In mid-December 2014, Dr Abdul Wahid, Chair of the UK-Executive Committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir wrote a series of letters to educational and health care establishment raising awareness of the government’s latest Counter Terrorism and Security Bill
This is the text of his letter…
Subject: The Impact of the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill on Teachers, Schools and Health Care Professionals
Dear Sir or Madam
I am unsure how much you know about the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill – and the impact it will have on teachers, health care professionals and others – potentially destroying the trust that exists between them and those whom they are trying to help and serve.
I am fairly certain the level of awareness about this bill and its implications are limited. I have discussed the matter with some teachers, doctors and lawyers – and by writing I hope to raise awareness about it.
In particular, regarding three matters:
1. The bill being driven through Parliament at lightening speed [i].
It was launched on 26.11.14, has been unopposed by any of the major parties despite explanatory leaflets emerging late, and could be on the statue books by the end of January 2015. This – coupled with its timing coinciding with the Christmas and New Year break – has meant people have had very little time to digest its implications.
2. The bill puts a statutory duty [ii] upon teachers and other professionals to policethoughts and beliefs – and to report them to the appropriate channel – effectively making them a tool in a security policy.
The police currently bear responsibility for executing the government’s counter-extremism strategy (Prevent). But Greater Manchester Police Chief Sir Peter Fahy admitted, in interviewed published by the Guardian on 5th December 2014, that in doing so the police had become ‘thought police’ [iii].
This is the role being passed on to other professionals, including teachers.
3. There is no established definition of ‘extremism’ and much of the ‘training’ simply heightens suspicion about a whole community.
Another of Sir Peter Fahy’s complaints was that he described how policy makers had left the definition of ‘extremism’ vague. As a result ‘securocrats’ (his word, not mine) were left to define it themselves.
Commenting on this point, Professor Peter Scott of the Institute of Education, said “These definitions will not only, and inevitably, be politicised but are also likely to be expandable and open-ended” [iv].
It will now be down to other professionals to apply their own definitions – allowing for all manner of bias and prejudice (though they maybe legally accountable to someone else’s definitions of ‘extremism’).
I have attached two very short documents that may help understand the bill. One is a briefing paper by an independent consultancy. The other is an information sheet from the Home Office [v] about this bill’s aspiration to place ‘Prevent’ on a statutory footing in the health service, education sector and local authorities.
I have two interests in this matter.
Firstly, I have no desire to see trusting relationships – that may have taken years to establish – destroyed.
Secondly, I am very active within the Muslim community in a personal and organizational capacity – which is why I have followed the bill closer than most. As such I am aware of the pernicious side of the ‘Prevent’ policy, which has been apparent despite the fact that until now it has not been enforced by statute (as is proposed under this bill).
I am happy to explain my concerns further – as well as my interest in the matter further – if you think it would help.
But most of all, I hope to make you aware of the nature of this bill that will have such a profound effect on all teachers.