Activists slammed the Tories’ “Prevent” strategy at an Islamic Human Rights Commission’s (IHRC) event last Saturday.
Up to 100 people attended its conference on the Environment of Hate and the Police State in London.
The Tories are spearheading their assault on Muslims with Prevent, first brought in by Tony Blair’s New Labour.
Their Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015 now legally forces public sector workers to spy for signs of “radicalisation”.
David Miller, professor of sociology at Bath University, argued that the rise in Islamophobia is being pushed from the top.
“The counterterrorism apparatus—the Home Office, the police, the forces of the state—drives Islamophobia,” he said.
“That apparatus has massively expanded since the introduction of Prevent and the Counter Terrorism Act has expanded it through the public sector.
“That’s what drives what’s going on in the streets.”
Some activists were pessimistic about the prospects for resistance.
Houria Bouteldja from the Party of the Indigenous of the Republic in France delivered a stark warning about the left’s failure to resist Islamophobia.
“We are targeted by everyone,” she said. “The right, the far right—and by the left.
“The best left candidate in the presidential election—Jean Luc Melenchon—is Islamophobic.”
Bouteldja argued that the left was Islamophobic because it was white, a reaction to the racism of the French left.
Others at the conference also argued the problem was the “white left”.
But this ignores the united struggles of Asian, black and white workers against Islamophobia, racism and fascism.
The divisions caused by scapegoating Muslims do not benefit any workers.
The afternoon session on resisting Prevent in education, where struggles are taking place, was more optimistic.
Rob Ferguson, an NUT teachers’ union member in Newham, east London, argued that Prevent was introduced in response to resistance.
“In 2005 the government was in the middle of the Iraq disaster and the majority of people opposed the war,” he said. “The majority of people also blamed terror acts on Britain’s foreign policy.”
Rob said the government dressed up Prevent to “bring over people who’d been part of the anti-war movement and wouldn’t buy into naked Islamophobia”.
This experience shows that it is possible to forge a powerful alliance between the left, anti-racists and Muslims. It will take a broader movement against racism to beat back the assault on Muslims.