To What Extent has Prevent Made the British Muslim Community a ‘Suspect Community’?

To What Extent has Prevent Made the British Muslim Community a ‘Suspect Community’?

Prevent was developed in 9/11’s aftermath as part of the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy Contest, aiming ‘to reduce risks to the UK from international terrorism, so people can go about their lives freely and with confidence.’[1] Contest encompasses: ‘Pursue,’ stopping attacks; ‘Protect,’ strengthening protection against attacks; ‘Prepare,’ mitigating an attack’s impact and ‘Prevent,’ stopping people becoming terrorists or supporting violent extremism.[2] Prevent is a pre-criminal attempt to win ‘hearts and minds’ of those at risk of radicalisation. The notion Prevent has made the British Muslim community a ‘suspect community’ is advanced by Pantazis and Pemberton.[3] A suspect community is a sub-group of the population singled out for state attention as ‘problematic.’ Rather than targeting individuals suspected of wrongdoing, Prevent allegedly does this because of presumed Muslim community membership. Over 140 academics co-signed a condemnation of Prevent.[4] Shami Chakrabarti, described Prevent as ‘the biggest spying programme’ and an affront to civil liberties.[5] This essay sides with the Home Office who describes most objections as ‘scaremongering, simplistic and inaccurate.’[6] Part I asserts Prevent has undergone reforms. The suspect community charge was truer under Labour but is now obsolete. Part II evidences a disinformation campaign to undermine Prevent. Part III will examine the positive role Prevent has played in the British Muslim community.

Part I

While Prevent no longer makes the British Muslim community a ‘suspect community,’ it did under Labour’s sole Muslim focus.[7] Despite extremists constituting a tiny minority, Prevent tried to effect substantial changes in all Muslims’ attitudes.[8] Prevent project funding was allocated to local authorities directly in proportion to the number of Muslim residents.[9] See Figure 1[10] :

PREVENT funding discriminatory

This epitomises ‘suspect community’ criteria as it implied Muslims are ‘flawed citizens’ needing alteration.[11] The Coalition’s revision rectified this. The revised strategy is led by intelligence on extremist activity levels, allocating funding accordingly. This creates the impression the government is dealing with political violence, not trying to reshape Muslim Britain[12] and not conceptualising Muslims as ‘suspect.’

Labour’s Prevent intervened in theology.[13] Salafis were classed as extremists, Sufis as moderates, or Deobandis as extremists and Barelvis as moderates.[14] The effect on how Muslims felt they were being perceived was exemplified by a youth worker: “We became the ‘other’ to be studied, managed, contained.”[15] Such invasiveness was abandoned by the Coalition who acknowledged the benefits of theologians challenging extremism but rejected efforts to ‘promote a mainstream Islam.’[16] Gone was rhetoric in reference to ‘faith’ and ‘community.’[17] The most recent Contest[18] and Channel[19]  guidance do not even mention the word ‘Muslim’. Prevent has transformed away from being government ‘Islam policy’[20] (which did conceptualise Muslims as ‘suspect’) towards now being about countering all extremism.[21]

Labour made Muslims a ‘suspect community’ by only focusing on Islamic extremism. Critics noted how they were unable to identify Prevent work focussing on far-right extremism.[22] This double standard is reflected by how Prevent emerged alongside the BNP’s growth, whose members have serious criminal records for terrorism and violence.[23] This threat was dismissed, fuelling Muslim sense of unbalanced scrutiny.[24] The Norway massacre and pan-European networks mirroring Islamist networks highlighted Labour had over-estimated Islamism, underestimating the far-right.[25] This Islamist-obsessed mindset[26] was departed from by the Coalition who identified the far-right as requiring more attention.[27] This departure from Labour’s ‘suspect community’ policy is further evidenced by recent guidance’s invocation of Article 8 of the ECHR emphasising freedom of religion,[28] as well as a commitment to transparency.[29] However, Prevent’s history alongside clumsy counter-terrorism such as Project Champion[30] and the Nottingham Two[31] and Labour’s hostile rhetoric towards Muslims[32] has undermined Prevent. What is undeniable for Muslims, in spite of reforms, the Prevent label invokes ‘common subjective experiences’ Pantanzis and Pemberton define as creating a ‘suspect community.’[33] This perception has been exacerbated by disinformation campaigns.

Part II

Barclay asserts Islamists exploit suspicions surrounding Prevent.[34] He identifies how those hostile to Prevent were ex-al-Muhajiroun members who saw the policy as challenging their mission of a militant Islamist awakening (sahwah) and view it as an ideological offensive alongside Western military offensives in Afghanistan and Iraq.[35] Guns and drone strikes are used in combat but the government supposedly employed secular ideas to ‘divert youth from developing a complete understanding of their religion.’[36] This is a plausible motivation for Islamist-led disinformation campaigns, exemplified by Ifhat Smith who claimed her fourteen-year-old was interrogated by Prevent officers at school for referencing ‘eco-terrorism’.[37] She told Sky News: “Prevent is allowing state-sanctioned abuse of Muslim children.”[38] It appeared to be a devastating account of Prevent making the British Muslim community ‘suspect,’ not even sparing children. The story was recorded by anti-Prevent website Prevent Watch, which aggregates such material.[39] Ifhat Smith claimed her son ‘was presumed guilty because he was Muslim.’[40]  However, the school argued it took ‘a reasonable proportionate response’: instead of being ‘treated as a criminal’ the child was spoken to, not interrogated, for ten minutes from a safeguarding perspective. The boy was sent back to class with no action taken.[41] Mr Justice Blake in the High Court ruled the judicial review demanded by Smith was ‘totally without merit.’[42] Prevent Watch continues to feature the story.[43] Despite reporting unverified/contested ‘cases,’ Prevent Watch is quoted by those seeking to justify the ‘suspect community’ thesis.[44] In December 2015, it was claimed a ten-year-old had been referred to Prevent and interrogated by police over a spelling mistake. The BBC reported instead of writing he lived in a terraced house, the boy wrote ‘terrorist’ house.[45] His family demanded police and school apologise for his treatment. Again this story has no basis in fact. According to Grunshaw, Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner, the boy disclosed a ‘worrying issue’ in his schoolwork, including writing ‘I hate it when my uncle beats me.’[46] As part of safeguarding, the school raised the issue through appropriate mediums, leading to a visit by neighbourhood police and social worker, never being regarded as a terrorist-related incident.[47] These exemplify misinformation. Sensationalist stories fuelling ‘suspect community’ allegations fall apart after scrutiny.

Perception is significant. Pentazis and Pemberton conceptualise the ‘suspect community’ as being defined by a ‘common subjective experience,’ based on ‘ummatic attachments that promote solidarity with fellow oppressed Muslims.’[48] By this criteria, Prevent has created a suspect community. The extent this ‘common subjective experience’ of persecution by Prevent has penetrated Muslim communities is illuminated by a Newsnight report: “British Muslim women expressed concerns new government counter-terrorism legislation meant their children could be taken away from them just for being practising Muslims.”[49] Independent terrorism legislation reviewer, Anderson QC noted Prevent had become a source of rumour and mistrust, stating everything impacting communities under counter-terrorist legislation seems to have been bracketed under ‘Prevent.’[50] Prevent has become a lightning rod for unrelated issues, where many Muslims who may hold grievances about media or other policies have pointed the finger towards Prevent.[51] I reject implications subjective experiences (however widespread) mean Prevent has made the British Muslim community a ‘suspect community’ because to do so is to legitimise false narratives, delegitimising Prevent’s achievements Anderson acknowledges.[52]

The most serious allegation is Prevent involves covert surveillance. Husain of the Quilliam Foundation, a recipient of £1 million of Prevent funding,[53] stated Prevent was “gathering intelligence on people not committing terrorist offences” and to do so was “right.”[54] If verifiable the ‘suspect community’ charge is undeniable. However, Prevent’s involvement in spying remains unproven. A 2009 select committee inquiry could not verify this.[55] The Coalition’s revision stated Prevent would not be used for spying.[56] Recent guidance states the programme must not involve covert activity.[57] Prevent under the last two governments has committed to transparency. Unlike under Labour, there have been active attempts not to make British Muslims a ‘suspect community.’

The ‘sector oriented’ emphasis[58] has caused ‘spying’ suspicions to resurface, in the context of teachers being required to inform on Muslim students. O’Donnell claims Prevent “makes students fearful of speaking in lecture halls.”[59] He claims the extremism definition as being opposition to “British values” is “empty.”[60] As a benchmark for identifying extremism in relation to Muslims, Qureshi describes it as a colonial lens to view ‘good and ‘bad’ suspect community members.[61] However, recent Prevent guidance states: “Schools should be safe spaces (to) discuss sensitive topics, including terrorism. The Prevent duty is not intended to limit discussion.”[62] British values are defined as “democracy, rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.”[63] Although labelling them uniquely British has created the perception Muslims have to ‘prove’ loyalty to the country,[64] O’Donnell’s claim extremism includes girls wearing hijabs[65] is unfounded. False identification is unlikely given 400,000 frontline staff have now received training on how to identify radicalisation.[66] An increasing amount of information is available including a Department of Education website entitled ‘Educate Against Hate.’[67] The ‘cradle to grave police state’[68] Prevent’s statutory duty has been accused of creating for British Muslims is untrue.

Once an individual is identified as at risk of being drawn into terrorism, they are referred to Channel – a multi-agency approach to identify and provide support.[69] Kundnani describes this as “extensive surveillance”[70] He cites Jameel Scott, a student member of the Socialist Workers’ Party, allegedly coerced into undertaking Channel mentoring because of pro-Palestine activism and profiled for having a Muslim father.[71] His family members report being harassed by officers to pressure Jameel to end his political activity.[72] Since the strategy’s reform Prevent cases look very different. In one case a fifteen-year-old told school staff he supported al-Qaida and wanted to attend a terrorist training camp.[73]  He admitted watching extremist material online and speaking to radicalisers. He was referred to Channel. It transpired he had Asperger’s Syndrome and exposure to domestic violence. The multi-agency panel also made referrals to Children and Mental Health Services. Another case was a thirteen-year-old drawing swastikas in exercise books, on desks and walls and using racist language.[74]  A youth worker spotted the same behaviour. It emerged his father was in prison for racist attacks and his mother was a drug user. White supremacists were radicalising him. The multi-agency panel exposed the boy to positive role models and counter-narratives against far-Right extremism. Although Jameel’s case is unfortunate, there are more cases where staff have been reluctant to make referrals. Examples include Mohammed Atif Siddique, convicted of terrorism offences in 2007, who was seen by staff at Glasgow Metropolitan College accessing violent extremist material but whose lecturers were reluctant to do anything for fear of racist conduct accusations[75] or Hassib Hussain’s exercise books which were littered with supportive comments about al-Qaeda.[76] Rather than spying, Channel amounts to safeguarding, mirroring safeguarding processes used by government agencies in gang activity, abuse and bullying.[77] Front-line staff’s reluctance to refer individual Muslims who have exhibited signs of radicalisation further weakens the ‘suspect community’ claim as does Channel being voluntary[78] and how 80% of cases are rejected.[79]

A legitimate criticism is from 2007-2010, over 90% of referrals to Channel were Muslim.[80] This could justify the ‘suspect community’ thesis. Since reforms, the referrals ratio for far-right and Islamist extremists varies from area to area.[81] Hampshire Prevent team’s referrals are predominantly far-right extremists.[82] Nevertheless, from 2012-2014, 56% of referrals to Channel were Muslim individuals.[83] Although this could strengthen ‘suspect community’ claims, this overlooks how of the 2,297 arrests on suspicion of terrorism offences, between 2001-2012, 1,066 were listed as “Muslim” and 1,231 were listed as “Other.” Of those charged 41% were Muslim, compared to 37% listed as “Other or no religion” and 32% as “Unknown Religion.”[84] This aligns with the government’s view: “extreme right-wing terrorism in the UK has been less widespread, systematic or organised than terrorism associated with Al Qaeda.”[85] The violent Islamist threat means a focus on Muslims is inevitable. Part III explores how Prevent has addressed this without making the community ‘suspect.’

Part III

Accusations Prevent mirrors McCarthyism imply the threat it aims to thwart is unreal. Intelligence suggests Britain faces a serious, home-grown Islamist terror threat, showing few signs of diminishing.[86] British Muslim involvement in jihadist training camps in the 1990s[87], 7/7 bombings and the attack on Glasgow Airport in 2007 suggests some young Muslims are alienated from British values, from respect for diversity and free speech underpinning Britain’s democratic, multicultural society.[88] 850 Muslims from the UK have travelled to support or fight for jihadist organisations in Syria and Iraq.[89] Iranian revolutionary Shi’ism alongside Saudi’s ‘exporting on an industrial scale’ of Wahabbi teachings created powerful narratives counter-posing Islamic civilization to an anti-Muslim West.[90] Prevent provides counter-narratives[91] to these separatist/supremacist ideologies. Engagement in this propaganda war and focus on Muslims does not mean it has rendered the community ‘suspect.’ Many Muslims defend it. Hanif Qadir, an ex-Islamist radical remarked ‘we have to accept we’ve got a problem. Accepting Prevent is accepting we’ve got a problem.’[92] Muslim feminist Sara Khan describes Prevent as helping “Muslim voices champion human rights. Otherwise, extremists are left to define British Islam.”[93] Since February 2015 the Home Office has engaged through Prevent with 372 mosques, 385 community organisations and 156 faith organisations.[94]  Prevent coordinators are in daily contact with Muslim groups, creating a network engaged with 50,000 individuals in 2015 within Muslim communities.[95] Such supportive engagement weakens the ‘suspect community’ thesis.

Thomas notes: “Prevent activity has been good diversionary community work providing positive, enjoyable experiential activities.”[96] An example is the Active Change Foundation[97], a Prevent-funded youth project in Walthamstow gaining prominence when it launched the #notinmyname campaign in response to ISIS’s killing of Alan Henning. This involved young people holding signs with the hashtag on camera inviting others to follow suit, with the objective of distancing ISIS’s actions from Islam. This message reached over 300 million people, including Obama who praised “British Muslims who responded to terrorist propaganda by starting the Not In My Name campaign declaring ISIS is hiding behind a false Islam.”[98] This not only counters terrorist propaganda but makes British Muslims less of a suspect community. It enabled them to distance their version of Islam from extremism. Even Labour’s Prevent addressed deprivation, discrimination and Islamophobia.[99] Tell MAMA is a Prevent project recording and measuring anti-Muslim hate crime.[100] Since its founding, its work with police has led to 460 arrests of people promoting anti-Muslim hatred and breaking up far-right networks.[101] It also monitors sectarianism particularly when extremists target Ahmaddiya Muslims.[102][103] Far from identifying British Muslims as ‘problematic,’ Prevent recognises how the community has been subject to hate crimes and complexities of communities within communities who are not only vulnerable to this but sectarianism. British Muslim women are one of the UK’s most disadvantaged demographics.[104] This is something addressed by Prevent project Inspire which investigated barriers Muslim women face to employment/education.[105] Such projects do not criminalise Muslims as the ‘suspect community’ paradigm claims but instead elevates otherwise unheard voices. Extra funding/attention has resulted in envy from other communities, as evidenced by Dr Singh of Network of Sikh organisations who complained ‘they (Muslims) have been getting funding for all sorts of projects.’[106]

Prevent has been criticised for replicating Cold War practices. Kundnani notes striking similarities between the Research Information and Communication Unit and the Information Research Department.[107] The former was established in 2007 in order to communicate the government’s counter-radicalisation narrative, while the latter was formed in 1948 to fight a battle of ideas against communism.[108] Godson, research director at Policy Exchange, asserted how “During the cold war, IRD would assert Western superiority over totalitarian rivals. Magazines such as Encounter did hand-to-hand combat with Soviet fellow travellers. We need to recapture our own self-confidence.”[109] Since Encounter represented the anti-Stalinist left and IRD distributed George Orwell’s and Bertrand Russell’s writings[110], such a policy did not make British socialists a ‘suspect community.’ Instead it empowered socialists challenging communism. Similarly, Prevent’s emphasis on ‘supporting theologians’ efforts’ in challenging extremism[111] does not label Muslims as ‘suspect.’ It actively utilises certain Islamic interpretations to discredit terrorist recruiters, exemplified by Prevent-coordinated Open Your Eyes video series[112] which includes material by imams explaining how “ISIS are completely un-Islamic.”[113] Far from making British Muslims ‘suspect,’ Prevent presents core Islamic teachings in a positive manner.

Kundnani presents Prevent-funded Deen International’s public relations campaign in Pakistan as negative.[114] In reality, the campaign entitled ‘I Am The West’ was a positive initiative, aimed at men from 15-25.[115] Far from rendering British Muslims as ‘suspect,’ it showcased achievements and contributions Muslims have made to Britain by promoting former communities minister Sadiq Khan and cricketer Moeen Ali.[116] This is antithetical to Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilizations’ Prevent is accused of being rooted in.[117]

Hundreds of British Muslims departure to join ISIS or those who have plotted to commit terrorist acts in the UK cannot be ignored. The threat has been exacerbated by foreign policy but is rooted in global economic, technological, geopolitical and religious developments pre-dating the Iraq war or 9/11.[118] Prevent’s education and community-based approach within the CONTEST strategy represents a patient, balanced approach compared to approaches of other states when facing a domestic terrorist threat.[119] A strategy based purely on policing/security would make British Muslims a suspect community. Rather than criminalising individuals for holding certain views, Prevent creates the opportunity to halt the radicalisation process, stopping people crossing over to the criminal legal space.

Conclusion

Ultimately Prevent under Labour did meet the ‘suspect community’ criteria. This was reflected in the way Prevent funding was allocated, the exclusive focus on Islamic extremism and the disproportionate ratio of Muslims referred to Channel. However, subsequent reforms address these issues to the point where current policy counters all forms of extremism. Recent guidance ensures Muslims are not singled out for special attention on the basis of their faith[120] and transparency has been a commitment. Nevertheless, Prevent remains a toxic brand.[121] I have demonstrated this is a result of Labour’s legacy and a disinformation campaign designed to derail counter-extremism, not the policy itself. The spying suspicions are unverified and the Coalition’s guidance, as well as 2015 guidance, explicitly states Prevent is not to be used for this purpose. Rather than making the community ‘suspect,’ the policy’s necessary Muslim-focus has involved the provision of youth projects, the elevation of Muslim women, the monitoring of anti-Muslim hate crimes and the showcasing of the positive role Muslims play in British society.

Copyright © 2017 Tal Tyagi. All Rights Reserved.

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[1] HM Government, CONTEST: The United Kingdom’s Strategy for Countering Terrorism (London 2015), pp.15-19.

[2] Thomas Martin, ‘Governing an Unknowable Future: The Politics of Britain’s Prevent Policy,’ Critical Studies on Terrorism 7:1 (2014) pp.62-78

[3] Francesco Ragazzi, ‘Suspect community or suspect category? The impact of counter-terrorism as ‘policed multiculturalism’’, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (2016), pp.1-18

[4] Independent Voices, ‘PREVENT will have a chilling effect on open debate, free speech and political dissent,’ The Independent, 10 July 2015 < http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/letters/prevent-will-have-a-chilling-effect-on-open-debate-free-speech-and-political-dissent-10381491.html> (29 March 2017)

[5] Paul Thomas, Responding to the Threat of Violent Extremism: Failing to Prevent (London 2012) p.66

[6] Robert Verkeik, ‘Government deradicalisation plan will brand Muslims with beards as terrorists, say academics,’ The Independent, 10 July 2015 < http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/government-deradicalisation-plan-will-brand-muslims-with-beards-as-terrorists-say-academics-10381796.html> (29 March 2017)

[7] Therese O’Toole, Stephen H. Jones and Daniel Nilsson DeHanas, ‘The New Prevent: Will It Work? Can It Work?’ Muslim Participation in Contemporary Governance No.2 (2011) p.2

[8] O’Toole, Jones, DeHanas, ‘The New Prevent,’ p.2

[9] O’Toole, Jones, DeHanas, ‘The New Prevent,’ p.2

[10] Arun Kundnani, ‘Spooked! How not to Prevent Violent Extremism,’ Institute of Race Relations (2009) p.13

[11] O’Toole, Jones and DeHanas, ‘The New Prevent,’ p.3

[12] O’Toole, Jones and DeHanas, ‘The New Prevent, p.3

[13] Arun Kundnani, The Muslims Are Coming: Islamophobia, Extremism and the Domestic War on Terror (London 2014) p.163

[14] Kundnani, The Muslims Are Coming, p.163

[15] Interview 5, 30 April 2009 as cited by Kundnani, ‘Spooked’ p.23

[16] O’Toole, Jones and DeHanas, ‘The New Prevent,’ p.4

[17] O’Toole, Jones and DeHanas, ‘The New Prevent,’ p.4

[18] HM Government, CONTEST

[19] HM Government, Channel Duty Guidance: Protecting Vulnerable People From Being Drawn Into Terrorism (London 2015)

[20] Kundnani, The Muslims Are Coming, p.164

[21] HM Government, Channel Duty Guidance p.3

[22] Thomas, Responding to the Threat of Violent Extremism, p.83

[23] Thomas, Responding to the Threat of Violent Extremism, p.140

[24] Thomas, Responding to the Threat of Violent Extremism, p.140

[25] Thomas, Responding to the Threat of Violent Extremism, p.140

[26] Thomas, Responding to the Threat of Violent Extremism, p.75

[27] O’Toole, Jones and DeHanas, ‘The New Prevent,’ p.4

[28] HM Government, Channel Duty Guidance p.24

[29] All recorded information held by a public authority is covered by the right to information under the FOI act HM Government, Channel Duty Guidance p.20

[30] Project Champion was a scheme in 2010 led by West Midlands Police Authority that entailed the installation of 216 CCTV and ANRP cameras in areas of Birmingham in which Muslims were concentrated. It emerged the scheme was funded by the Home Office via the Association of Chief Police Officers as part of counter-terrorism surveillance. While a campaign successfully had them dismantled in 2011, it led to distrust between the government and the local Muslim population.

[31] Hicham Yezza and Rizwaan Sabir, a former administrator and a former postgraduate student at the University of Nottingham. Yezza and Sabir were detained in solitary confinement for, respectively, five and six days after being reported for acquiring an Al-Qaeda instruction manual for academic research. (The manual in question was downloaded from the US Department of Justice website and is freely available from booksellers such as Amazon).  They were arrested under Section 41 of the 2000 Terrorism Act and while this would have been ‘Pursue’ rather than ‘Prevent,’ it has toxified any counter-terrorism initiatives.

[32] Examples of this include Jack Straw who described the niqab as ‘a visible statement of separation and difference’ see Shane Brighton, ‘British Muslims, multiculturalism and UK foreign policy: ‘integration’ and ‘cohesion’ in and beyond the state’, International Affairs, 83/1 (2007) pp. 1-17.

[33] Ragazzi, ‘Suspect community or suspect category?’ p.730

[34] Jack Barclay, ‘The Extremist Reaction to the UK’s Prevent Strategy,’ Hudson Institute, 18 October 2011 < https://hudson.org/research/9862-the-extremist-reaction-to-the-uk-s-prevent-strategy> (29 March 2017)

[35] Barclay, ‘The Extremist Reaction to the UK’s Prevent Strategy’

[36] Barclay, ‘The Extremist Reaction to the UK’s Prevent Strategy’

[37] Prevent Watch, ‘The Eco Warrior,’ May 2015 < http://www.preventwatch.org/incident-the-eco-warrior/> (29 March 2017)

[38] Afua Hirsch, Anti-Radicalisation Strategy ‘Alienating Pupils,’ Sky News, 13 December 2015 < http://news.sky.com/story/anti-radicalisation-strategy-alienating-pupils-10336147> (29 March 2017)

[39] Prevent Watch, ‘Supporting Communities Impacted by Prevent,’ < http://www.preventwatch.org/> (29 March 2017)

[40] Vikram Dodd, ‘School questioned Muslim pupil about Isis after discussion on eco-activism,’ The Guardian, 22 September 2015 https://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/sep/22/school-questioned-muslim-pupil-about-isis-after-discussion-on-eco-activism (29 March 2017)

[41] Dodd, ‘School questioned Muslim pupil about Isis after discussion on eco-activism’

[42] High Court of Justice Queen’s Bench Division, Salaahudeen Smith v Secretary of State for the Home Dept and Headteacher and Governors of Central Foundation Boys’ School, CO/4064/2015, October 2015 as cited by Sara Khan, The Battle For British Islam: Reclaiming Muslim Identity From Extremism (London 2016) p.88

[43] Prevent Watch, ‘Islington Council to challenge Prevent scheme in wake of ‘eco-terror’ incident,’ http://www.preventwatch.org/islington-council-to-challenge-prevent-scheme-in-wake-of-eco-terror-incident/ (29 March 2017)

[44] Frances Webber, ‘Prevent and the Children’s Rights Convention,’ Institute of Race Relations (2016) p.4 & p.11

[45] BBC, Lancashire ‘terrorist house’ row ‘not a spelling mistake,’ Lancashire News, 20 January 2016 < http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lancashire-35354061> (29 March 2017)

[46] David Prior, ‘BBC criticised by Lancashire Police for “terrorist house” story,’ Prolific North, 22 January 2016 < https://www.prolificnorth.co.uk/2016/01/bbc-criticised-by-lancashire-police-for-terrorist-house-story/> (29 March 2017)

[47] Clive Grunshaw, ‘Commissioner Condemns Mis-reporting of so called ‘Terrorism’ Incident,’ Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner, 20 January 2016 < http://lancashire-pcc.gov.uk/latest-news/commissioner-condemns-mis-reporting-of-so-called-terrorism-incident/> (29 March 2017)

[48] Ragazzi, ‘Suspect community or suspect category?’ p.730

[49] Newsnight, BBC TV, 16 June 2015: transcript of broadcast as cited by Khan, The Battle for British Islam p.101

[50] David Anderson QC, ‘Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation,’ < https://terrorismlegislationreviewer.independent.gov.uk/> (29 March 2016)

[51] Anderson QC, ‘Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation’

[52] David Anderson QC, ‘HASC: Countering Extremism, 2015-2016,’ 3 February 2016, < https://terrorismlegislationreviewer.independent.gov.uk/hasc-countering-extremism-2016/> (29 March 2016)

[53] Kundnani, The Muslims Are Coming, p.173

[54] Vikram Dodd, ‘Spying morally right, says think tank,’ The Guardian, 16 October 2009 < https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2009/oct/16/spying-morally-right-says-thinktank> (29 March 2016)

[55] Thomas, Responding to the Threat of Violent Extremism, p.68

[56] HM Government, Prevent Strategy, (London 2011) p.32

[57] HM Government, Revised Prevent Duty Guidance: For England and Wales (London 2015) p.4

[58] O’Toole, Jones and DeHanas, ‘The New Prevent,’ p.5

[59] Aislinn O’Donnell ‘Securitisation, Counterterrorism and the Silencing of Dissent: The Educational Implications of Prevent’, British Journal of Educational Studies, 64/1, (2015) p.53

[60] O’Donnell, ‘Securitisation, Counterterrorism and the Silencing of Dissent’ p.61

[61] Asim Qureshi ‘PREVENT: Creating Radicals to Strengthen Anti-Muslim Narratives’, Critical Studies on Terrorism, 8/1 (2015) pp.181-91.

[62] HM Government, Revised Prevent Duty Guidance p.11

[63] HM Government, Revised Prevent Duty Guidance p.21

[64] Interview 3, 3 April 2009 as cited by Kundnani, ‘Spooked!’ p.22

[65] O’Donnell, ‘Securitisation, Counterterrorism and the Silencing of Dissent’ p.55

[66] Interview 3, 3 April 2009 as cited by Kundnani, ‘Spooked!’ p.22

[67] Department of Education, ‘Educate Against Hate,’ < http://educateagainsthate.com/> (29 March 2017)

[68] Jahangir Mohammed and Dr Adnan Siddiqui, The Prevent Strategy: A Cradle To Grave Police-State, (London 2013)

[69] Qureshi ‘PREVENT: Creating Radicals to Strengthen Anti-Muslim Narratives,’ p.187

[70] Kundnani, The Muslims Are Coming, p.154

[71] Kundnani, The Muslims Are Coming, p.153-155

[72] Kundnani, The Muslims Are Coming, p.156

[73] John Wright, ‘Prevent, Police and Schools: Helping Schools Stay Safe: Guidance for Police Officers and Police Staff,’ Association of Chief Police Officers (2013) p.24

[74] Wright, ‘Prevent, Police and Schools,’ p.24

[75] ‘Opinion of the Court delivered by Lord Osborne In Note of Appeal Against Conviction and Sentence by Mohammed Atif Siddique’, Appeal Court, High Court of Justiciary, 29 January 2010, available at: http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/2010HCJAC7.html, (15 June 2015)

[76] House of Commons, ‘Preventing Violent Extremism: Sixth Report of Session 2009-10’, Communities and Local Government Committee (March 2010), http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmcomloc/65/65.pdf (29 March 2017)

[77] Will Baldet, ‘Who are ISIL?’ Leicester Prevent, 17 July 2015 http://www.leicesterprevent.co.uk/factsheet-who-are-isil/ (30 March 2017)

[78] HM Government, CONTEST p.16

[79] O’Donnell, ‘Securitisation, Counterterrorism and the Silencing of Dissent’ pp. 55

[80] Kundnani, The Muslims are Coming P.154

[81] Sara Khan, The Battle for British Islam: Reclaiming Muslim Identity from Extremism (London 2016) p.91

[82] Khan, The Battle for British Islam p.92

[83] NPCC, ‘National channel referral figures,’ < http://www.npcc.police.uk/FreedomofInformation/NationalChannelReferralFigures.aspx> (30 March 2017)

[84] HM Government, ‘Terrorism arrests – analysis of charging and sentencing outcomes by religion,’ 12 September 2013, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/terrorism-arrests-analysis-of-charging-and-sentencing-outcomes-by-religion/terrorism-arrests-analysis-of-charging-and-sentencing-outcomes-by-religion (30 March 2017)

[85]  HM Government, Prevent Strategy p. 15

[86] Paul Thomas, ‘Failed and Friendless: The UK’s Preventing Violent Extremism Programme’, The British Journal of Politics & International Relations 12/3 (2010), p.454

[87] Thomas, ‘Failed and Friendless,’ p.443

[88] Thomas, ‘Failed and Friendless,’ p.442

[89] BBC, ‘Who are Britain’s jihadists?’ 22 February 2017 < http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32026985> (30 March 2017)

[90] Shane Brighton, ‘British Muslims, multiculturalism and UK foreign policy: ‘integration’ and ‘cohesion’ in and beyond the state’, International Affairs, 83/1 (2007) pp. 8-9

[91] Ragazzi, ‘Suspect community or suspect category? p.4

[92] Thomas, Responding to the Threat of Violent Extremism p.79

[93] Khan, The Battle for British Islam p.21

[94] Data provided under Freedom of Information Request to Home Office – submitted in February 2015 as cited by Sara Khan, The Battle for British Islam p.133

[95] Data provided under Freedom of Information Request to Home Office – submitted in February 2015 as cited by Khan, The Battle for British Islam p.133

[96] Thomas, Responding to the Threat of Violent Extremism, p.106

[97] Active Change Foundation, < http://www.activechangefoundation.org/> (30, March 2017)

[98] Khan, The Battle for British Islam p.153

[99] Thomas, Responding to the Threat of Violent Extremism, p.59

[100] Tell Mama, < https://tellmamauk.org/> (30 March 2017)

[101] Khan, The Battle for British Islam p.155

[102] Tell Mama, ‘Murderer of Asad Shah, Tanveer Ahmed, has Shamed All Believers,’ 9 August 2016 < https://tellmamauk.org/murderer-of-asad-shah-tanver-ahmed-has-shamed-all-believers/> (30 March 2017)

[103] Tell Mama, ‘Crawley Ahmaddiya Mosque Suffers a Hate Crime,’ 6 June 2016 < https://tellmamauk.org/crawley-ahmaddiya-mosque-suffers-a-hate-crime/> (30 March 2017)

[104] House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee, ‘Employment Opportunities for Muslims in the UK,’ Second Report of Session 2016-17 (2016)

[105] Inspire, ‘Women and Equalities report: Improving employment opportunities for British Muslim Women,’ 10 August 2016 < http://www.wewillinspire.com/?s=employment> (30, March, 2016)

[106] Thomas, Responding to the Threat of Violent Extremism, p.80

[107] Kundnani, The Muslims are Coming p.164-165

[108] Kundnani, The Muslims are Coming p.164

[109]  Dean Godson, ‘The feeble helping the unspeakable’, The Times, 5 April 2006, < http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-feeble-helping-the-unspeakable-p5xx6qrkhcj> (30 March 2017)

[110] Timothy Garton Ash, ‘Orwell’s List’, New York Review of Books, vol. 50, no. 14, 25 (2003) pp.151-66

[111] O’Toole, Jones and DeHanas, ‘The New Prevent,’ p.8

[112] Open Your Eyes, ‘Our Movement Is Exposing the Truth,’ Upstanding Neighbourhoods http://openyoureyes.net/ (30 March 2017)

[113] Open Your Eyes, ‘How Do We Go About Jihad,’ Upstanding Neighbourhoods < http://openyoureyes.net/category/what-is-jihad/> (30 March 2017)

[114] Kundnani, ‘Spooked!’ p.12

[115] BBC, ‘Pro-West ads to target extremism,’ 23 February 2009 < http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7905487.stm> (30 March 2017)

[116] BBC, ‘Pro-West ads to target extremism’

[117] M.S. Elshimi, De-radicalisation in the UK Prevent Strategy: Security, Identity and Religion (New York 2017)

[118] Thomas, ‘Failed and Friendless,’ p.454

[119] Thomas, ‘Failed and Friendless,’ p.454 -455

[120] HM Government, CONTEST, p.13

[121] BBC, ‘Muslim ex-police officer criticises Prevent anti-terror strategy’, 9 March 2015 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31792238 (30, March 2017)

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The Cult of Corbyn: Meaner Politics, a More Ugly Society

The Cult of Corbyn: Meaner Politics, a More Ugly Society

Upon realising the consequences of pioneering the atom bomb Oppenheimer bemoaned “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” This state of inconsolable regret is how I feel as somebody who first-preferenced Jeremy Corbyn a year ago. Having lost two general elections, the party of equality and social justice – my party, the Labour Party had to do something new. Sick of spin, weary about war and hungry for honesty and authenticity, with a lot of reservation, I cast my ballot for Corbyn. What was the worst that could happen? Perhaps if we leaned left we could even win back Scotland. We were promised a “new politics,” “a kinder politics,” a “straight talking, honest politics.” We were duped.

On the floor of a Virgin train the bearded intellectual spoke: “Today this train is completely ram-packed. The staff on the train are absolutely brilliant, working really hard to help everybody. The reality is there’s not enough trains, we need more of them and they’re also incredibly expensive. Isn’t that a case for public ownership?” My goodness the man came across as both a saint and a man of the people. Was this Gandhi’s reincarnation?

The truth is the entire scene was faked. No conspiracy contortionist can explain away the CCTV pictures showing all the empty seats. This shatters the claim that he is some type of political puritan, unspun and immune from exaggeration or fabrication. In reality, Corbyn has a very uneasy relationship with the truth.

A political pinnochio, he lied about being ahead in the polls before the “coup” and about attending over 120 pro-EU events. In reality he did no more than ten. The man stutted and stumbled his way through one of the most important debates of this country’s history. Given how Corbyn (not unlike Clegg) owed his mandate mainly to young people, why was he so half-hearted in defending the European Union which so many of us wanted to remain a part of?

Ultimately Corbyn has never been a supporter of the EU. From the backbenches he has opposed every single treaty. His closest comrades such as brother Piers and long-time friend Tariq Ali even said he was a closet brexiter. Lacking the pragmatism to properly pretend and lacking the principle to say what he really believed, the man escaped an entire week of referendum warfare to go on holiday! When the result came so did his true colours in his call for the invocation of Article 50.

Us lefties are always sniding about politicians ‘selling their souls.’ Wining and dining with business executives and placing their individual aspiration above the interests of the nation, this supposedly explains the inability of politicians to be open and honest with the public. Surely now we had a politician free from this constraint, we would get somebody able to speak plainly? Wrong again. Corbyn refused to say he’d defend a NATO ally under attack from Russia and has refused to condemn IRA terrorism. Is there something our dear leader is not telling us?

The bottom line is that Comrade Corbyn is intellectually chained to a political tradition that is completely alien to the British public and even most of his supporters – revolutionary socialism. When this contagion is found among children it is cute and among teenagers it is usually a phase. However, to know that it is being played out in the mind of the leader of the opposition in one of the most powerful countries in the world is actually dangerous.

Believing in radical change is not necessarily a bad thing if your proposals are progressive and constructive. Corbyn’s revolutionary tendencies are subversive and destructive. Evidence of where his real allegiances lie can be seen in who he appointed as his director of strategy and communications – Seumas Milne. A Maoist at school and something of a Stalinist throughout his university days, he is now 58 but his views have changed little. Indeed the first paper the Labour Party press releases anything to is the Morning Star – a rebranded version of the Daily Worker. During the Cold War this was Moscow’s mouthpiece in the West, applauding the show trials and covering up the purges.

But since the Soviet Union has collapsed, the PRC has embraced the market and the “working class” has been something of a disappointment, who can fulfull the Marxist prophecy of the overthrow of capitalism? In the 80s and 90s this revolutionary violence came from the IRA. It is hard to believe that Corbyn’s position is that far away from the views espoused by his Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell:  “Because of the bravery of the IRA and people like Bobby Sands we now have a peace process.” Given the terrorist group killed well over a thousand innocent men, women and children, the Corbyn clan cannot hide behind the mask of some principled pacifism. Why then was Corbyn unable to give a straight-talking, honest answer to the question of shoot-to-kill in the event of a Paris-style massacre?

Corbyn’s dodging and dithering surrounding the issue of Al Qaeda/ISIS type terrorism can only be understood upon analysing the views expressed by his inner circle. Mr Milne described the Lee Rigby affair as “the predicted consequence of an avalanche of violence unleashed by the US, Britain and others.” 

This theory of ‘blow back’ which is also espoused by Stop the War, the group Corbyn helped found and has chaired is extremely dangerous. It means if Britain were to suffer such an attack, his response would be based on the underlying presumption that ‘we had it coming.’ This view is actually racist in nature implying that Muslim men of South Asian, Arab and African descent cannot control their own anger, have no independent agency and will inevitably blow themselves up.

Just as numerous Republican politicians who have crusaded against gay rights such as Larry Craig have been found to be secretly gay themselves, it is interesting how self-professed “anti-racists” have revealed themselves to often be the most racist of all. Not only has the virus of anti-semitism infected the party, if you’re an ethnic minority and in any way free-thinking and refuse to toe the party line, you are dismissed as an “Uncle Tom” or somehow not a “real” person of colour. The abuse and intimidation meted out by the Corbynistas has caused Labour constitutency meetings across the country to be temporarily suspended.

Far from answering Occupy and creating a party of the 99%, Corbyn’s leadership has given the green light to the 0.1%. Alongside the well-intentioned, the party has become infested with conspiracy fanatics, 9-11 truthers, trotskyists and anti-semites. Far from marching us towards the promised “kinder politics” and “more caring society,” the Corbyn cult masks the harbinges of a meaner politics and a more ugly society. We must boot Corbyn back to the back benches and his goons back to their basements and blogs. Only then can we win the trust of the public as the party of progress.

Copyright © 2016 Tal Tyagi. All Rights Reserved.

 

VOTE YES TO EU: NO TO AN ISOLATED ISLAND

Ron Silver lamented: “The twentieth century has exhibited a barbarism and lack of respect for human life on a massive scale just about unknown before.” Over a period of seventy years, France and Germany went to war three times. Europe was the cauldron that brimmed two world wars resulting in the loss of tens of millions of lives. After the death and destruction on such an unimaginable scale, for almost half a century, Europe was divided into two nuclear camps during the Cold War. With the push of a button, life itself could have been brought to an end. I explain why the relative peace and prosperity enjoyed in Europe (and across the world) is to a large extent, the result of the European Union. In addition, 21st century opportunities such as transnational trade and 21st century challenges such as transnational terrorism can best be capitalised on and mitigated by remaining within the EU.

The European Dream

After WW2 Churchill described Europe as a “rubble heap” and “breeding ground of hatred.” Having had to live with the failures of Fascism, Europeans were turning from the far-right to the far-left. All across Europe Communist parties on Stalin´s payroll were among the leading parties in post-war elections. Had this movement succeeded, it was likely that more misery and mayhem would have befallen the continent. The foundations of the European project were laid by the United States who without firing a bullet or dropping a bomb, stood up for freedom. The Marshall Plan and establishment of the OEEC ensured that thriving European democracies were underpinned by prosperity and interconnection. With the intention of this evolving into a union, Churchill announced: “We must proclaim the mission and design of a united Europe, whose moral conception will win the respect and gratitude of mankind.”

 The European Reality

In spite of its short-comings the EU has lived up to this vision. Through co-operation and co-ordination, notions of freedom, democracy and the rule of law penetrated the Iron Curtain. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, much of Central and Eastern Europe has been successfully integrated into the EU. The Copenhagen Criteria of 1993 means that countries who wish to join must have a functioning democracy and adhere to human rights. This is a major contributing factor to our world boasting well over a hundred democracies. In October 2012 the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize because for six decades it contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation. While Turkey is far from even smelling EU membership anytime soon, its ambition means human rights abuses and electoral malpractice will have to be phased out.

Europe & the World

While the EU’s handling of the Ukraine crisis can and should be heavily criticized, the EU should be lauded for its taming of the dragons of China and Iran. Just a generation ago, the writings of leading Chinese communists such as Lin Biao revealed that a third world war with the West was something they had a hunger for. Today the EU is China’s largest trading partner! In addition, the Iranian nuclear deal, the biggest geo-political deal of 2015, was initiated by the European Union.

If we want to continue to enjoy this peace, perhaps it would be wise to listen to the experts? In an open letter from thirteen of Britain’s most senior military commanders, they said it was in the UK’s national security interest to remain an EU member. Similarly, the current head of NATO has said “For NATO it is important to have a strong Europe and a strong Britain in a strong Europe.” Rob Waynewright, the current head of Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency has said “Leaving the EU would make it harder to protect UK citizens from terror.” It should be noted how our allies – Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US all want us to stay. Chillingly, our prime enemies – Russia, Al Qaeda and ISIS have all indicated that they would view Brexit as a victory.

Brexiters argue that closing the door on Europe would somehow open the door to the world. As well as the US and the commonwealth allies, India, Japan and particularly China all want us to remain within the EU as they view it as easier to negotiate deals as one bloc. They also view the UK as their entry point to the rest of Europe. This illustrates how the EU ensures we have deals not just within the union but across countries the EU has made agreements with. Moreover, almost half our trade is with the EU which makes up 13% of our GDP. Indeed, many companies have made it clear that they are based in the UK and able to provide jobs because of the EU.

It should be noted that no country that does not offer free movement of people has full access to the single market. Norway which exports 80% of its goods to the EU still has to follow loads of regulations but has no say over how they are made. In the words of Norwegian politician Nikolai Astrup: “If you want to run Europe, you must be in Europe. If you want to be in Europe, feel free to join Norway.” Since our economy depends on the single market, we will still have to abide by the laws but without any say on how they are made. This will result in dun dun dun – a loss of sovereignty.

Sovereignty

Brexiters who supposedly see sovereignty as sacrosanct ignore how whole areas of policy have nothing to do with the EU – our army, education system and planning policy are not touched by Brussels. Furthermore, Britain is unique in that while we have a firm foot in, we have opted out of the Eurozone and Shenghan. If we were to leave, realise our mistake and then try to join again, we would not have the option of such opt-outs. Turning our back on the EU may make us more “sovereign” but in the words of Michael Heseltine “A man alone in the desert is sovereign, he’s also powerless.”

Immigration

Fanning the flames of fear and xenophobia, the likes of Farage have three priorities – immigration, immigration, immigration. While immigration has undoubtedly brought challenges, its contributions have been many and more. Immigrants from the EU put £20 billion more into the system through taxes than they take out in benefits. A high proportion of EU citizens who come to the UK set up businesses, employing over 1.5 million British nationals. Over 100,000 EU nationals are helping our NHS. Furthermore, let us not forget that the free movement is not a one-way street. Over two million Brits live in EU countries and it provides ample opportunities for us to attain the experience of a life-time to travel, study, work or retire in whichever of the 28 countries takes out fancy.

Crucially, immigration is not manufactured in Brussels. In spite of the free movement, net migration to the UK is higher from outside than inside the EU. Switzerland and Norway both have much higher rates of immigration than the UK in spite of not even being part of Europe! While leave posters which demonise the refugees and warn us of a ‘breaking point’ may evoke emotion, how would the influx of those fleeing violence and persecution stop if we were to leave the EU? How would leaving the EU stop dead children washing up on the shores?

Democracy

The EU does have a democratic deficit but the notion that policy is only set in the shadows of the Brussels bureaucracy is simply wrong. While the commission should be more accountable, commissioners do not make laws – they propose them. The people who make the laws are people like the council made up of our elected ministers. While the parliament should have more power, it is already being strengthened. In 2009 the Lisbon Treaty granted the parliament powers over the EU budget. Similarly, widespread opposition to TTIP across the continent has led to proposers of the treaty to back-peddle, illustrating how popular protest and engagement can break the infestation of crony capitalism. Of course more openness and more democracy should be welcomed but Britain has an unelected head of state, an unelected second chamber and a government which only 24% of registered voters voted for. Should London therefore secede from the UK?

Conclusion

Fundamentally, leaving the EU poses more questions than answers. The leave campaign cannot describe what type of deal we will have or what type of country we will be. The answer changes like a model changes clothes. Will we become like Norway? Switzerland? Canada? … Albania? The truth is that we have no idea about the impact leaving will have on prices, on growth, on investment or on job creation. When we have barely recovered from the 2008 global financial crisis, why risk more uncertainty? Why risk throwing away our access to the largest borderless marketplace in the world?  Why risk the paid annual leave and health and safety rights in the workplace which the EU guarantees?

In today’s world the Russian bear is rumbling, much of the Middle East is in flames and the American dream could very well become a nightmare with Donald Trump as president. Leaving would render us into the position of an isolated island. Brexit will be cheered by Marine Le Pen and could spark a second Scottish referendum. By voting to leave we abandon not just more certainty and security but a European ideal based on cultural and economic exchange and fundamental rights and freedoms. Though this ideal is not yet glorious in the making, it remains an ideal worth chasing.

Copyright © 2016 Tal Tyagi. All Rights Reserved.

VOTE NO TO NUS: RECLAIMING PROGRESSIVE POLITICS

My Facebook feed has been clogged up with white student activists perpetually peddling the claim that my “liberation” depends on voting to remain within the NUS. As an ethnic minority and former BAME officer of Warwick Labour not only do I find this awfully colonial but it is simply untrue. Historically student activism has been at the forefront of the civil rights struggle, opposition to the Vietnam war and the anti-apartheid movement. However, today’s NUS spits on that legacy. In the preface to ‘Animal Farm’ George Orwell lamented about how large sections of the Left romanticised Stalin and the Soviet Union: “The endless executions in the purges of 1936-8 were applauded by life-long opponents of capital punishment.” I explain why the NUS represents the moral and intellectual decay of today’s Left and why we must vote to leave.

On Hitler’s birthday, the 20th of April 2016, there was a motion at a conference to no longer commemorate the holocaust. Was this a BNP or National Front rally? No – it was the fucking NUS. Proposer of the motion, Darta Kaleja of Chester University explained that “I am against the NUS ignoring and forgetting other mass genocides and prioritising others.” So the essence of her argument is that the holocaust – the killing of 6 million Jews alongside slavs, romanis,trade unionists, communists, homosexuals, Johavah’s Witnesses and the mentally and physically disabled was not diverse enough? Even though this motion was thankfully voted down, students need to reflect on how on earth their delegates became so disconnected from reality in the first place.

The sad truth is that anti-semitism has polluted much of today’s Left. At best it is ignored or dismissed as a Zionist conspiracy and at worst it is actively indulged. Following the expulsion of numerous Labour Party councillors and activists on this charge, you would have to be blind not to see this creeping into the NUS. In February the NUS NEC ended the practice of giving an automatic leadership place on its Anti-racism Anti-fascism (ARAF) campaign to a Jewish student. Just let that sink in for a moment. The anti-fascist movement was created to protect Jews in East London from Oswald Mosley’s Black Shirts. A motion condemning ISIS had to be fine-tuned and re-worded in order to not be perceived as “islamaphobic” but unequivocally condemning Israel comes as naturally as breathing. Today’s NUS has thrown Jewish students to the back of the bus.

The oppression-obsessed, perpetually offended professional victims are guilty of the ultimate sin – cultural appropriation. The National Union of Students Black Students Campaign which claims to represent students of “African, Asian, Arab and Caribbean dissent” identifies those who fall into any of these categories as ‘black.’ Charmaine Jacobs, president of East Kent College SU wrote a brilliant piece explaining why the term ‘politically black’ is extremely problematic. De-rooting blackness from any African or Carribean heritage and reducing it to a flexible political affiliation ignores the differences of radically diverse peoples, packaging together by virtue of their non-whiteness. The idea that all ethnic minorities are the same is actually colonial in nature, homogenising the ethnic identities of students. Indeed, this is the reason the anti-racist movement stopped using the word “coloured.” For non-black ethnic minorities to identify as black enables anti-black racism to thrive in non-black ethnic minority communities. The response would simply be “you can’t be racist towards yourself.”

Somebody cannot just identify with a particular historical oppression and therefore become a part of it. For me as somebody of Indian heritage or for a Chinese person or an Arab to suddenly identify as black is an insult to those who have suffered from anti-black racism. None of us can say we have seen the ‘n’ word graffitied onto our bananas or been compared to a monkey. Minorities identifying as “black” amounts to an invasion of the collective experience and identity of those who are actually black. While the Arab NUS president elect has appropriated black oppression so to coin the title “first black woman” to hold the position, she has stolen a title that does not belong to her.

NUS supporters will entice us with claims of cheaper pints of purple and convince us that there are benevolent reasons to stay. Of course there are those with good intentions who do want to use the NUS to fight for a better world but the institution is simply beyond repair and lacking the credibility to achieve such aims. It comes across as racist in its anti-racism and fascistic in its anti-fascism. The NUS has traditionally been a platform to launch one’s political career. Jack Straw, Trevor Phillips and David Aaronovitch are just some of the former presidents who’ve become leading lights in British society as thinkers and politicians. It is painful to think that some of those active in the NUS today will become future leaders. If we let them go down this rabbit hole of the oppression olympics anymore, they will transform this country into one giant ‘safe space.’ It would look something like North Korea, devoid of dissent, moribund and mopey. The far- left are increasingly sounding like the far-right. It is more imperative than ever that we disaffiliate so that we can reclaim what it means to fight for progressive politics.

Copyright © 2016 Tal Tyagi. All Rights Reserved.