Socialist Worker

Tory ‘Prevent’ strategy stokes Islamophobia

by Viv Smith
Issue No. 2256

The Tories have released a new version of the Prevent strategy—supposedly designed to tackle “terrorism” and “extremism.”

But it remains as racist as the first Prevent policy created by New Labour in 2007.

The Tories are going to even further extremes to clamp down on every aspect of Muslim life, criminalising the entire Muslim population.

Farooq Murad, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, has described the report as containing the “implicit assumption that Muslims are less able to function in an open democracy than other people, more susceptible to totalitarian impulses and more open to be incited to violence”.

The government will target anyone who challenges “fundamental British values” such as “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”.

The Tories also want to police our thoughts.

Committed

The report states unequivocally, “We remain absolutely committed to protecting freedom of speech. But preventing terrorism will mean challenging extremist (and non-violent) ideas that are also part of a terrorist ideology.”

Mukhtar Masters from Preston told Socialist Worker, “We are a community under constant suspicion. That’s the consequence of Prevent.

“No matter what we do, it isn’t good enough. Their Britishness is about washing away our own beliefs and culture and destroying multiculturalism.”

Michael Lavalette, national chair of the Social Work Action Network, has repeatedly spoken out against Prevent being used to target innocent people.

He said, “The rewrite reinforces every­thing wrong about the policy. This time they are demanding an even greater role of policing for welfare workers.

“For them ‘extremism’ can include opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bombing of Libya and support for the Palestinians—ideas millions of people agree with.”

While the strategy refers to tackling other extremisms—like that of the far-right—this is dismissed in a few paragraphs.

This reflects the government’s hypocrisy—targeting Muslims while pandering to racist and Islamophobic ideas of groups like the English Defence League (EDL).

“In Bradford and Bolton some Prevent funding was diverted into stopping people from opposing the racism of the EDL,” Michael said.

“There were leaflets explaining that people could be arrested for simply coming out to say they oppose the presence of racists on their streets.

“It seems Muslims don’t have the same right to protest as everyone else.

“The government wants to stop Muslims from organising in their communities.”

And the report endorses David Cameron’s vicious attack on multiculturalism made earlier this year, with talk of a new proposal on integration.

Public institutions, like libraries, schools, universities and the NHS, are being asked to spy on individuals and identify possible “terror recruits”.

“Internet filtering across the public estate” is essential. The report says the state will work with YouTube and AOL to limit and monitor internet access.

The aim is to “limit access to harmful content online in specific sectors or premises (notably schools, public libraries and other public buildings); and ensure that action is taken to try to remove unlawful and harmful content from the internet.”

There is no explanation of what harmful content may include, but it is clear that educational institutions are to be a major focus of the clampdown.

Explanation

Heathcare workers will come under immense pressure to spy for the government.

The report states, “People with mental health issues or learning disabilities may be more easily drawn into terrorism.”

It talks about inserting Prevent into the health curriculum.

This applies to all levels of education. The report demands that universities do more to root out extremists.

Pura Ariza, a member of the UCU lecturers’ union who teaches at Manchester Metropolitan University, told Socialist Worker that lecturers are refusing to spy on students.

“The Tories want us to see Muslims as terrorists first, not students or human beings.

“We reject that,” she said.

“There are too few black and ethnic minority students at our universities because of institutional racism.

“We are here to teach, not monitor students’.”

Home secretary Theresa May made wild, unspecified claims that Prevent funding had been used to support extremism.

She said that the government is withdrawing funding from a number of Muslim organisations as a result.

Non-extreme

She added that even groups considered “non-extreme” and “very often operating within the law” may not pass the “extremism” test.

Yet the Tories see it as proper to fund organisations like Life and The Silver Ring Thing—fundamentalist Christian groups that want to deny women the right to free, safe abortions and who want to stop schools teaching students about contraception.

The right wing press don’t denounce on a daily basis the Christian groups who claim homosexuality is a sin.

These contradictions should come as no surprise, Martin Smith from Love Music Hate Racism told Socialist Worker.

“First Labour and now the Tories are systematically singling out and targeting Muslims for abuse.

“Attacks on Muslims and mosques have increased, and the new Prevent report is likely to inspire racist and fascist groups like the EDL and BNP.

“It is vital that anti-racists unite as a matter of urgency to resist the ramping up of Islamophobia and to defend multiculturalism.”


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