This week saw the long-awaited announcement of the UK government’s so-called ‘independent’ reviewer of the Prevent policy. The previous appointee, Lord Carlile, had to withdraw after he faced criticism for previously advocating for Prevent.
Regarding this appointment and the Prevent policy in general we would make the following points:
1. The appointment Mr Shawcross to lead a review into Prevent is like appointing Harvey Weinstein to lead a review into sexual harassment!
There can be no real ‘independence’ from the government in the sense that he comes from a position that supported the US-led ‘War on Terror’. He was the director of the think tank, the Henry Jackson Society – named after a US Senator famed for his views about the US intervening abroad to spread liberal democracy, and some of whose protegees ended up being the foremost advocates of the ‘War on Terror’ (such as Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Pearle). Shawcross is quoted as saying: “Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future. I think all European countries have vastly, very quickly growing Islamic populations”.
2. Prevent was not a policy that needed reviewing – it was a dead policy that needed reviving.
The fact the UK government did not find people from an even remotely independent position to review the policy suggests that they feared it may be heavily criticised for its excesses, ineffectiveness and poor evidence base. It is despised in the Muslim community for its oppressive nature. It relies on workers in the health and education sectors policing the thoughts of those they are meant to work with, making significant numbers of people uncomfortable with the policy.
3. Prevent is not about preventing violence, but preventing Islamic views and expression.
In its early days some Muslims believed the rhetoric that Prevent was about identifying people at risk of turning to politically motivated violence. However, many who engaged with it sincerely became increasingly convinced it was about policing thoughts, values and beliefs – specifically targeting the Muslim community. Even though it was later expanded to address right-wing extremism, it disproportionately affected Muslims.
But Prevent is – and always was – a policy targeting Islam. It was part of the global strategy to counter Islamic revival. This was executed globally – through invasion, occupation, control of regimes in the Muslim world and influencing policies and education programmes. At a national level, Prevent worked to demonise any Islamic practices or views that conflicted with dominant liberal norms, by conveying the impression that the more Islamic a person was, the more of a threat they posed – so encouraging Muslims to be less Islamic.
We urge Muslims to be aware of the motives behind this policy, so as to realise that engaging with the policy is supporting a policy aimed to harm Islam and Muslims, not one aimed at preventing violence.
We urge all people who dislike politicians using divisive and authoritarian policies to manipulate public emotions to work for the abolition of Prevent.
We urge all Muslims to realise that the aim of Prevent is to provoke fear that results in self-censorship and abandoning causes that are important to us. It is quite possible that sincere Muslims will convince themselves they are remaining politically active but focus more on political causes that appear less controversial and risky. Or that they convince themselves they can remain faithful to Islamic views, but focus exclusively on the person, not the political.
The function of Prevent and other anti-Islamic policies across the world is to create a distraction from Muslims working to restore Islamic civilisation, under a Khilafah on the method of prophethood, as an alternative to the disastrous situation across the world today. It distracts Muslims, keeping us preoccupied with defending ourselves and Islam from political and ideological attacks. And it distracts the rest of society, focussing them on the potential ‘threat’ from Islam, instead of looking at the harsh reality of the capitalist world they live in today.
Preventing Islam Report [PDF]