In the light of yesterday’s publication of the official review of Prevent, IHRC reiterates its call for the anti-terrorism programme to be scrapped in its entirety.
The review which was boycotted by hundreds of civil society groups across the board simply doubles down on problematising Islam and seeking to draw legitimate expressions of faith and faith-based views into the definition of terrorism.
The review’s call to reach further into so-called “non-violent Islamist extremism” is nothing short of a call to criminalise mainstream Islam, especially where it informs political opinion that is hostile to establishment interests.
Indeed, it should not come as a surprise that a white supremacist is advising the government to loosen the reins of anti-terrorism legislation for right-wing extremism but tighten them for Muslims.
Far from being independent, the review is a reflection of Shawcross’s own deep-rooted animus against Islam and Muslims which has previously found expression in his publications and statements and in his work as Chair of the Charity Commission between 2012-2018.
The review’s naming and shaming of Muslim individuals and organisations, calling for them to be excommunicated from any engagement with the government goes beyond the cancel politics that has become a trademark of recent governments – it attempts to render them untouchable and thereby banish them altogether from the playing field.
While it is troubling that the government has pledged to implement the review’s recommendations in full it is only expected. Government policy is being directed by an authoritarian, racist cabal for whom human rights and public engagement are secondary to preserving and enhancing the interests of a narrow elite.
But the review should also be seen as an attack not just on Muslim civil society but civil society as a whole, restricting and constraining political debate and dissent further whilst maligning legitimate political critique using populist discourse.
IHRC chair Massoud Shadjareh said: “It is deeply worrying that despite the fact William Shawcross is irremediably compromised and enjoys no legitimacy outside far right circles, the government is nevertheless using him to implement their narrow minded agenda. If this process is allowed to be legitimised it will inevitably lead to other communities being targeted in the future.”