By Hamed Chapman and Ahmed J Versi
London, (The Muslim News): Former Prime Minister, David Cameron, has been accused of Islamophobia after targeting Muslims but not other critics of the Government’s discredited Prevent Extremism programme as “enabling terrorism”.
The controversial counterterrorism strategy has come under sustained criticism for many years including from such organisations as the UN, special rapporteurs, human and civil rights organisations, academics and even those charged with carrying it out, including teachers and university staff.
But intervening during the much delayed review of the Government’s policy, Cameron went as far as singling out only Muslims who “refuse to challenge the falsehoods around Prevent are guilty of ‘passive tolerance’.”
“Just as we need to counter the Islamist extremist narrative we also need to counter the anti-Prevent narrative. We need to show that delegitimising counterterrorism is, in essence, enabling terrorism,” he argued in an article for the Times newspaper.
His criticism was also voiced in a forward to a report by the right-wing Policy Exchange think-tank that sort to debunk criticisms of Prevent by claiming it would “jeopardise” Britain’s fight against extremism.
Research fellow Maria W Norris, who is not Muslim but did a PhD on the failed strategy, was among those who questioned why Cameron and Policy Exchange were “only targeting Muslim critics of Prevent.”
“So much about this is reactionary and deeply Islamophobic,” Norris said in a tweet. “So what this intervention from Cameron and policy exchange continues to do what Prevent and UK counterterrorism policy has always done: It targets Muslims by design, it is white supremacist by design. And it Does. Not. Work.”
Muslim Engagement and Development, one of the organisations along with MCB, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies and Cage accused of undermining the Prevent, also condemned the “blatant Islamophobic strategy.”
“To claim that legitimate and well-founded critique of Prevent is an ‘Islamist’ and ‘extremist’ narrative is nonsense, and a thinly disguised and blatant attempt to shut down criticism from various Muslim groups and delegitimise them,” MEND tweeted.
“@Policy_Exchange are troubled by the fact these agencies can think & act independently of the Government and make judgments for themselves as to whether we are ‘Islamist extremists’ or are articulating the reasonable concerns of the Muslim community,” it added.
In an attachment to Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019, the Government was obliged to carry out an independent review of Prevent but more than three years on has still yet to report after appointing questionable chairmen to lead it, including its own former terrorism reviewer Lord Carlile followed by provocative commentator William Shawcross.
Questioned about Cameron’s accusation, Boris Johnson’s Spokesman agreed that the Government would “not want anyone to make comments to undermine the Prevent scheme which is an important part of our approach to preventing people from being radicalised.”
“People are allowed to criticise Government policy and it is entirely right and appropriate. What would not be right is to seek to undermine the policy or inform about it with a view to undermine policy,” the Spokesman said.
Keir Starmer was customarily non-committal with his Spokesman insisting that Labour wanted to see the results of the Government’s Prevent review but the need was “to make sure that the country has a strong and clear de-radicalsing progamme to protect our national security.”
“It is right that we have a counter extremism programme in this country,” Starmer’s Spokesman added. “There is always scope for people to criticise Government policy,” he said before admitting he did not know what Cameron had said.
Labour MP Zarah Sultana was more sure pointing out in a tweet that the former Prime Minister was a “vocal supporter of the Islamophobic mayoral campaign against Sadiq Khan” before referring the question back about “why he just picks on Muslims” when ignoring criticism from the UN, Amnesty International, Liberty and others.
[Photo: Former Prime Minister, David Cameron. Photo by No 10 Downing Street/Creative Commons]