Socialist Worker

Update: Tory extension of Prevent strategy is a recipe for racism and an alibi for war

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2556

Amber Rudd is putting armed police on the street

Amber Rudd is putting armed police on the street (Pic: Number 10, Flickr/Paul Townsend)


Tory home secretary Amber Rudd promised an “uplift” for the Islamophobic Prevent strategy today, Wednesday.

Introduced by the New Labour government after the 2005 7/7 bombings in London and made legally binding by the Tories’ 2015 Counter Terrorism and Security Bill, Prevent forces public sector workers to spy for signs of “radicalisation”.

The Tories are ramping up their assault on Muslims in the wake of the Manchester bombing last week.

Theresa May promised to set up a new Commission for Countering Extremism with far reaching powers.

This followed home secretary Amber Rudd's pledge to strengthen the Islamophobic “Prevent” strategy to “make sure it has even more effective outcomes in communities”.

Now the Tories’ 2015 Counter Terrorism and Security Bill legally forces public sector workers, such as teachers, to spy for signs of “radicalisation”.

Raza Nadim from the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (Mpac) told Socialist Worker, “Prevent and the whole anti-terror strategy is toxic—no one in the Muslim community ­welcomes it.

Draconian

“They are talking at Muslims not to us, and this will mean being more intrusive and draconian.”

He added, “If you look at since we’ve had Prevent, it hasn’t stopped terrorism taking place.”

Over 20 people a day were referred under the Prevent scheme in the year to March 2016. Some 3,100 of them were under 18 years old and 610 were under 10 years old.

The majority—54 percent—of the cases related to “Islamic extremism”.

Teenagers can be singled out as suspicious for changing the way they dress, for opposing government foreign policy, or supporting Palestine. The NUT teaching union opposes Prevent, and says it quashes any possibility of open discussion in the classroom.

Rudd’s announcement is an attempt to exploit the horror of the Manchester bombing on Monday to clamp down further on the rights of Muslims.

Campaign group Prevent Watch told Socialist Worker, “This rhetoric, about being strong on terrorism and the causes of terrorism, is about upping the ante.

“It’s about bringing in more draconian laws and will instill far more fear among people. There are already soldiers on the streets”.

Stand Up To Racism and Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend) also campaign against Prevent. They have produced a pamphlet called Prevent: Why We Should Dissent.

Resist David Camerons Islamophobic industry of fear
Prevent - resisting the Islamophobic industry of fear
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Prevent stands in a long line of repressive measures against Muslims, but it is dressed in liberal clothes.

It claims to be protecting the innocents at risk of being “radicalised” by sinister forces of “extremism”.

These officially include the far right as well as Muslims.

Targets

But Prevent Watch said, “The talk about the right wing challenge under Prevent is just a sop—the way it operates targets Muslims.”

This cautious language partly reflects an opposition to overt Islamophobia won by the anti-war movement built on a powerful alliance of Muslims and the left.

Prevent was part of an attempt to break this opposition.

In 2005 as it was being drawn up, a poll by ICM found that 72 percent of people thought that British foreign policy had made Britain more a target for terror attacks.

So alongside a brutal police crackdown on Muslims, Blair had to dress Prevent up as about working with “community leaders”.

But this was also an attempt to drive a wedge between “good” Muslims who support “British values” and “bad” ones who question the British government and its wars.

Imam Suliman Gani from south London was targeted by Prevent in 2013—and is now campaigning against it.

“When I was working as a hospital chaplain, I was stopped from seeing certain patients,” he told Socialist Worker. “I was told it was because I was sharing platforms with individuals like Moazzam Begg.”

He added, “They are targeting all of us as Muslims. I feel like my identity is under attack and now when people see me I get comments on the streets about being a terrorist because of it.”

Repressive

Prevent stands in a long line of repressive measures against Muslims. But it is dressed in liberal clothes.

It claims to be protecting the innocents at risk of being “radicalised” by sinister forces of “extremism”.

These officially include fascist groups, such as the English Defence League, as well as Muslims. But, Raza said, “When you look at the number of Muslim children who have been referred and suffered under Prevent that’s just not the case.”

Prevent Watch said, “What they don’t take into account is the foreign wars, which should be the starting point. It doesn’t look at the backlash that’s been going on since Tony Blair.”

The Tories’ agenda isn’t about keeping us safe from terrorism.

An ICM poll found that 72 percent thought that British foreign policy had made Britain more of a target for terror attacks.

As senior officials said, “The terrorist threat must not be described as a ‘Muslim problem’.”

Raza said, “Prevent will never work because it does not address the root cause of this—government foreign policy.

Rudd and Theresa May are now deploying on the streets of Britain the same military whose wars in the Middle East created groups such as Isis.

To end those wars and to stop Prevent will take a new mass movement.


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