Prevent Watch

Prevent and counter-extremism as counter insurgency

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By applying counter insurgency frameworks to modern counter-extremism, this journal article by Rizwaan Sabir published in Critical Social Policy in January 2017 argues that the UK’s Prevent strategy in particular is a counter-insurgency tool used by government against its own citizens, especially Muslims.

This blurs the distinction between Pursue and Prevent, coercion and consent, and civilian and combatant, and asks the question whether the government’s approach reflects that it serves the people.

The article argues that the introduction of counter-terrorism policies based on an essentialist understanding of the Muslim ‘other’, has permitted surveillance and propaganda to be targeted at Muslim communities in the UK in a blanket fashion, especially those who think and speak through what Bobby Sayyid terms, ‘the language of Islam’.

Such methods and practices not only blur the line between Pursue and Prevent or coercion and consent, but ultimately fail to distinguish between civilians and combatants.

To evidence this, the article:

  • explains how counterinsurgency came into existence in the colonies and how this doctrine is a continuation of
    colonial warfare on the ‘home-front’.
  • employs a Gramscian framework to theoretically analyse the relationship between coercion and consent to help reveal how the false dichotomy between Prevent and Pursue exists and operates in practice.
  • demonstrates how these blurred boundaries exist and operate in practice by empirically examining two coercive practices undertaken through Prevent – surveillance and propaganda (‘strategic communications’). 

Related Resources

The full journal article is available HERE.

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