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Hate crime agenda co-opted into counter-extremism strategy

25th Oct 2019

The Labour Government’s counter-extremism strategy (Prevent), targeted Muslims who may be involved in violent extremism, the Tories extended it to include non-violent extremism. In both cases, the definition of extremism was so wide that Muslims became part of a suspect community. This can be seen at ports where Muslims are stopped and searched under Schedule 7 even though there is no suspicion that they may be involved in non-violent or violent extremism.

Due to the Prevent strategy being heavily criticised by human right groups, politicians, academics, police, intelligence services, etc., the Government set up a commission to look into the counter-extremism strategy.

The Commission on Extremism, set up just last year, under the Chairmanship of Sara Khan, instead of looking into Prevent extremism strategy as it found it challenging to define “extremism”, the Commission has come up with yet another form of extremism, outside the realm of terrorism and violence which it has termed ‘hateful extremism’ after carrying out the first-ever national conversation on extremism.

It is seeking the establishment of yet another task force led by the Home Secretary to look into “hateful extremism” which like other counter-extremism strategies will be mainly targeting Muslims even though far-right extremism will also be included. However, for the far-right extremism, there will be no targeting of churches, or the white community like the Muslims are.

“Challenging extremism is not a new Government objective. The new commission will build on the comprehensive programme of work set out in the counter-extremism strategy,” Minister of State for Countering Extremism, Susan Williams, said when elaborating the role of the CCE. Rather than working with it, the Counter Extremism Strategy operates in parallel with the discredited Prevent strategy. Effectively it takes the framework of ‘countering extremism’ as developed under Prevent and spreads it deeper within society.

The underlining problem has always been that there is no legal definition for extremism. Although CCE has made it explicit that Prevent is ‘outside its remit,’ it continues to use extremism as defined by the programme. The imprecision of the Government’s arbitrary definition outlined in the Prevent duty guidance 2015 is “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.”

Not only is it frivolous, but extremism is now being linked with hate crimes, which Muslims are by far the biggest victims. It is not just a symptom of the rise of far-right groups but a response to the way Muslims are being portrayed so abusively in much of the media as well as the Islamophobic attitudes of many politicians, including Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

In its report, CCE describes hateful extremism as ‘behaviours that can incite and amplify hate, or engage in persistent hatred, or equivocate about and make the moral case for violence, (those) that draw on hateful, hostile or supremacist beliefs directed at an out-group who are perceived as a threat to the wellbeing, survival or success of an in-group (and) that cause, or are likely to cause, harm to individuals, communities or wider society.’

The commission presented case studies and the testimonies to illustrate the harmful and dangerous consequences of hateful extremism. Yet, strangely, the overwhelming target of criticisms in the report are directed against Muslim individuals and organisations. As if to emphasise its bias, CCE also produced three coinciding papers on ‘Islamism.’

All the reports are very weak on substance and academic value. Many members of CCE have already been identified as being part of the Islamophobia industry. Most notably some so-called experts have been associated or have links with such groups as the Henry Jackson Society, the Policy Exchange, the Quilliam Foundation, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change and other individuals. “By relying on right-wing think tanks and Muslims committed to supporting securitisation, the CCE has only confirmed the objectionable nature of its existence,” says Cage Research Director, Asim Qureshi.

Uncannily, the pattern of recommendations is similar to the focus of the discredited Prevent programme that will lead to the further criminalising of Muslims under the banner of countering extremism. Worryingly civil society is being sought to perform more surveillance over the community while advocating for a range of sanctions to enable the enforcement of its vested agenda.

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