Journalist Nafees Mahmud argues that Labour MP Khalid Mahmood is completely out of touch when it comes to counter-extremism in light of his comments earlier this week stating that the controversial Channel programme should be made compulsory.
One way to have as much credibility on counter-terrorism as Garry Glitter has on child protection is to be associated with the neo-conservative think-tank the Henry Jackson Society (HJS). Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, was once a member of the hawkish think-tank’s political advisory council.
This week, he appeared on the BBC’s World At One programme saying that the Channel programme (part of the government’s Counter Terrorism and Security Act) should be made compulsory.
Channel allows local authorities to intervene in the lives of those deemed “vulnerable to extremism,” offering a voluntary programme involving the likes of health, youth and education services in order to “rehabilitate” the at-risk individual. Basically, it’s what you get referred to if you’re subjected to state-mandated paranoia, i.e. Prevent.
But Mahmood now wants more money ploughed into Channel for “the right providers.” I wonder why that is? A relatively easy way to get your hands on large bundles of public money is to set up a counter-terrorism project. Between 2012 and 2015 Birmingham City Council spent nearly £3 million on counter-terrorism work with money being pumped into mosques such as Green Lanes and Hazrat Sultan Bahu Trust.
This mindset is common amongst many Muslims. Too many heads of Islamic institutions are willing to play along with the government’s agenda to secure counter-terrorism funding. For many Muslim organisations, Prevent/Channel funding is essentially the equivalent of a business.
But people who actually know what they’re talking about have slammed the government’s tactics.
David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said earlier this year that Prevent is a “significant source of grievance” amongst British Muslims and encourages “mistrust to spread and fester”. He said it lacked transparency, was ineffective and was being applied in an “insensitive or discriminatory manner” and that an independent review should be commissioned.
The National Union of Teachers have backed a motion calling for Prevent to be scrapped, and the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of assembly, Maina Kiai, warned the stigmatization it fosters could produce, rather than inhibit, extremism.
In 2015 nearly 4,000 people were referred to the voluntary Channel programme; nearly triple the figure of the previous year. In Khalid Mahmood’s stomping ground, the West Midlands, 788 people were referred to Channel last year. Only 293 were Muslim and 486 of the total figure were children or young adults, 68 aged nine or under.
So instead of trying to please his friends at the Henry Jackson Society by saying counter-terrorism needs more funding, shouldn’t Mahmood campaign for more funds for Birmingham’s children’s services? In 2010 they were described as unfit for purpose after 18 vulnerable children died in the five years previous.
ISIS terrorists haven’t killed that many people in the UK.
Why call for public money, apparently in short supply, to be pumped into what is objectively described as a failure, when people in your city are dying from more serious problems?
His delusional comments this week again prove the government’s counter-terrorism programme is little more than a pay day for those who, in my opinion, have no interest in furthering a fruitful, cohesive society.