The recent announcement that MI5 will be sharing even more information with local authorities and public sector services about potential “extremist threats” is a startling move that must be opposed since it amounts to a fear-based effort to create a more closed society and entrench control over dissent.
It is also yet another manifestation, of Islamophobe Douglas Murray’s call in 2006 at the right-wing Pim Fortuyn Memorial Conference on Europe and Islam, to make “conditions for Muslims harder across the board”.
This “full spectrum”, “multi-agency” approach, according to Mi5 director Andrew Parker and Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, “means sharing intelligence with a wider range of partner bodies than before, such as health and social services” in an approach that “has parallels with how the authorities manage the risk posed by sexual or violent offenders”.
The result will be a closed, mistrustful society, where ideas that even hint at dissent or challenging authority are criminalised, and individual prejudice against certain communities is more easily leveraged and justified.
It will also further erode Britain’s tradition of due process and the rule of law, since this approach seeks to circumvent any legal redress available to targeted individuals, families and organisations.
Blacklisting in the dark
The European Union passed the General Data Protection Regulation in 2016, to protect individual privacy for individuals within the EU and the European Economic Area. This includes addressing the manner in which personal data is stored, used and shared.
The government routinely rejects FOI’s into data collection, retention and other related issues based on national security grounds. Consequently it is impossible to ascertain the basis of the data collection, how it is used and the extent to which such blacklisting is used by the State.
This move by Mi5 means that data sharing within Prevent and counter-terrorism (for example why a public meeting or speaker has been banned, or how the Home Office uses data gathered by the Henry Jackson Society to blacklist “extremists”), will effectively be put in the dark.
Extension of PREVENT and the pre-crime space
By bringing in public sector services as “partner” agencies, in the same way as is done for tackling sex offences, the security services are placing suspicion at the same the level as criminal convictions.
The pre-crime space is an area where criminalisation occurs when no crime has taken place. It fosters an environment where prejudice and suspicion operate to label an individual as “vulnerable” and requiring state intervention. These concerns have been expressed forcefully in connection with the toxic PREVENT strategy.
Strengthening the arm of the state for civil sanctions
The sharing of information that has not been adequately challenged in court, and of which an individual may not even be aware, is not only a violation of the rule of law, but it also opens the door for personal and political vendettas, intimidation and discrimination to occur.
Individuals in public services cannot be given even more authority to report those with whom they work, or individuals under their care. The result is a surveillance nation, and a huge fracture in trust between individuals in sectors where trust is paramount.
Representatives from the security services have openly stated that the primary target of this is “Islamist extremism”, but the move will put more people into the “extremism” matrix, a catch-all term for all forms of dissent and non conforming attitidues and beliefs.
However, the overarching stated aim of combating “Islamist extremism” – which is so subjectively and broadly interpreted by a society easily triggered by Islamophobic media and politicians – will further securitise Muslims and their families.
In this way, it builds on a broad matrix of fear that gives public institutions a green light to accept Muslims as second class citizens, thereby exceptionalising them.
This must be seen for what it is, and the violations it can lead to
This initiative must be challenged through legal avenues. It is about fortifying state control over ideas, behaviour and the way we engage with causes close to us, while boosting the profits of the counter-extremism and security/surveillance sector.
Problems associated with pre-crime, third party data snatching and sharing without real safeguards, the securitisation of entire families, and the increasing use of militarised, secret courts are all connected to this.
Most importantly, further pressurising social workers and health care practitioners to become agents of the police, undermine an open and free society society.
This is a move that is at odds with the values held dear by the general populace of Britain, and as Muslims we are at the forefront of it. This is why we must resist this encroachment into our lives and beliefs.
(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.)