To properly identify the purpose and agenda of the Commission for Countering Extremism, and to understand why it needs to be disbanded, it is necessary to look closer at its claimed functions against the backdrop of a rapidly evolving counter-extremism landscape.
This landscape is filled with organisations that are profiting from the duplicitous task of “countering extremism”, in the process stifling ideas and expression that run contrary to the government’s own. The CCE is the latest addition to this toxic mix whose desired end result is a closed society, where only those narratives agreeable to the state are acceptable.
Claim 1: The Commission has nothing to do with PREVENT
The CCE fits into a web of organisations and individuals tasked with upholding the aims of the Home Office, which is to police society through programmes like PREVENT, into compliance with a neo-conservative foreign and domestic state policy.
These organisations interact with one another and come from the same neo-conservative nexus, the aim of which is to silence dissenters, whether they be charities, environmentalists or anti-war campaigners, Muslims or pro-Palestine activists. Clear evidence of this comes in the form of the existence of Counter Terrorism Local Profiles (CTLPs) a Stasi-style system used by security services to force local councils to identify “extremist threats”, which in turn interacts with PREVENT.
Meanwhile, lurking in the shadows is the Extremism Analysis Unit (EAU), a government informant that identifies and reports so called “extremists” on campuses, under the direction of the hate-mongering Henry Jackson Society, whose definition of “extremism” fulfills a right-wing agenda but whose dubious tip-offs are used to blacklist individuals and organisations through the courts.
In addition to this, there is the existence of Research and Information Communication Unit (RICU), the secretive government unit charged with analysing Muslim behaviour and belief and producing propaganda to influence them through manipulating or bribing grassroots organisations to align with its world view in a fashion reminiscent of the Cold War.
The latest addition to this toxic mix is the CCE. Nothing embodies the crossover between the CCE and these former organisations more than the lead commissioner, Sara Khan, herself. In fact, since her appointment, no right-thinking person has any excuse not to see quite clearly what the government is doing here.
Khan is a sock puppet of PREVENT – it is common knowledge that her organisation Inspire was the recipient of considerable PREVENT funding as was her book – and her sister held a senior position in RICU.
Moreover, instead of engaging the Muslim community, Khan has taken aim at various leading Muslim figures and organisations, while continuing to advocate the failed PREVENT policy. It is obvious that she will bring this same outlook to her new role, marrying the pre-crime space created by PREVENT and its enforcement in schools and public bodies, with the identification and criminalisation of those she and her commission decide are “extremists”.
The Home Office even states that the CCE “will support the public sector, communities and civil society to confront extremism wherever it exists promote fundamental, pluralistic British values”. It is perfectly twinned with PREVENT.
With a “small secretariat” to assist her in her new role, Ms Khan yields considerable power despite her low standing in the Muslim community. To compound this, she and the CCE will have a role in calling for new laws. This and her clear PREVENT ties, should prompt us to call for the complete disbandment of the CCE.
Claim 2: The Commission has a clear remit to support the government, the public sector, and civil and wider society to identify and challenge all forms of extremism.
In plainer words, the CCE will make full use of state techniques of surveillance, belief analysis and censorship to influence all levels of society into accepting views that align with those of the Tory government, while criminalising those that don’t. All of this will be done in a climate where the definition of extremism has not been agreed upon at parliamentary level and remains wide open to subjective interpretation.
In fact, the phrase “all forms of extremism” yields the catch net of the CCE even wider – not only have we not agreed upon what constitutes extremism, but we must now accept that there are many forms of these as yet undefined set of beliefs which can be criminalised.
While the mandate of the CCE is startlingly broad, it is also firmly focussed on the Muslim community. This means that the commission will adopt a sweeping approach to the community, with a state-sanctioned Islam as the desired outcome.
Claim 3: The CCE will provide the government with impartial, external advice on the tools, policies and approaches needed to tackle extremism
It is self evident that the CCE cannot be “impartial” and “external” while at the same time having a “clear remit to support the government” and, as further defined on the official website, being an “expert committee of the Home Office”.
Claims of independence and impartiality are the smoke and mirrors PR speak of the counter-extremism sector that can be dispelled by the vast amount of evidence that shows clearly that bodies like the CCE will never be impartial due to the environment in which they exist, where the flawed narrative of “extremism” is not only accepted but is used to drive the state agenda.
Claim 4: Initially, the Commission will widely and openly enter a discussion about extremism and Britain’s values with individuals from all areas of society, independently selecting who it will engage with.
This is a clear contradiction in terms – the CCE cannot “widely and openly” discuss matters, while at the same time “independently selecting” who it will talk to.
The parameters for engagement are clearly set: the CCE will only engage with those who buy into the state’s definition of British values (itself up for debate) and its nefarious counter-extremism programmes and bodies, despite the fact that they have created a surveillance state and destroyed trust in schools and the public sector.
Report: We are completely independent: The Home Office, Breakthrough Media and the PREVENT Counter Narrative Industry
This amounts to strong-arming local organisations to adopt the CCE agenda, while offering them a cup of tea.
Claim 5: Because there is a strong correlation between extremism and the poor treatment of women and girls, the commission will have a specific responsibility to ensure women’s rights are upheld
This claim is an attempt to hijack a hot agenda at the moment, which entails the abuse of the ‘women’s rights’ discourse to push a singular secular world view of what female emancipation ought to look like. An example of this is the drive to eliminate the choice for young girls to wear hijab at school, by summoning all the neo-conservative, secular groups and organisations that support it to bully such measures through.
These self same efforts have manifested through PREVENT, and have nothing to do with women’s rights when it comes to practising their faith, but everything to do with making people who take a stand against state-led behaviour and belief policing seem unreasonable.
Moreover Ms Khan’s track record of upholding women’s rights has little if any traction in the community. Recent leaked emails show PREVENT officers instructing local organisations at the last minute to shepherd women to an Inspire event in order to fill the seats.
Claim 6: It will also produce a strategic assessment of the threat extremism presents as well as the current response and in this initial phase will also advise on the Commission’s future structures and work programmes.
This is evidence that the CCE will be a modern rendering of the McCarthyism panels which did “loyalty” tests on Americans to gauge their patriotism. It’s inherently based on a Manichean system that divides society into evil and good, an us vs them mentality that attempts to sift those who the state sees as espousing their defined “British Values”, from those who propose other philosophies and beliefs.
This will be facilitated by increasing bureaucracy at the expense of the taxpayer, despite no academically sound evidence that the rapidly burgeoning counter-extremism sector is providing any real solutions to our challenges. In fact, the CCE is the latest proof that these efforts are divisive and detrimental and they must be halted and disbanded. Failing that, we advocate complete disengagement with the commission.
We continue to call for engagement among all those who seek to genuinely diffuse the root causes of violence, cooperation among grassroots organisations truly representative of the communities under threat, and a roll back of anti-terror laws, PREVENT and all strategies that criminalise those who dissent.
(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.)