The Islamophobia of Both Tommy Robinson and the Government’s PREVENT Strategy

On Thursday night the BBC’s flagship news program, Newsnight, made yet another contribution towards the growth of far-extremism by taking another ‘balanced’ look at the life and times of a far-right thug known as Tommy Robinson. In the interest of balance, however, the show outdid itself and even managed to acknowledge how the BBC itself has fuelled the growth of far-right Islamophobic politics. Something they have worked hard on over the years by giving generously of their air-time to such self-promoting and dangerous opportunists like Anjem Choudary and his divisive counterpart Tommy Robinson.

Leicester’s ever-ubiquitous Prevent guru William Baldet was also featured in the Newsnight debacle, wherein it seemed that Mr Baldet had belatedly come to the obvious conclusion (that should have been staring him in the face for the past two decades at least) that the far-right is scapegoating Muslims for all the worlds ills. He kindly explained:

“What we are seeing now is a more explicitly anti-Muslim movement and certainly when you look at the social media posts, when you look at the language, at the rallies, they’re hanging their politics, their ideology, explicitly on an anti-Muslim agenda.”

Then when asked, “should we be worried?” about this turn of events, Baldet, a man who is already very concerned about the public’s decision to vote for Brexit, replied:

“I might be the wrong person to ask. I have quite a pessimistic view about the immediate future. I feel as if common sense has been drowned out and that the platforms are being given over to the extremist ideologues.”

William Baldet Newsnight

It, of course, would never have occurred to Baldet that the mainstream media and the Prevent strategy (of which he is a central part) might have anything to do with catalysing such problems. This is hardly surprising as it wasn’t so long ago that Baldet was taking to social media to castigate the trade union movement for opposing the government’s Prevent strategy which he did by retweeting supportive articles cherry-picked from right-wing newspapers (for more on this, “Unpacking PREVENT: Islamophobia and the Counter-Terror Industry”).

More recently, last month Baldet was busy spinning the truth when, from his position as a senior fellow at the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right, he wrote a blog to demonstrate that both the far-right and Islamic extremists are united in their attacks upon the Prevent strategy that he holds so dearly. He was correct on at least one point when he demonstrated the inability of the far-right to stick to any semblance of the truth by writing:

“Radical right activism has begun to claim that a policy of state-sponsored indoctrination of Islam in non-Muslim children (via the UK’s ‘Prevent’ counter terrorism strategy) is taking place and to imply that it’s engaged in a plot to facilitate, through ignorance or design, the so-called ‘Islamification’ of Britain.” (September 18, 2018)

This is patent lunacy, as is Baldet’s own confused conclusion in which he states:

“I believe the attacks on Prevent are just a means to an end and that the aim of far-right supporters, and their Islamist extremist counterparts, is to instil fear in their communities and drive a wedge between Government – whose responsibility it is to ensure our children are safe from harm – and the communities themselves.”

It is perhaps understandable why Baldet would choose to believe that his employer, the Government, are really concerned with keeping our children and communities safe from harm, but this is wishful thinking in the extreme.

Nevertheless, a powerful case has been made many times before (including by Jeremy Corbyn) that it is the Government’s Prevent strategy itself that is causing far more harm than good, especially among the Muslim community. But don’t just take my word for it.

Why not consider the carefully worded conclusions that were reached in an academic journal article published earlier this year as “Resisting Radicalisation: A Critical Analysis of the UK Prevent Duty.” An article that was published in the Journal for Deradicalizaton that in turned is published by the prestigious German Institute on Radicalization and De-radicalization Studies.

The article which predominately focused on the major problems caused by the roll-out of the Prevent strategy within educational establishments initially noted that:

“Among the plethora of criticisms, three alleged shortcomings are most frequently mentioned: the potentially chilling effect on human rights caused by structural flaws such as the broad definition of ‘non-violent extremism’; the discriminatory potential against Islam and, in particular, against Muslim youths; and the paradoxical relationship of the two co-existing statutory duties of ‘safeguarding’ (i.e. protecting) children ‘at risk’ and reporting ‘risky’ children.” (pp.158-9)

The critic writes:

“The main issue of the Prevent Duty may just be that it has become counter-productive… Arguably, the Prevent Duty undermines the educationally envisioned ‘inclusive’ safe spaces, where students feel safe enough to speak freely and discuss controversial topics. The process by which the Prevent Duty inhibits these safe spaces is rooted in its potential to infringe on human rights, predominantly on the right to freedom of expression.” (p.179)

This leads the author to the logical conclusion that:

“The Prevent Duty in educational institutions is deeply flawed in its implementation, and may have significant potential to further alienate and radicalise the British Muslim population.” (p.182)

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