If there was ever a Spielberg movie that was playing out in reality, it is Minority Report, writes Kasim Javed.
“PreCrime”, a specialised police department apprehends criminals based on foreknowledge provided by three psychics called “precogs”. Tom Cruise plays the PreCrime Captain and is on the run after the “precogs” foresee a future murder which he is accused of committing.
The government’s counter-terrorism and security strategy claims to do just that, to catch terrorists before they commit a crime. The difference is however, that the movie was more rational then Theresa May and her department. In the movie they considered that they needed a way to predict the crime and used “psychics” to do the job, Theresa May however has no psychics but has given the state, the powers to catch them anyway relying on a flawed “theory of radicalisation” which has been academically disproved.
Theory of radicalisation if flawed
Take for example the prominent terrorism expert, John Horgan. He was the director of the International Centre for the study of terrorism in the University of Pennsylvania from 2007-2013. He said that “The idea that radicalization causes terrorism is perhaps the greatest myth alive today in terrorism research … [First], the overwhelming majority of people who hold radical beliefs do not engage in violence. And second, there is increasing evidence that people who engage in terrorism don’t necessarily hold radical beliefs.”
French sociologist Olivier Roy argues that “the process of violent radicalisation has little to do with religious practice, while radical theology, as Salafism, does not necessarily lead to violence.” The “leap into terrorism” is not religiously inspired but better seen as sharing “many factors with other forms of dissent, either political (the ultra-left), or behavioural: the fascination for sudden suicidal violence as illustrated by the paradigm of random shootings in schools (the ‘Columbine syndrome’).”
Marc Sageman, a former CIA Operations Officer, who previously held a position that supported this theory but then changed his position, suggested that governments should “stop being brainwashed by this notion of radicalisation”, there is no such thing. Some people when they’re young acquire extreme views, many of them just grow out of them. Do not overreact-you’ll just create worse problems.”
Mark Sedgewick, a British Historian specialising in terrorism explained that, “The concept of radicalisation emphasizes the individual and, to some extent, the ideology and the group, and significantly deemphasizes the wider circumstances – the “root causes” that it became so difficult to talk about after 9/11, and that are still often not brought into analyses. So long as the circumstances that produce Islamist radicals’ declared grievances are not taken into account, it is inevitable that the Islamist radical will often appear as a “rebel without a cause”
Prevent has failed
Ignoring the outcry from academics, the government implemented “Prevent” anyway.
The Prevent program was the manifestation of the theory of radicalisation which was implemented originally by the Labour government in 2007 and then reviewed by the Coalition government. And as expected it has been widely criticised by the Muslim community throughout its implementation.
Take for example, Dal Babu, a former chief superintendent until 2013 said many Muslims did not trust the “Prevent” strategy and many saw it as a form of spying, he described Prevent as a “Toxic brand”.
Professor Ted Cantle from the Institute of Community Cohesion (iCoCo) said: “Instead of gaining the support of Muslim communities, the previous Prevent Strategy alienated the majority.”
Dr Matthew Wilkinson, director of the think-tank ‘Curriculum for Cohesion’ said about Prevent that it, “has been largely unsuccessful”.
Yet, instead of abandoning the program the government has been insistent on having a hard-line approach by now enforcing it onto the public sector via the CTS Act.
The Reality of Prevent
Of course, we are not naïve to believe Theresa May is trying to playout Tom Cruise, the reality is that “Prevent” is just as much about terrorism than it is a science fiction. The truth about “Prevent” is that it is a program designed not to catch terrorists, but to enforce the secular liberal belief system and values upon the next generation of the Muslim Community. This is why the Government has defined extremism as the, “Vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.” Ideas, which are not universal, but are ideological.
This is also why, in recent weeks “Prevent” has been exposed to ideologically target the beliefs of Muslim children. Take for example the recent questionnaire from a primary school in London, it had questions such as “Do you agree or disagree that;
- God has a purpose for me?
- I believe my religion is the only correct one?
- It’s okay to marry someone from a different race or religion?
- People should be free to say what they like, even if it offends others?”
These are all questions which are trying to ascertain if the beliefs of Muslim children are in concordance to secular liberal versions of equality, plurality and tolerance.
Mak Chisty, a police commander recently said that we need to move into the “private space” and mentioned what he sees as signs of radicalisation such as not celebrating Christmas, change of attire from Western clothes, stopping drinking!
Again “extremism” is framed here as actions that don’t conform to liberal culture.
This is also why, the “Channel” program from “Prevent” disproportionality targets Muslims. Since 2007, when Channel was introduced, 153 children under 11, another 690 aged 12–15 and 554 aged 16–17 have been referred to the program.
The religion of the 2000+ people that were referred showed that from 2007-10, 67% of those referred were Muslim, 2012-13, 57% were Muslim. Bearing in mind that Muslims makeup less than 5% of the population!
The irony of the movie is that Tom Cruise was framed and was about to be arrested without committing the crime, in other words the movie acknowledged the conceptual flaw of “PreCrime” and how power can be abused to suit an imperial objective. The counter-terrorism and security strategy of the government however is no movie and the government is abusing its power to restrict political expression against foreign policy, impose secular liberal values on Muslims and following through the global imperial objectives of Capitalism. They clearly didn’t take the moral from the story.