CAGE: UK Government “outsourcing extremism definition” to Henry Jackson Society

Advocacy group CAGE has accused the government of outsourcing the designation of “extremists” for security purposes to the right-wing charity the Henry Jackson Society (HJS).

In the recent High Court case of Dr Salman Butt v Home Office, it was revealed that the Prevent counter terrorism strategy uses information gathered by the Extremism Analysis Unit (EAU) to identify “extremists.” The EAU in turn uses information on individuals and organisations produced and provided by the HJS.

The HJS has several well-publicised right-wing links. It has been accused of generating Islamophobia, and it is known as an illiberal organisation which supports military intervention around the world.

The notion that Islam is incompatible with the West is reflected in the HJS’s Douglas Murray. Known for his mistrust of Muslims, Murray has consistently presented Islam and Muslims as being part of an existential threat to the western world.

In 2006, Douglas Murray told members of the Dutch Parliament: “Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board: Europe must look like a less attractive proposition. We in Europe owe – after all – no special dues to Islam. We owe them no religious holidays, special rights or privileges.”

CAGE has released a report analysing the workings of the EAU and its implications for society. You can read the report here.

The role of the EAU is to determine and analyse “extremist” narratives, and to provide  “the Office for Counter Terrorism and other customer departments” with information about “extremist” individuals and organisations, that will affect counter-extremism policy and work.
The EAU primarily feeds information to Prevent officers, but their determinations of “extremism” can be shared with foreign governments and agencies.

Prevent was original marketed as a guidance, not an obligation. Its objective was to prevent terrorism, not so-called “extremism” – but now, in an increasingly fear-based environment, the pro-Prevent lobby has shifted the boundaries. It is now increasingly an obligation, and its targets are the many who fall under the broad definition of “extremism”.

Ibrahim Mohamoud, CAGE Spokesperson, said: “A matter that has dire implications for the rights of individuals and organisations is being outsourced to right-wing units and organisations. In this way, the Home Office itself has become part of the generation of Islamophobia and the status of these shadowy groups becomes a matter of urgent concern.

“This case has exposed the inner workings of the EAU and how it relies on neo-conservative think-tanks to understand ‘extremism.’ These include the Centre for Social Cohesion and the Henry Jackson Society. The views of these organisations are rooted in a perception that the West is at war with Islam, and their leaders betray a deep mistrust of Muslims.

“The Home Office appears to be adopting the views of Douglas Murray, HJS Associate Director, who in 2006 said ‘conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board’. Such an approach does little for community relations and indeed will more than likely have a counterproductive effect.”

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