Advocacy group CAGE has released a report calling for the scrapping of the government’s controversial Prevent counter-extremism strategy and detailing practical alternatives to it.
Beyond Prevent: A real alternative to securitised policies also recommends ending austerity and implementing an ethical foreign policy as a means of achieving a more cohesive, safe society, without antagonising minority communities.
Within the Muslim community Prevent is widely seen as a way of monitoring the community as a whole which has had the chilling effects of “otherising” Muslims and restricting their freedom of speech.
Prevent has also been condemned by several human rights groups, academics, politicians and even the United Nations.
However, the government insists it is there to safeguard those who are vulnerable to radicalisation and to keep the nation safe. It has commissioned what it calls an “independent review” into the strategy.
CAGE’S report recommends the following:
CAGE says this move is supported in whole or in part by a number of national organisations, including University College Union, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, Liberty, the National Union of Students and many others.
ABANDON THE FRAMEWORKS UNDERPINNING PREVENT
According to CAGE, the design of counter-extremism strategies in the UK have largely rested on a number of premises and frameworks which are countered by the evidence, or whose evidentiary basis is fundamentally defective. For example, that violence is predominantly about ideology or the very notion of “Fundamental British Values.”
CAGE says we must divorce ourselves from these frameworks, otherwise the risk remains that a like-for-like programme will be introduced to bring Prevent back through the backdoor.
RESTORE SOCIAL SPENDING WITHOUT STRINGS
The report says that austerity since the turn of the decade, alongside more long-term post-
industrial decline throughout Britain, has underfunded and eroded much of its social institutions – including social initiatives, frontline services and civil society organisations.
Previously, it was these institutions that were able to positively channel and address grievances which might have spilled over into social violence and political violence.
So, defunding and the presence of counter-terrorism in the public sector has had profoundly negative effect.
SECURE AN ETHICAL FOREIGN POLICY
CAGE says there is consistent evidence – from empirical research, assessment by security services and by perpetrators themselves – for the role of state’s foreign policy as a driver of political violence.
Aggressive foreign policy has both destabilised nations abroad, creating the political vacuum within which violent groups can rise, as well as stoking grievances at home.
The British state and the British military-industrial complex are intimately bound up in warfare across the Third World, in particularly the Muslim world.
Ending this is likely to remove grievances that could spill into violence.
STOP MANAGING SOCIAL ISSUES THROUGH SECURITY MEASURES
In place of social care and social investment, says CAGE, we have surveillance and securitisation. Rather than welfarist measures to strengthen the core of society, the status quo is tougher policing of the boundaries of acceptability.
REINSTATE A SOCIETY WHERE CIVIL RIGHTS CAN BE EXERCISED
The report says that Prevent is part and parcel of a move to usher in a closed society where political pluralism is undermined, dissent is increasingly criminalised and democratic rights are eroded.
All of this serves to disenfranchise communities in Britain, who are then viewed with suspicion through the lens of counter-extremism.
DECOUPLE WELFARE AND SAFEGUARDING FROM COUNTER-TERRORISM
CAGE says Prevent’s turn to the notion of “safeguarding” as a means to justify itself has overseen its enmeshment with welfare services.
This has served to undermine and securitise those services and generate distrust between patients and practitioners, services and service users, most notably the very young.
REPEAL COUNTER-TERROR LAWS INSTITUTED SINCE 2000
CAGE says it does not believe we need counter-terror laws to deal with acts of actual political violence when they occur.
Acts of violence should be treated as criminal law matters through pre-2000 legislation such as the Offences Against the Person Act.
A new future
Commenting on the report, CAGE Research Director Dr Asim Qureshi said: “Prevent has been criticised in many quarters for a range of reasons that range from its lack of scientific credibility to the racist profiling that it engages in at a societal level.
“In thinking about how we can move beyond Prevent, many arguments trap themselves within the logic of Prevent and its existence, rather than seeking a more complete understanding of how we can move society to a place of increased justice and safety.