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Dr Rob Faure Walker

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Dr Rob Faure Walker2019-11-05T12:12:00+00:00
Robert Faure Walker

Dr Rob Faure Walker

Rob became interested counter-extremism when he saw the impact that new policy had on his students in the secondary school in East London where he was teaching. Since then, his work has used corpus linguistics and discourse analysis to demonstrate that the usage of ‘extremism’ and ‘radicalisation’ has changed over the last decade, the words becoming conventionally synonymous with violence.

Rob has PhD from UCL and runs the website preventdigest.co.uk

January 2020 –2020-02-04T22:32:41+00:00

Counter-extremism has been in the spotlight since the Guardian revealed that Counter-Terrorism Police South East had distributed documents warning of the “anti-establishment philosophy” of Extinction Rebellion.

Policing Dissent

The document included lists of signs and symbols to help partners of Counter-Terrorism Police. As well as Right Wing and White Supremacist groups, they list “Left Wing and Associated Single Issue Groups”, including Stand up to Racism, Stop the War Coalition and CND.

Counter-extremism has always been the domestic branch of the racist War on Terror so it’s targeting of these organisations should not be surprising – though it does confirm that counter-extremism and Prevent have never been anything but an ill-conceived and racist attempt to police dissent.

Pseudoscience

The pseudo-scientific foundations of Prevent are well-known so it isn’t a surprise to see the emergence of more questionable “science” in counter-terrorism. Yet, Government proposals to use lie detectors will raise an eyebrow of even the most seasoned critical scholars of counter-terrorism!

The Home Office’s characteristic ability to ignore the evidence also reached new levels this month when research that they had funded described Priti Patel’s plan to tackle “radicalised” youth as “mad”.

I explain how the self-fulfilling policy cycle of counter-extremism and Prevent supports policy that flies in the face of all evidence in the video below and you can see the full discussion with Drs Salman Butt and Tarek Younis here.

CAGE Report

As ever, CAGE continue to do vital work and this month produced their report on A Real Alternative To Securitised Policies. At a time when the Government seems set on a course to further undermine our democracy with their expanding counter-extremism industry, CAGE offer a “new way forward for all those communities organising towards a new future, one that places trust back in the public, and rejects the militarisation of the state”.

Failing victims

If you are troubled by any aspect of the reporting on “grooming gangs”, please take the time to read Failing victims, fuelling hate: challenging the harms of the ‘Muslim grooming gangs’ narrative by Ella Cockbain and Waqas Tufail

More so than ever, there is so much more to say this month so,

Please download the Prevent digest for December 2019 here

December 2019 – Lord Carlile Removed2020-01-19T23:09:56+00:00

Lord Carlile Removed

Hidden behind the fanfare of the Queen’s Speech, Lord Carlile was removed as reviewer of Prevent. We wait to see if he will be replaced or if this is a precursor to the Government using their majority to re-write the legislation and cancel the review that was written into the statute last year.

Prevent Statistics

The next round of statistics are out. I always consider these to be a red-herring as the problems of Prevent silencing dissent and being anti-democratic are already known. But, please see the digest for two Twitter threads that offer more insight than my impatience offers.

Much More

Please see the digest for links to how “Tory policies made public less safe“, muddled thinking on “Hateful Extremism”, and much more.

As ever, there is so much more to say so

Please download the Prevent digest for December 2019 here

Advice

If you would like to be connected with academics or activists involved in this area, please get in touch and we’ll connect you with people with shared interests or experience.

Share your experiences of PREVENT

Please get in touch if you would like to contribute an article about your experiences of PREVENT for the blog or if you would like to summarise your research and share it with a wider audience via this mailing list.

Share

If you know anyone else who is interested, forward this email to them and they can sign up for the monthly digest below.

Best wishes,

Rob

November 2019 – Successful Challenge of Prevent2020-01-19T23:08:50+00:00

Successful Challenge of Prevent

Congratulations should be extended to DPG Law who have succeeded in getting the Metropolitan Police to agree to delete information relating to a referral of a primary school age child under Prevent.

Counter-Terrorism in the Arts

The Home Office supported Extremism story line in Hollyoaks came to it’s finale and was followed by attempts to promote Prevent. This continues to raise the question of why the Home Office need to co-opt the arts to promote the threat of extremism if, as they tell us, there are so many clear and present examples that they could use from the real world!

Austerity Making us Less Safe

The Trojan Horse Play continued to tour and was a damning indictment of the myths promoted in Michael Gove MP’s bookCelsius 7/7, and that ruined the careers of teachers and children in Birmingham. And, that went on to force Prevent into schools nationally. In this context, and in the context of the criticisms of austerity for breaking the criminal justice system and potentially allowing the early release of the killer of Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, it is not surprising to see the Government trying to hide their failings on national security behind new and populist initiatives. Ex-Head of the Parole Board, Nick Hardwick, has said that “We’ve neglected the criminal justice system, and now the chickens are coming home to roost”.

New Initiatives to Hide Past Failures

The Manchester bomber was reported to the police 5 times by his Mosque, but he was not investigated, presumably hidden amongst the thousands of false positive referrals that Prevent had solicited. If there is anything that we can learn from this, it is that encouraging the public to carry out surveillance will likely swamp the police and prevent them from following up on actual leads. On the week of the General Election, this is all a timely reminder that endless new initiatives to counter-extremism/terrorism, and that are often covered by the criminal law, might have the effect of making it look as if the Government is doing something, but have very little chance of making us more safe. Thankfully, the Labour Party have pledged to carry our a full review of Prevent if they come into power and this will be a good start after serious questions have been raised over the independence of the current review.

As ever, there is so much more to say so

Please download the Prevent digest for November 2019 here

Advice

If you would like to be connected with academics or activists involved in this area, please get in touch and we’ll connect you with people with shared interests or experience.

Share your experiences of PREVENT

Please get in touch if you would like to contribute an article about your experiences of PREVENT for the blog or if you would like to summarise your research and share it with a wider audience via this mailing list.

Share

If you know anyone else who is interested, forward this email to them and they can sign up for the monthly digest below.

Best wishes,

Rob

October 2019 – counter-extremism is being glamorised2019-11-05T10:42:01+00:00

Please read on for how counter-extremism is being glamorised (or “glam-washed”) by British Vogue, an update on the PREVENT Review, and details of the Police database for those referred to PREVENT.

As ever, there is plenty more in the news digest that you should download here and you can forward this email to anyone else who might be interested and they can sign up for monthly newsletters at the bottom of the page.

“Glam-Washing” CVE (or is it now CHE?)

Following the Commission for Countering Extremism’s laughable proposition that the counter-extremism industry should be re-branded from CVE (Countering Violent Extremism) to CHE (Countering Hateful Extremism), they are now on a propaganda drive. Positive publicity is presumably deemed necessary to paper over the cracks of their obviously flawed “evidence drive”. This has involved VOGUE magazine being used to “glam-wash” the work of Sara Khan, the commissioner for countering extremism, alogside that of Yasmin Green of Google Jigsaw and Nikita Malik of the Henry Jackson Society. Shereen Fernandes explores “a glaring oversight in the article on how counter-extremism policies specifically impact Muslim women”. Shereen also highlights that Vogue presents it as “some kind of success that such oppressive practices are carried out by those who apparently resemble us”.

“Independent” Review of PREVENT

Rights Watch (UK) “has launched a judicial review challenge to the Government’s independent review of the Prevent strategy. The proceeding seeks permission to challenge the appointment of Lord Carlile as the Independent Reviewer, and the scope of the review’s Terms of Reference”

While I have every reason to believe that Lord Carlile is carrying out the review in good faith, his vocal and active support for PREVENT in the past is problematic and gives the impression that the review is yet another whitewash to defend the failing and oppressive CVE(or is that CHE?) and PREVENT industries.

I will be writing to Lord Carlile to express my concern that his appointment means that people already traumatised by their encounters with PREVENT are less likely to engage with the review than they would with someone else as reviewer. It seems likely that his appointment has already determined the outcome of the review as it will catalyse the characteristic chilling effect of PREVENT and will inevitably result in a higher proportion of PREVENT supporters responding to the call for evidence. Perhaps Lord Carlile would be best advised to recognise that the current attempt at a review is flawed and to put the review’s energies into proposing a more transparent and on-going review process for PREVENT than we have yet seen.

PREVENT Database

Liberty have revealed that the Police hold a database of personal details of all those referred to PREVENT and have not sought the consent of the children and adults on the database. Shadow minister for security, Nick Thomas-Symonds, points out that this “will reinforce the worst fears of many campaigners concerned that Prevent can be used as a trawling exercise and that people, including children, who have committed no crime are regarded as suspects“.

September 2019 – LGBT+ and Prevent2019-11-05T10:41:15+00:00

Last month, a letter co-signed by Professor Judith Butler offered clarity on why the co-opting of LGBT+ lessons into Prevent is so problematic. The media seem to have overlooked that the original protests in Birmingham were over the lessons’ inclusion in the schools strategy to “reduce radicalisation”, a move that “suggests a colonial ‘civilising’ attitude towards Muslim communities, and contributes to a harmful and inaccurate stereotype of an uncivilised and intolerant Muslim culture”. I urge everyone to read and share the letter that argues that “we must connect our struggles against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia to the fight against racism”.

Prevent Targets the Left and Extinction Rebellion

There have been further indications that Prevent has targeted the Left and Environmentalists. While it has been argued that the PM’s burqa comments “led to a surge in anti-Muslim hate attacks“.

LGBT+ and Prevent

The revelations of more fake civil societies being created by the Home Office continue and we’ve received little assurance that the supposedly Independent Review of Prevent will actually be independent.

An Alternative to Prevent

Thankfully, Asim Qureshi proposes how we might move Beyond Prevent, towards a society without counter-extremism, in his article on the Transnational Institute’s report on Leaving the War on Terror: A Progressive Alternative to Counter-Terrorism Policy.

Finally, we’ve now moved on to Countering Hateful Extremism!

This will be explored further next month, but the Commission for Countering Extremism published the findings of their “evidence drive” and have signalled a move to a new agenda to “Counter Hateful Extremism“. This is clearly the latest move to try and get anti-democratic counter-extremism agendas accepted. Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) was sidelined from Government strategy, as behaviour that indicates a violent threat is already covered by the criminal law. And, Counter Extremism (CE) is now accepted by the Commission as being too broad to be workable. So, now they are having a go with Countering Hateful Extremism (CHE). SPOILER: it’ll take a year or so until it will have to be accepted that this is already covered by the work on hate crime carried out by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Where next for this doomed and anti-democratic agenda? Counter Extremism for People We Just Don’t Like? As the industry to counter extremism expands in the face of all reason, Upton Sinclair’s point, that “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”, becomes ever more relevant.
August 2019 – The So-Called “Independent” Reviewer of Prevent2019-11-05T10:42:24+00:00

The So-Called “Independent” Reviewer of Prevent

The Government’s choice of reviewer for Prevent was announced last month and has already been met with the threat of legal challenge from Rights Watch (UK). Lord Carlile’s appointment is an extraordinary move as he has previously stated that he “may be somewhat biased towards” Prevent and has expressed his “considered and strong support” for the strategy. With Lord Carlile having been a member of the Prevent oversight board as recently as December last year and having overseen the first review of Prevent, it’s hard to see how the Government came to the conclusion that anyone could accept him as “independent”.

The farce of this appointment is all too familiar to those who have followed Sara Khan’s Commission for Countering Extremism’s “evidence drive” over the last year. The Commission having spent the last year gathering “evidence” of the supposed threat of extremism from organisations incentivised to promote the threat with funding and support from the Home Office and MC Saatchi’s Building a Stronger Britain Together (BSBT) programme. With Sara Khan having recently spoken out in support of BSBT projects, the relationship between the Commission and BSBT continues to be a clear example of a policy cycle gone wrong as policy continues to generate evermore “evidence” to support itself.

More Fake Civil Society from The Home Office

Further details of the Home Office’s creation of fake civil society organisations has been revealed in Ian Cobain’s article on the fake youth news platform “This Is Woke”. I discuss how this undermines our democracy and might promote rather than prevent violence in this video. And, Yahya Burt writes about the implications of this creation of fake grassroots civil society organisation that he refers to as “astroturfing“.

July 2019 – Prevent review credibility2019-11-05T10:42:50+00:00

The review of Prevent is due to commence this month. Touted as an opportunity for the Government to disprove their critics, its independence has already lost much credibility. And this has been further undermined by the Home Office working on the Terms of Reference in advance of appointing the reviewer – considerably overstepping their role as laid out in the Counter-Terrorism and Boarder Security Act earlier this year.

If the review is to be of any value, it must consider the racist and authoritarian foundations of Prevent. Foundations that became glaringly obvious with the appointment this month of a new Prevent officer in Lambeth, Rupert Sutton of the Henry Jackson Society and Student Rights. Both organisations that have been associated with the racist vilification of Muslims and the production of anti-Muslim propaganda that, like Prevent and the Commission for Countering Extremism, hides behind a thin veneer of pseudo-science.

The onus of the review must be on the Home Office to demonstrate the supposed “science” that supports the existence of Prevent. In my conversations with Prevent workers, this “science” has always fallen back on the pseudo-science of the Extremism Risk Guidelines or some more recent hackneyed version.

The harm done to children who have told me they are silenced by their fear of Prevent is not quantifiable and as unforgivable as other collateral damage of the War on Terror. The Government will need to offer a radically improved argument for Prevent if they are to justify it to the review.

The Commission for Countering Extremism

The Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE) has published their paid for “academic” papers this month. It is notable that they focus on not only “violent extremism”, but so-called “extremism” itself. Lead Commissioner Sara Khan does not see the irony in casting non-violent opinions as unacceptable while also claiming to defend democracy This is no surprise as the Commission has shown a continued commitment to fomenting public fears of the infamously ill-defined “extremist” bogeyman and reflecting them back to us.

This promotion of pre-existing prejudice is Trumpism of the first order and we must stand firm against it, particularly as we now have our very own Steve Bannon lapdog in Downing Street.

This means that the Government must be challenged as they restate their commitment to extend counter-extremism strategy that would enable them to arbitrarily criminalise yet more people. The casting of environmental campaigners as “extremists” and attempts to silence War on Terror critics UK CAGE (not surprisingly as the Government drops plans for an inquiry into rendition and torture) should act as a warning against the existence, let alone the expansion, of counter-extremism.

June 2019 – solidarity with David Muritu2019-11-05T10:33:49+00:00

Firstly, it’s important to express solidarity with David Muritu who has been sacked for pointing out the obvious about Prevent’s racist foundations on a poster in his college. Prevent relies on the often coerced support of the public, so acts of resistance like David’s offer a glimmer of hope for a more positive future.

Further resistance to counter-extremism has been seen in the recent boycotting of Bradford Literature Festival after it emerged that the festival had received funding from the latest manifestation of counter-extremism, the Home Office and MC Saatchi’s joint programme for Building a Stronger Britain Together (BSBT). As there is a need to ‘deliver goals set out in the Counter Extremism Strategy’ to access BSBT’s £63M of  funding and MC Saatchi’s “in-kind support”, it is reasonable to suggest that there is an incentive for the 233 pseudo-civil society organisations supported by BSBT to speak out in support of the Government’s counter-extremism agenda. A scan of the Commission for Countering Extremism’s Twitter feed reveals that they have spent time gathering “evidence” on the apparent need for counter-extremism from these coerced organisations, a perfect example of policy-led “evidence”! Hopefully the Prevent Review won’t fall into the same trap.

As ever, there is so much more going on in the confused world of counter-extremism. So,

Please download the Prevent digest for June 2019 here