Sara Khan linked to media company that covertly spreads state propaganda

Sara Khan

The “anti-extremism” campaigner Sara Khan has close links to a media company that is being used by the Home Office to covertly spread state propaganda to British Muslims.

According to an article in the Middle East Eye, a forthcoming book by Khan, the co-director of the supposedly independent organisation Inspire, is co-authored by Tony McMahon, a consultant working with Breakthrough Media which has orchestrated a “secret propaganda programme” in collaboration with the Home Office’s Research, Information and Communications Unit (RICU).

Publicity material describes The Battle for British Islam as an “urgent and courageous book” that will “uncover how [Islamic State] has lured British teenagers from all walks of life and allow us to hear directly from the young men and women who have been radicalised”.

It describes Khan as a “brave, selfless campaigner” who has spent the last 20 years campaigning for tolerance and equal rights within Muslim communities, and is “now fighting one of the key fronts in the battle against Islamist inspired extremism – the war of ideas.”

Inspire describes itself as a “counter-extremism and human rights organisation which seeks to address inequalities facing British Muslim women.” But critics suggest that Khan and Inspire are more closely aligned with the government’s controversial Prevent counter-extremism strategy than they have publicly acknowledged.

breakthrough-showreelKhan has shared platforms with Home Secretary Theresa May and in October 2015 was among a group of “important Muslim and non-Muslim figures” who attended a meeting of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Community Engagement Forum set up to discuss ways of tackling extremism. Her work was cited in a Downing Street press release a few days later announcing a £5m fund to build a “national coalition against extremism.”

Khan has also featured in Prevent training videos produced for school teachers who under law now have a statutory duty to monitor and report students deemed to be “vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism”, while Inspire has delivered training to headteachers and school leaders.

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But Inspire has strenuously maintained that it is independent of government. In written evidence submitted to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Inspire said it was an “independent non-governmental civil society organisation.”

“All decisions in relation to Inspire’s remit and work are made solely by the directors; all projects and activities are led and carried out by the Inspire team,” it said. “This has been the case since our inception. We therefore refute the suggestion that Inspire is not independent. The proposition that because government has recognised our work cannot mean we are independent is not a reasonable argument.”

The evidence also hit out at what it called a “regressive discourse about Prevent and counter-extremism issues” which it said had resulted in organisations which accepted government funding “experiencing disproportionate attacks and abuse.”

Middle East Eye said Inspire had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.

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