Human rights advocates are blasting what they call the “PREVENT lobby” for exploiting the New Zealand massacre in order to expand the powers of the national security state. Former counter-terror chief Mark Rowley and former ‘integration tsar’ Louise Casey recently wrote an article calling for more powers to fight terrorism. The article, published by the Sunday Times two days after the New Zealand massacre, attacked opponents of the Prevent surveillance programme saying that:
charities, police officers, teachers and social workers at the front line of this fight against terrorism are undermined at every turn by a vocal minority of campaigners who claim to represent the communities most at risk and are emboldened by politicians who should know better
Asim Qureshi, Research Director of civil liberties group CAGE, said:
The PREVENT lobby has been utterly shameless following this tragedy. Instead of acknowledging the policy they advocate for is failing, they have used the incident as a means to co opt communities to buy into their own oppression, while policy makers walk away from accountability.
A good time to push bad ideas
Other examples of state officials using the New Zealand massacre to push Prevent and its ideology are:
- 18 March, security minister Ben Wallace on Radio 4.
- 18 March, lead for the Commission for Countering Extremism, Sara Khan and Louise Casey on BBC‘s Victoria Derbyshire.
- 15 March, Prevent coordinator for the Midlands Will Baldet on Newsnight.
The ‘vocal minority’
The supposed “minority” that ‘undermine’ the “fight against terrorism” by opposing or strongly criticising Prevent include: Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC), Liberty, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Rights Watch (Uk), Medact, Index on Censorship, Network for Police Monitoring, Muslim Council of Britain, UN Human Rights Council, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly, UN Special Rapporteur on racism, National Union of Teachers, and award-winning conservative journalist Peter Oborne, among many others.
Last year Oborne criticised Rowley for:
outrageously defam[ing] Muslim groups Mend and Cage – both legitimate community-based organisations – by comparing them to Britain First and Anjem Choudary’s Al-Muhajiroun, both of them criminal groups.
State terror breads non-state terror
Supporters of Prevent often slam supremacist ideologies, like those of the alleged killer in New Zealand. But they ignore the mainstream ideology of the ‘War on Terror’ and the violence and terror that this ‘forever war’ inflicts across the world. This is a rather convenient blind-spot. And it is especially curious given the long, and well-documented links between conflict and state violence, including Western foreign policy, and the rise in political violence committed by non-state individuals.
The reality is that this policy is undermining British democracy rather than strengthening it. But government after government keeps expanding Prevent, despite being told, over, and over, and over again that its tainted Prevent policies are failing.
So, perhaps its time for us to see these policies as actually succeeding. Just not succeeding in terms of the officially stated objective of preventing terror – but rather succeeding in terms of a different objective: that of preventing dissent.
Mohamed Elmaazi volunteers with CAMPACC
Featured image via Flickr/Pete Birkinshaw
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