents as supporting ‘extremists.’ Javid is setting a dangerous precedent. Evidence has long highlighted how Prevent has caused and perpetuated feelings of fear, mistrust and marginalisation in large parts of Muslim communities in the UK.

Healthy debate is part of a well-functioning democracy. When criticised, the Government should listen and engage. Ministers ought to be seeking to build bridges with Muslims instead of marginalising and demonising them.

In addition, the Government is refusing to give any information on what exactly are the “extremism” issues that Muslim children, students and others are taken in by the Channel programme. Some leaks by the families of the victims indicate many of them are considered extremist if they become more religious, asking for the Qur’an or wanting a prayer room to pray and so on.

Already there is a complete lack of clarity over the Government’s definition of extremism. It does not help to tarnish all with the same brush.

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