Nearly a hundred academics issue statement raising concerns with Commission for Counter Extremism

Nearly a hundred British academics and researchers have issued a joint statement raising their concerns over Prime Minister Theresa May’s newly-formed ‘Commission for Countering Extremism’.

The following statement signed by 94 academics and researchers was issued earlier this week:

“We are concerned with the Commission for Countering Extremism’s recently launched ‘evidence drive’.

The Commission states that ‘neither the issue of terrorism nor the government’s counter-terrorism strategy (which includes Prevent) are in the Commission’s remit’. The Commission, in excluding any focus on ‘terrorism’, pushes the narrative ever-more towards the inherently problematic and contested ‘non-violent extremism’. If ‘extremism’ refers to extreme yet non-violent beliefs and opinions it is unclear how the Commission’s aim of countering-extremism is compatible with the democratic values and human rights that they claim to uphold.

The Commission shows an interest in the victims of ‘extremism’ yet fails to show concern for the well documented victims of counter-extremism. These victims have faced an erosion of human rights, been marginalised from democratic engagement and lost access to health and education services as a result of counter-extremism. For the Commission to fail to include the Prevent Strategy – a strategy that refers to ‘extremism’ 118 times and which has faced continued critique for its focus on ‘extremism’ – demonstrates their failure to engage with and critique current counter-extremism practice and strategy.

The experts chosen to advise the Commission do not include any of the many voices critical to counter-extremism (see: https://www.preventdigest.co.uk/who-s-who). We are also concerned that the Commission is not engaging with evidence on Prevent that has been recently gathered in Parliament by the Joint Committee for Human Rights and by the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism. Despite Sara Khan professing a desire that the Commission be ‘as radical as needed’, this commitment does not stretch to including any of the critical voices from the many academics who have conducted fieldwork on the impact of counter-extremism in public spaces.

The need for critical voices is also vital in light of the Government’s failure to define ‘extremism’. A problem compounded by the Commission’s intention that their work ‘not be limited by this definition’. A lack of working definition of ‘extremism’ will significantly inhibit the empirical validity in determining who ‘is’ and ‘isn’t’ an ‘extremist’. It also prevents empirical reliability in being able to reproduce the Commission’s work for scientific testing. History has shown, in this regard, that the label ‘extremism’ has been used to silence political dissent, from the suffragettes to Martin Luther King Jr. A working definition of extremism should thus be the first step in any scientific endeavour, and not be ignored in favour of political strategy.

Our View

1. It is our view that the Commission is unnecessary in an environment where the UK has amongst the most intrusive policy and legislation in the Western world.2. We believe the Commission has been wrongfully conceived and convened outside the scientific enterprise, to the wide criticism of many in British society.

3. As it stands, this exercise from the Commission will do little other than exacerbate tensions between communities targeted by counter-extremism and the Government.

4. In addition, a growing number of scholars and community leaders have noted that the association of Muslim cultural/religious practices to extremism has exacerbated a narrative that views Muslims outside of equal citizenry.

5. In light of this, we call to question the purpose of the Commission. Should it persist, we request the Commission to produce clear, workable definitions of ‘extremism’ and ‘British values’ that is open to academic and public scrutiny before embarking on its plans.

6. The Commission must also comment on the body of research detailing the negative impact of the Prevent Strategy, which has relied on a vague definition of extremism as well.”

Signatories:
1. Rob Faure Walker, University College London and PREVENT Digest
2. Dr Tarek Younis, UCL, British Academy
3. Ifhat Smith, Anti-Prevent Campaigner
4. Tom Smith, Senior Lecturer in International Relations, University of Portsmouth
5. Lee Jasper, Fmr Policing Director for London, Momentum Black Caucus Press Officer
6. Prevent Watch (www.preventwatch.org)
7. Dr Charlotte Heath-Kelly, University of Warwick
8. Asim Qureshi, Research Director, CAGE
9. Tom Pettinger, University of Warwick
10. Nadeem Murtuja, JUST Yorkshire
11. Dr Sadia Habib , Independent Researcher
12. Kieran Ford, National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies
13. Marian Carty, Goldsmiths, University of London
14. Sahar Al-Faifi, Community Activist
15. Dr John O’Regan, UCL Institute of Education
16. Dr Naaz Rashid, University of Sussex
17. Ahmed Makda, Community Campaigner
18. Dr Laura Mills, University of St Andrews
19. Dr Shameela Islam-Zulfiqar, Independent Researcher
20. Dr Antonio Perra, KCL and Mend
21. Dr. Narzanin Massoumi, University of Exeter
22. Professor Richard Jackson, National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies
23. Dr Fatima Rajina, SOAS
24. Sushrut Jadhav, UCL
25. Arun Kundnani, New York University
26. Abyd Quinn Aziz, Cardiff University
27. Dr Derek Silva, King’s University College
28. Mohammad Shoaib, Mend
29. Dr Lydia Cole, University of St Andrews
30. Malia Bouattia
31. Dr Sangeeta Chattoo, University of York
32. Eleanor van den Heuvel, Brunel University
33. Yusuf Patel, SRE Islamic
34. Dr Jessica Potter, Queen Mary, University of London
36. Dr Aislinn Macklin-Doherty, Clinical Research Fellow
37. Dr Anna Jones
38. Lubaaba Al-Azami, University of Liverpool
39. Erin Dexter, UCL
40. Jibran Saleem, Cyber Security Consultant, Manchester Metropolitan University
41. Justyna Wroblewska, SOAS, BSMS
42. Roghieh Dehghan, UCL
43. Professor David Miller, University of Bath
44. Abdul B Shaikh, University of Leeds
45. Dr Siema Iqbal, Co-Founder AVOW (Advancing Voices Of Women against Islamophobia)
46. Dr Hans Rohlof, psychiatrist, Transparant Mental Health
47. Gary Craig, WISE, University of Hull
48. Dr Neil Krishan Aggarwal, Columbia University
49. Natassia Brenman, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
50. Dr Jacqui Lovell-Norton, Institute of Education, Bath Spa university
51. Suman Fernando, London Metropolitan University
52. Ghulam Esposito Haydar, Myriad Foundation
53. Dr Francesco Ragazzi, Leiden University
54. Rezwana Ahmed, UCL
55. Dr Shazad Amin, MEND (Muslim Engagement & Development)
56. Audrey Mc Mahon, University of Sherbrooke
57. Leon Sealey-Huggins, University of Warwick
58. Mia Bloom, Georgia State University
60. Dr Hilary Aked
61. Matthew Flinders, UCL
62. Steve Anderson, Independent researcher and docial work educator.
63. Dr Deborah Chinn, King’s College London
64. Ronny Flynn, Retired academic and charity manager
65. Dr Ghazala Mir, University of Leeds
66. Calum Carson, University of Leeds
67. Imran Shah, MPACUK (Muslim Public Affairs Committee)
68. Professor David Ingleby, University of Amsterdam
69. Professor Tahir Abbas, London School of Economics
70. Josh Walmsley, Independent Researcher
72. Dr Katy Sian , University of York
73. Diane Leedham , Freelance educator
74. Nisha Kapoor, University of York
75. Gemma Gronland , UCL PhD student
76. Dr Saba Hussain, University of Warwick
77. Professor Virinder Kalra, University of Warwick
78. Adam Peter Lang, UCL
79. James Fitzgerald , Dublin City University
80. Katie Washington, University of Oxford
81. Sophia Siddiqui, Researcher
82. Jane Louise Horton, University of Liverpool
83. Faiz Sheikh, University of Exeter
84. Dr Rukhsana Arshad, Independent Clinical Psychologist
85. Rob Ferguson, Officer, Newham NUT
86. Scott Bartle, Trainee Clinical Psychologist, UEL
87. Dr Sarfraz Jeraj, University of Surrey
88. Emma Anderson, York St John University
89. Stephen H. Jones, Muslims in Britain Research Network
90. Valeska Matziol, Independent Researcher, VM Community Research & Action
91. Sivamohan Valluvan, University of Warwick
92. Ghayda Hassan, UQAM
93. Isobel Ingham-Barrow, MEND
94. Dr Thomas Martin, University of Sussex

 

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