A large number of Muslim organisations and activists have condemned the appointment of Sara Khan as the government’s new “extremism tsar.”
Khan has been given the task of rooting out extremism in the UK and she has promised “zero tolerance to those who promote hate.”
But her support for the the government’s Prevent counter terrorism strategy, as well as her poor relationship with Muslim community stakeholders has led many to express incredulity at the appointment.
Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “The fight against terrorism requires equal partnership between all parties, including Muslim communities. This appointment risks sending a clear and alarming message that the government has no intention of doing so.”
The former Tory chairwoman Sayeeda Warsi described it as “a deeply disturbing appointment.”
She tweeted: “Sara has unfortunately been a strong advocate of the government’s policy of disengagement, a policy which many, including members of the police and intelligence services, consider has damaged the important battle to engage Britain’s Muslim communities.
“For the commissioner to be effective the person had to be an independent thinker, both connected to and respected by a cross-section of British Muslims. Sara is sadly seen by many as simply a creation of and mouthpiece for the Home Office.”
Meanwhile, the Islamic Human Rights Commisison called for Muslim activists to boycott the government.
The IHRC’s Massoud Shadjareh said: “Sara Khan’s ridiculous and provocative appointment is a testimony of the environment of hate that exists today in Britain against Muslims and the role of the British goverenment in promoting it
“What now needs to be done is that all Muslim acticvists who are trying to create a better and more just society should stop having anything to do with the British government with regards to anti terrorism and radicalisation.
“Prevent and this appointment highlight that either the British government has no clue whatsoever about how to deal with these issues or indeed is using them as an excuse ro further promote this environment of hate.”
And MPACUK said Khan would work for the welfare of her paymasters rather than the greater welfare of the wider community.
MPACUK’s Imran Shah said: “Sara Khan’s organisation, Inspire, came out of RICU, a secret govt initiative made to manufacture Muslim support for Prevent and even her book was written with someone very central to the Home Office. At the Home Affairs Select Committee, she utterly failed to show how she was independent from the existing government.
“Her record speaks for itself. Every step of her counter-extremism ‘career’ has had full backing by this government. She has religiously stuck to the government line on radicalisation. She’s not an expert. She’s a puppet. She’s a yes-woman, who will do what she is told to do as she always has done. That is why there is so much outrage across the board.
“Theresa May has always been more concerned with control over good governance. Sara Khan has been picked because she has proven to be loyal to this government and Prevent. No doubt she won’t be concerned with the welfare of the country, but rather the welfare of her Prime Minister.”
Khan describes herself on her website as a “born human rights activist”, and says she has campaigned for women’s rights within British Muslim communities for over 20 years.
Born and raised in Bradford, she worked as a hospital pharmacist before launching the Inspire charity in 2008 with the aim of challenging extremism and promoting gender equality.
In September 2005, after the London bombings, she sat on the Home Office’s Tackling Extremism and Radicalisation Working Group and has also worked with the education department and the Department for International Development.
Today Khan, who will reportedly earn £140,000 a year for a three day week, hit back at her critics in an interview with Sky News, saying: “I reject the claim that Baroness Warsi is making. The reason I have been chosen is because of the vast experience I have, which I will be bringing to the commission.
“The work that I am doing in the commission is not part of Prevent. This is about preventing extremism. Prevent is part of the countering terrorism strategy.”
One of her first tasks, she said, would be to carry out “a comprehensive study of the scale, influence and reach of extremism in this country – because I don’t believe we have a clear national or regional picture”.
She said she wanted to challenge hate speech by offering an “alternative narrative, not to drive it underground” – and she stressed that she would not just be focusing on Islamic extremism.
“Far-right extremism is a virulent strain that is permeating all aspects of our society – the two feed each other, they have a symbiotic relationship with each other… and it’s important that I am going to be challenging both.
“This is one of the generational struggles of our time and I am committed to challenging extremism in all its forms.”
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Ms Khan was expertly qualified to lead the new body’s “vital work.”