Advocacy group CAGE has called for a boycott of the Commission for Countering Extremism’s (CCE) study into “extremism” because it believes it aims to provide a basis for the implementation of repressive counter-terror and extremism policies.
CAGE says the study by the CCE, which is lead by the controversial Sara Khan, is a dangerous development in British counter-extremism policy thinking and an ideologically-driven project to entrench disastrous policies like Prevent.
The CCE launched a call for evidence earlier this week.
“Through this public consultation, the CCE are aiming to build public consent and buy-in around a definition (of extremism) – such a definition will likely then be used as the basis of referrals to Prevent, and to target individuals and groups using other strands of counter-extremism,” CAGE said.
The CCE is acting as the “friendly face” of counter-extremism, CAGE said, giving the impression that communities will be listened to in order to develop a counter-extremism that can “work for them” and that will cover “all forms of extremism” rather than being focussed only on Muslims.
CAGE went onto criticise Sara Khan’s history as an ambassador for Prevent through her organisation Inspire, and said the CCE’s “Expert Group” includes a cross-section of figures embedded within state counter-terrorism and extremism. They includes former head of counter-terror policing Mark Rowley, founder of Tell MAMA Fiyaz Mughal, and Emman El-Badawy of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change and formerly Quilliam Foundation.
Meanwhile, Hannah Stuart of the rightwing Policy Exchange, and former Research Fellow at the Islamophobic Henry Jackson Society, is on secondment to the Commission.
Asim Qureshi, CAGE’s Research Director said: “The CCE is an endeavour to institutionalise structurally Islamophobic policies. Furthermore the ‘expert group’ put together by the CCE commissioner Sara Khan is nearly entirely made of individuals who have been embedded within programmes that securitise Muslims. They have been involved in circles that perpetuate such policies and are all the more reason communities should boycott the CCE.”
The Commission for Countering Extremism says it launched a public consultation to seek evidence from government and commission research into the Far Right and Islamist extremism as part of plans for a wide-ranging study into all forms of extremism.
It says the study, due to be released in spring 2019, aims to improve understanding of extremism and its deep impact on individuals, communities and wider society.
The terms of reference, explains that the study will be based on 5 themes:
- The public’s understanding of extremism
- The scale of extremism
- Extremist objectives and tactics
- Harms caused by extremism
- The current response to extremism
Commenting on the study, Sara Khan, Lead Commission for countering Extremism, said: “Whether in England and Wales or across the world, there are worrying signs of the growing impact of extremism. But a lack of understanding about extremism, and its harms, and an absence of consensus is holding back efforts to counter extremism.
“Extremism is widely discussed but remains a misunderstood and contested issue. It is often raised in the context of violence and terrorism. This is critical, but we cannot ignore the wider impact extremism is having in our society. We have to analyse extremism through a wider lens. Otherwise we risk missing the deep harm that extremism causes to individuals, communities and our wider society.
“I’ve spoken to experts and activists across the country. I’ve heard how religious and ideological extremists are intimidating and abusing those who don’t conform to their intolerant and dogmatic worldview. I’ve heard concerns about the changing face and increasing prominence of both the Far Right and Islamist extremism. I’ve heard concerns about rising hate crime on our streets, disinformation on social media and the impact of the online space on the reach of extremism.
“This should concern all those that cherish our rich diversity, our fundamental freedoms and liberal democracy. Our mission is to help everyone do more to challenge extremism.”