Trump’s move to exclude violent far-right groups from the US Countering Violent Extremism programmes shows them for what they have always been: a tool to target Islam and ‘reform’ it into something palatable to the state. This emboldens the far-right and contributes to a sense that Muslims are a threat to society. Trump’s moves should come as no surprise however; Britain’s counter-terrorism strategies have also honed in on Islam specifically, despite claims to the contrary.
Only four days after the deadly and cowardly attack by a far right supporter on a Canadian mosque, Trump announced that he would be excluding right-wing extremism from the government’s “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE) programmes. The programmes – which involve securitising communities using the same methods as PREVENT – would instead focus, solely on Islam.
CAGE has always stated that CVE aims to bring about a ‘reformed’ Islam palatable to Western governments, one which does not question their discriminatory domestic legislation against Muslims nor their aggressive foreign policy.
PREVENT pundits the world over have insisted that CVE programmes are not just about Islam. CVE advocates have criticised those who oppose the policy as fermenting “victimhood” and a “false sense of grievance “, however the recent revelations of the most powerful adviser to Trump are extremely insightful.
According to reports, Trump’s advisor Steve Bannon said in July 2014 during a Skype interview to the Vatican, that the Judeo-Christian West is “at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism” and that the West should respond by taking “a very, very, very aggressive stance against radical Islam”. (“Fascism” and “radical” here are interpreted according to the views of his Islamophobic government.) Bannon also said he believed that Islam needs to be “kept out of the world”.
Read more: How Trump’s administration wants to shut down Muslim groups by following the example of Arab regimes
Attempts to whitewash CVE and PREVENT by adding neo-Nazi fascism as one of its targets is now no longer possible. PREVENT and CVE even by their statistics remain primarily focussed on Muslims and now will be even more so.
Trump’s strong arm rule is a reflection of an attitude born from over a decade-long attrition of the principles of the rule of law and due process under the auspices of neoconservatives.
CVE/PREVENT approaches are premised upon neoconservative assumptions and shaped by neoconservative think-tanks. The Trump administration’s explicit discriminatory targeting of Islam and Muslims within the discourse of counter-terrorism is a policy which has also been encouraged by neoconservatives like Michael Ledeen and Frank Gaffney.
British counter-extremism initiatives are all about Islam too
Trump’s position should come as no surprise. A closer look at David Cameron’s comments preceding Britain’s Counter-Extremism Strategy document released in October 2015, on which the British government’s current approach is built, shows how counter-extremism has always had Islam as its focus.
In the forward to the document, Cameron outlined the government’s intention to intervene into almost every part of Muslim public and private life, and into their minds and hearts as well.
“We know that terrorism is really a symptom; ideology is the root cause,” he wrote, despite presenting no evidence to justify this statement. Since then, government ‘studies’ to back-up this sentiment have been largely discredited due to their lack of scientific basis.
Academics involved in the ‘studies’ themselves even called out the government for leaving out political grievances as a factor that contributes to political violence.
Nonetheless, the government has rushed headlong along this trajectory, denying or side-stepping the political roots of violence, and instead pouring millions into ‘hearts and minds’ propaganda directed at Muslims and bring about a state sanctioned Islam, while continuing with its aggressive foreign and domestic policies that feed many of these grievances.
This is also replicating itself all over the world through UN-administered counter-terrorism legislation and the global CVE initiative, backed by, among others, Tony Blair. Now given impetus by Bannon and Trump, the CVE agenda is set to hone in on its intended target, the practice of Islam, despite the protests of liberal commentators.
PREVENT, a failing policy designed to criminalise Muslims?
Recently, Central Bedfordshire council was compelled to apologise and pay damages after racially discriminating against two boys of Asian descent, who were reported to PREVENT by teachers at their school. This, after one boy told his teacher he had been given a toy gun as a present.
What makes this case exceptional is that the council apologised and agreed to pay damages so readily. Perhaps this was because the boy’s family were Hindu; no such apologies and damages have been as forthcoming when similar cases of PREVENT over-reporting involve Muslim children.
Such high incidence of over-reporting of Muslims, can only be due to the Islamophobic bent inherent in the PREVENT strategy itself – and CAGE has written numerous reports featuring many case studies that attest to this and to its effect on Muslims and its potential to be expanded to broader society.
Islamophobic approaches must end if we are to find peace
Targeting Islam and trying to ‘reform’ it into something palatable to the towers of power, through counter-terrorism strategies such as CVE under Trump and Britain’s failing PREVENT, embolden the far right and create a corresponding sense of threat among Muslims.
These policies – which represent a kind of thought and behavioural control experiment – will drive society further apart. Is it now time for us to acknowledge this.
It is also time for those who participated in the orchestrated campaign of disinformation about those who dissent against PREVENT and CVE, to accept they were wrong and understand the dangerous implications of these policies for us all.
(CC image courtesy of on Beth Rankin on Flickr)
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)