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
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.
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“.
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
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.
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“.
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 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.
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.