In the immediate aftermath of the Manchester attack, supporters of the UK government’s Prevent strategy dominated the media airwaves with their scripted arguments for clamping down on “non-violent extremists” and blaming Muslim communities for “not doing enough” to stop terrorism, writes Dilly Hussain.
As Britain woke up to last Monday’s devastating suicide attack at the Manchester Arena that tragically resulted in the death of 22 people, supporters of the government’s flagship Prevent strategy were out in numbers reinforcing their wicked agenda.
Even before the majority of the country had heard the full details about the shocking attack, taking advantage of what had taken place the night before, key advocates of Prevent were busy pushing a government-endorsed PR campaign which dismissed any talk about Britain’s foreign policy as a contributing factor towards domestic terrorism.
Instead, they actively laid the blame for terrorist attacks on mosques, imams, parents and the community at large for “not doing enough” about extremism, and failing to integrate into British society.
Personally, I felt this PR campaign was deliberately orchestrated in a bid to shut down any obvious criticisms of the security services, who allowed the Manchester bomber, Salman Abedi, an individual reported five times by the Muslim community, to go under their radar.
Kicking the community whilst it’s down
At a time when “final solutions” against Muslims are being openly discussed, casual suggestions are being made by senior police officials for internment of “extremists” who have not broken any laws, and with more than 1,000 soldiers deployed on the streets of Britain, Muslim communities seeking voices of reason and allies amongst their fellow Britons have been bombarded with a fringe minority of predatory opportunists who have for years busied themselves in self-promotion, sectarian point-scoring, or professional begging for government funding.
Ironically, some of these individuals have accused their critics of being part of an anti-government industry hell-bent on destroying Britain from within – when in reality they have only sought to expose the damaging impact and obvious failures of a strategy that failed to pick up an individual who committed an atrocity that killed 22 innocent people.
Let us take a look at some of the main cheerleaders of Prevent who dominated newspaper headlines, television screens and radio discussions in the wake of the Manchester attack to not only push the government’s Prevent programme, but to embarrassingly justify their own existence:
- Maajid Nawaz from the Quilliam Foundation, an organisation that is despised by the Muslim community and whose founder (Nawaz) was designated last October by the Southern Poverty Law Centre as one of the most dangerous anti-Muslim extremists in the world, thought it would be appropriate to fundraise for “Quilliam Circles” in the immediate aftermath of the Manchester attack – and was rightly pulled up for it by non-Muslims on his Facebook page. As expected, Nawaz made this entire incident – as he does in the wake of every attack of this nature – about non-violent “Islamism” being a conveyor belt to terrorism. He made sure this fallacy was driven home via his weekly LBC radio show and his column on The Times of Israel.
- Quilliam Foundation’s in-house scholar, Dr Usama Hasan, another individual widely rejected by Muslim communities across Britain, thought he would take the opportunity to link an unrelated debate he had some years ago about the permissibility of music in Islam to the Manchester attack. He stated on Facebook that “extreme anti-music sentiment would contribute to some people becoming suicide bombers”. Ironically, our non-Muslim readers should be made aware that Dr Hasan’s father, the esteemed Salafi scholar Shaykh Suhaib Hassan, has taught for decades about the prohibition of listening to music, public knowledge that the good doctor has conveniently avoided like the plague for years.
- The one-time aspiring debater who never made it to Muslim apologist stardom, Adam Deen (real name Hakkan Cerrah) of Quilliam Foundation, told the Daily Mirror that those who “adopt a religious style of dress” may have been radicalised, and should be reported to Prevent. Please keep in mind that this highly-spirited former “extremist” has changed organisations at least five times within a decade: from Al Muhajiroun, MPACUK, MDI, Deen Institute, and currently the Quilliam Foundation. If anything, the MI5 need to keep an eye on Cerrah’s ever-changing “Road to Damascus,” as he envelops traits described by the government’s Channel Vulnerability Assessment Framework that could lead individuals to commit acts of terrorism.
- The so-called “independent” women’s rights activist turned overnight counter-extremism “expert”, Sara Khan of Inspire, used every opportunity she was rewarded with in the media over the last week to promote herself, her co-authored book with the Home Office, and to blame Muslim communities – specifically the “anti-Prevent lobby” – for creating a breeding ground for terrorists. Khan was rightly put in her place by a Muslim woman on BBC Question Time who said Mayor Andy Burnham was more representative of the Muslim community than she was – reflecting the non-existent support Khan and Inspire actually have on a grassroots level to be passing judgements from their Home Office built ivory towers.
- Shaista Gohir of Muslim Women’s Network UK thought it was smart to launch a general attack on Muslim activists for not publicly condemning the Manchester attack. She told BBC Newsnight: “Although the Muslim community by and large is really shaken with this and is really condemning it unfortunately there are a small cohort of people, individuals, organisations – I’m not going to name them on here – they are very active in terms of they will not want Muslims to work with the government.” Asked if these groups support ISIS, she said: “They’re not on our side and I would put them on the side of extremists.” Again, we have an example of a little-known person from Birmingham who received £114,000 from the government’s Tampon Tax Fund in 2016, and one can only assume that the funding has now dried up, hence she came out of the woodwork with these attacks.
- Labour Councillor Amina Lone from Manchester appeared on numerous BBC news reports last week and featured on BBC Newsnight last Thursday. I personally had not heard of Ms Lone or her organisation, the Social Action and Research Foundation (SARF), before the Manchester attack. So when I heard her saying that many mosques, imams and the community are in “denial” for not engaging with Prevent, it raised alarm bells. How can anyone seriously present such an emotive statement live on national TV – either you support Prevent or there is something intrinsically wrong with how you perceive extremism. Of course, when I noticed Shaista Gohir “high-fiving” Amina on Twitter for her Newsnight performance, it all started to make sense.
Is the Muslim community doing enough?
The issue of Muslim communities practically doing more to root out and condemn terrorism has been comprehensively exhausted for those who are sincerely seeking answers. Muslims in the UK have consistently condemned acts of terrorism since 9/11, to the extent that condemning terrorism has been cynically dubbed by some commentators as the “sixth pillar of Islam.”
As for “doing more” – have not Muslims apologised, condemned, “toed the line”, “engaged” and even reported their fellow co-religionists to the authorities when they suspected something? Was not Salman Abedi reported to the counter-terrorism hotline five times by the Muslim community?
How did he then go under the radar of the security services? Is the Muslim community expected to do a better job than the police and MI5? How are Muslims expected to support initiatives like Prevent which has a great track-record of policing thoughts and criminalising schoolchildren, whilst allowing actual perpetrators of crimes to go unpunished? These are serious questions that have to be asked of both the government and their ever-compliant Muslim lackeys.
As for the link between British foreign policy and domestic terrorism, the government was advised by numerous security officials, namely the former MI5 chief, Eliza Manningham Buller, that invading Iraq would have repercussions at home.
If that was insufficient, perhaps former US president Barack Obama’s admission on VICE News that ISIS “grew out of our invasion of Iraq” was enough for foreign policy to be taken seriously? Or maybe the countless number of reports from Anglo-American academics, think-tanks and security experts who have consistently cited that the Iraq war increased the terror threat at home, not to mention the political vacuum that was created by the invasion which gave birth to ISIS.
So naturally, there was no real surprise when Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn rightly linked the national security of Britain to the country’s shenanigans in the Middle East. Did not Mohammed Siddique, the main 7/7 bomber and the Woolwich attacker, Michael Adebolajo, both mention Iraq and Afghanistan as the motivation for their crimes? Did not the UK government give a green light to British fighters to leave the country to fight Muammar Ghadaffi during the Libyan revolution in 2011?
Why does foreign policy remain the elephant in the room?
It would be grossly incorrect to lay the blame for home-grown terrorism on foreign policy grievances alone. But it would be even more absurd to dismiss the role of Britain’s military escapades abroad as a significant contributing factor, which has to be understood on a case-by-case basis with socioeconomic, psychological and medical issues all being considered to understand the real causes of non-state domestic terrorism.
Inevitably, it then begs the question why advocates of Prevent detest any mentioning of British foreign policy? To put it simply, I believe their outspoken opinions have everything to do with money and power in the face of overwhelming evidence negating their baseless theories in the pursuit of a piece of the government’s lucrative CVE treasure chest.
If the British government sincerely addressed issues pertaining to its historic and ongoing foreign policy failures in the Muslim-majority world, that would mean accepting responsibility and reviewing their geopolitical interests, which would risk either losing or decreasing revenue or power, be it from arms sales, securing trade routes, and monopolising natural resources.
Similarly, for the mascots of Prevent to even entertain the possible correlation between foreign policy and domestic terrorism means potentially losing their prime time slots on Newsnight and Question Time, their designated columns on the national press and the Times of Israel, and ultimately their livelihood. I am sure the prospect of leaving the high life of a privileged counter-extremism “expert” is a difficult one to imagine.
But understand two things dear flag-bearers of Prevent: firstly, you intentionally perpetuate anti-Muslim suspicion by conflating significant aspects of normative Islam with an ill-conceived understanding of “extremism” at a time of huge distrust towards Muslim communities. Secondly, your timing to come out with the begging bowl for government funding and recognition was disgusting. Not only have you opportunistically taken advantage of a nation which is mourning, but you do so at the expense of the Muslim community who ultimately pay the price on the streets of Britain for your systematic misrepresentation of Islam and Muslims. Have some shame.