surely this is the last desperate attempt to revive prevent?
Rishi Sunak is misleading the public and fear-mongering at a time when what we need is trust
Sunak’s foolish and dangerous statements threatening to label anyone who “vilifies” Britain as an “extremist” are part of a wider effort to shift focus away from far-right nationalist violence, criminalise conversations about historical accountability and silence advocacy against harmful policy.
But his statements also betray an ignorance regarding how counter-extremism harms innocent people. Prevent is not about preventing terrorism; it is about ideological control through criminalising ideas – the People’s Review of Prevent has what you need to know about this.
But let’s debunk his stats. Sunak claims that at present, only 22% of referrals to Prevent and Channel deradicalisation programmes are “Islamist”. He then makes a rhetorical leap, claming that this means the focus of Prevent needs to shift back to Muslims because “Islamists account for 80% of live counter terror investigations and 68% of all extremists in jails”.
Sunak’s misleading statistics are evidence of a deep structural problem
Let’s look at his claim about investigations first. Mere “investigations are not proof of criminal activity – at least in a country that is committed to the rule of law. That’s the first very telling opinion that he needs to be held to account to and questioned on.
Secondly, the fact that he has stated that more Muslims are “investigated” under “counter-terrorism” proves that there is sustained institutional discrimination against Muslims. Here’s why.
It would have been more legally correct is to say how many of those investigations result in convictions – that is, how many people have been proven guilty of terrorism through a judicial process.
In this case, the statistics for the past year up to March this year from the Home Office are striking; of the 196 arrests for terrorist-related activity, 55 (28%) were subsequently charged for terrorism-related offences. A large number, 44 (22%), were released without charge and 10 (5%) faced alternative action, such as a caution. The remaining 83 (42%) were released “pending further investigation”.
So, out of all the arrests for terrorism, only 28% were convicted of a terrorist offence.
Let’s hold that thought.
The ethnic breakdown of those arrested for terrorism activity shows how his link between “investigations” and “Islamists” is even more problematic.
This is given more weight when it is the HO itself that states: “the proportion of white people arrested exceeded the proportion of Asian people arrested for the fourth consecutive year”.
What?! Yes, white people arrested for terrorist activity increased last year to 91 arrests, while there was a decrease in arrests of black (10 arrests) and Asian (50 arrests) individuals.
Although, Sunak asserts that “80% of live counter terror investigations” are of “Islamists”. We must then ask: why are 80% of the terrorism investigations centred on Muslims when arrests of presumably British white people are four times higher than British people classified as “Asian”?
That’s the question journalists should ask someone pitching himself for the leader position.
We are well aware that counter-extremism “investigations” have featured post graduate students who read textbooks on terrorism and the use of counter terrorism police has extended to the classroo, where children as young as four are interrogated under Prevent.
Numerous FOIs are denied each time we request the statistical information to interrogate these claims, where is Sunak’s so-called “statistical evidence” coming from?
Journalists should be posing these and many other crucial questions to a potential prime minister of Britain – so should anyone who cares about this country and the people who live here.
What does it mean to be “extremist” and in jail?
Let’s take a look at his second claim; it is not clear where he gets his statistic to prove that “68% of all extremists in jails” are Muslim.
One assumes that the definition of “extremists” in prisons, despite its lack of legal traction, has been provided by prison authorities, counter-terrorism “experts” and the police. That’s a bit of a problem.
In 2016, searching for clarity, the Guardian asked for figures about “extremists” in prisons. To this, the Ministry of Justice stated that about 700 prisoners could be considered “a risk” due to “extremist views”.
The Guardian analysis stated that this figure “was an overall estimate of all inmates linked to any form of extremism, including Islamist or far-right ideologies” and that “other prisoners held for non-terrorism offences but deemed to be an extremism risk were also counted”.
So in a world with Rishi Sunak, these “extremists” in prison could well also encompass anyone who “vilifies” Britain.
And what exactly does “vilify” mean? This is just another vague term in the vocabulary of counter-extremism, which will allow Sunak and his tiny clique to criminalise dissent of any kind, and to silence important conversations about policy.