The Counter Terrorism Act 2015 has had a far reaching and very public impact on the Muslim community since it came into force, however it is not exclusively a ‘Muslim issue’ as the media would have you believe. There’s been a living-wage campaigner monitored by police for his ‘activism, a schoolboy questioned by police for circulating political literature and 3 women suspended from college for questioning why an event about Prevent was cancelled to name but a few.
Prevent has actually been around for a long time but many staff at schools and universities as well as healthcare and local authority workers were reluctant to take part due to concerns over discrimination. However, since the passing of the CTS Act 2015, the Home Secretary now has the power to ‘intervene’ when they are not considered to be enforcing the strategy.
Considering that these are people we expect to educate, medicate and generally keep our children safe, and the fact they were given sketchy guidelines such as ‘monitoring students who appear ‘withdrawn’ or seeking ‘political change’, with the main focus on preventing what the government terms ‘Islamic extremism’ – a fuzzy term to say the least and one far too commonly misinterpreted, is it any wonder they weren’t keen on the implementation of the policy?
Sara Ogilvie, policy Officer at civil liberties group, Liberty said the governments “heavy handed approach risks fanning the flames of division and extremism, not extinguishing them. She went on to say:
“The Prevent Programme has already trampled on young people’s right to freedom of speech, curtailed debate and further marginalised those it most needs to reach.”
No longer are students free to debate foreign policy, instances where ‘rule of law’ isn’t seen to be followed or the even ongoing situation taking place in Gaza. Not very democratic after all…
Despite Ministers struggling to define extremism and with no current usable legal definition of it, Prevent have come up with their own definition and here it 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. We also include in our definition of extremism calls for death of our armed forces, whether here or abroad.”
I’m not sure what qualifies the people making these referrals but those considered at risk are referred to the Channel Programme. Interestingly 35% of those referred between 2007 and 2013 were under 18.
So, if your child talks openly about the genocide taking place against Palestinians in Gaza, questions foreign policy that leads to the killing thousands of civilians based on flawed intelligence or talks about the fact that the UK political system sure is undemocratic for an alleged democratic country, then you too could find yourself under the Prevent spotlight, even if you’re not Muslim, as this could amount to your child being identified as “vulnerable to” or at “risk of” being drawn towards extremism or violence.
Sara Ogilvie, policy officer at civil liberties group Liberty, said that “the governments heavy handed approach risks fanning the flames of division and extremism, not extinguishing them. The Prevent programme has already trampled young people’s right to freedom of speech, curtailed debate and further marginalised those it most needs to reach out to.”
Young people can’t even debate foreign policy or instances where the ‘rule of law’ doesn’t appear to have been adhered to, this policy has effectively taken away the voice of anyone who wishes to criticise the government.
Committee Chairwoman, Harriet Harman, told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “The difficulty is the definition, for example, I don’t respect religions that regard women as subservient but I’m clearly not an extremist on the path to violence.”
Someone should let Harriet know that, looking at the Prevent definition, she would be displaying extremist views in her not respecting whatever un-named faith she mentioned – the Prevent definition clearly states that a lack of respect for different faiths IS an extremist trait. Amazingly it is quite often this lack of understanding or respect of different faiths that leads to Muslims being labelled as extreme and referred to Prevent…
If we don’t stand together in the fight against Prevent you might just find that when it does eventually affect you they’ll be no one left to speak out on your behalf…
This quote has been changed several times over the years, to fit the rhetoric of the day – originally it was written about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis’ rise to power and subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group. Perhaps a modern day edit would replace Jews with Muslims?
So yeah, you might still think that this is ‘just another Muslim issue’ but I assure you it’s really not – we may be the focus now but then what? The media and powers that be always need an enemy, a whipping board, a group to blame. We’ve seen demonisation of benefit claimants to support the drastic, often devastating cuts to welfare payments, we’ve had countless documentaries showing us feckless immigrants to make us feel better about closing our borders to refugees and throughout it all we have had the Muslims. We’ve been blamed for almost everything but believe me it will only be a matter of time before they need a new focus. Just hope it’s not you…..
I would like to finish by sharing *Yusra’s story. She is a mum who is refusing to engage with Prevent and is now facing the possibility of having her children removed. There has never been any allegations of abuse, neglect or anything else that could justify the removal of her children. Yes, *Yusra is Muslim but she could just as easily be called *Yvonne – the prevent strategy is so far reaching that no one is truly safe, well no one who thinks for themselves and questions the powers that be or chooses to live their life in a ‘different’ way, whether that be beliefs or the way they dress. You can read more about Yusra’s case here and the video of her interview is below.
Finally, a big thank you to Cage and all they do to help and support those who find themselves on the wrong side of one of the most immoral pieces of legislation since the Terrorism Act 2000. Cage warned that the CTS Act 2015 would result in children being removed from their families and have been instrumental in helping *Yusra fight her case and keep her children InshaAllah.
Using the ERG 22 report to overcome many of the issues Childrens’ Services had tried to push on *Yusra and her family,the brothers at Cage have also attended meetings with her solicitor, offering preparation work on how to incorporate the ERG findings into her case. With this support and advice *Yusra is now “looking forward to going to court” as she feels it’s the only way “to stop the local authorities from trying to co-erce my family into something that we don’t want and don’t have to by law.”
*Not her real name