More May = More Prevent Strategy

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Islamist terror in Paris, Islamist terror in London, and there are many factors driving the violence. Theresa May has chosen to tackle the issue with a consciously narrow programme called the Prevent Strategy. The government has considered certain factors, but others are not up for discussion. The result has been a decontextualized debate, and a Conservative victory in the polls in June will have implications for communities across the country concerned about the pull of terrorism.

 Basic info on Prevent: http://www.ltai.info/what-is-prevent/

It does not take forensic analysis to know that foreign policy, economics, family breakdown and the housing crisis are among the drivers of the political violence that has taken place in European cities.

Another key factor is that an individual or group eventually decides to commit a violent act. And this is the level at which the Prevent Strategy tackles the issue. As Home Secretary, Prime Minister May oversaw the implementation of Prevent, which provides training to public sector workers on how to spot signs of vulnerability to extremism, works with individuals at risk and provides a counter-narrative to nihilistic, hateful and violent philosophies.

Criticism

Prevent is also very aware of its own vulnerability to criticism, and is keen to have respected Muslim community figures on its side. Systematic promotion, branding and getting out key messages are prevalent at their events and training courses. There is a Prevent message, and little space for manoeuvre around it. One community leader told me that when they raised foreign policy concerns with Prevent officers from the Home Office, they were met with the message “‘your point is noted’. But there is never a suggestion of anything changing. There is never any acknowledgement of Britain’s foreign policy mistakes”.

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The Muslim Council of Britain is critical of Prevent, as it says the strategy only coordinates with groups willing to bite their tongues over UK foreign policy. The MCB has claimed that it will set up a parallel anti-terror programme carrying a simpler message: all violence is wrong. But only the government has adequate resources to tackle the very real problem of British people travelling to Syria to fight.

The community leader told me: “Prevent is like a budget overhead, there’s a sense that Prevent is where the money is to deliver community programmes, so let’s go with that”. Community groups receive help with their websites and social media and some funding for projects, in return Prevent has access to the grassroots and can engage with them on getting the Prevent agenda out to communities.

Main Threat

In some areas Prevent is seen as benevolent, in others it is seen as a hostile monitoring network keeping tabs on Muslims, harassing and stigmatising people and removing children from schools unnecessarily. Prevent has listed “empathy” with the Palestinians, criticism of foreign policy in the Middle East and criticism of Prevent itself as issues that needed to be “risk-assessed and managed” and that “may be regarded as extremist but are not illegal”. The scope for abuse of this power is broad.

Islamic extremism is the “main threat” identified by the Home Office and while Prevent officers are at pains to point out that they also take on far-right extremism, they do not acknowledge that takes place in a society in which the political and media establishment are anti-Muslim, and vilification of Muslims is a tool for power for Le Pen, Trump, May, Natanyahu and others. Theresa May being in ideological lock step with President Donald Trump, with his bombs, travel bans and racist rhetoric is the tip of a huge iceberg, but this is not on the agenda at Prevent meetings.

As well as not addressing many of the issues head on, the Prevent Strategy has the potential to be used to subdue communities and groups who have genuine grievances

Former Conservative Cabinet Minister Sayeeda Warsi has criticised Prevent and its narrow focus on ideology and Jeremy Corbyn called it “often counter-productive”. Under Labour it might change. Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the government needed “to sell it to communities”.

The problem is that all the government does is “sell it”, a salesperson with an inferior product becoming yet more passionate about its virtue for fear of a serious, in-depth debate and the whole façade crumbling.

Alternative thinking

Theresa May will double down on Prevent if she wins the upcoming election. A strategy that is the equivalent of a plastic mouse trap placed next to a large, overflowing rubbish bin. It’s good to catch a few mice, but the wider problem is ignored.

As well as not addressing many of the issues head on, the Prevent Strategy has the potential to be used to subdue communities and groups who have genuine grievances. In this way, class is the issue. Foreign policy isn’t carried out to benefit the poor, but the oil and arms companies. The housing crisis and austerity impoverish and trap the poor, but they cannot be discussed in the mainstream because this would question the framework of the class-based system.

Islam itself offers an alternative way of thinking about human experience and dominant economic system and cultures in a continent in which many never enjoy the benefits of liberty and freedom.

The result of a narrow focus on immediate causes is a missed opportunity to really confront a terrorism that is growing and spreading across the planet. And the victims include innocent British citizens, in London, in Paris and beyond. The government doesn’t want this, but it is unable or unwilling to broaden its approach to tackle the deeper issues. 

By Tom Charles

ISIS and North Kensington: https://urbandandylondon.com/2015/09/07/once-you-go-to-syria-you-aint-coming-back-isis-and-north-kensington-2/

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Gerald Kaufman Tribute

There are two kinds of politician worth knowing: those of conviction, and those of savvy. The former paid tribute to the latter this week, using a word I had to look up. Jeremy Corbyn called Gerald Kaufman “an iconic and irascible figure” after the father of the House died Sunday, aged 86.

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Irascible – ‘easily angered’ – Corbyn chose the right word. Maybe he remembered the time in Beirut in 2011 when Gerald’s irascibility was aroused by a restaurant having run out of ice cream. With a black cloud hanging over Gerald’s head, other members of the group tried to pacify Kaufman, leader of the delegation and somebody for whom we were happy to make special dispensations. Nothing was working and the mood around the table was heavy, but Corbyn had sneaked out and returned from the Corniche with ice creams for everybody.

Gerald’s irascibility was also deployed for just causes. Arriving at the Palestinian-Jordanian border in 2010, a British-Palestinian member of our delegation was detained by the Israelis. Gerald refused to proceed without our friend, offering no compromise to the Israelis, and fiercely argued his way up the chain of command until he found somebody with the power to yield to common sense.

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The conditions at Lebanon’s refugee camps shocked everybody on the 2011 delegation, and it was Gerald who expressed this most succinctly in this article published by Urban Dandy.

“Bourj al-Barajneh is the worst single place I have ever seen, with children haunting narrow gullies with sewage flowing down the middle; with no legitimate electricity supply, with tangled wires from bootlegged electricity hanging so low in the alleys as to constitute a near-mortal hazard. Yet 20,000 are doomed to live out their lives there, from childhood to old age, in a tiny area that has more people per square kilometre than Hong Kong or Mumbai”.

Gerald saw it as a politician’s responsibility to do their utmost to reduce human suffering and degradation. He was unflinching in his intolerance of injustice and cruelty, however powerful the wrongdoer. He was aided in his pursuit of justice by a remarkable talent with words and an ability to deploy them unerringly.

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In Hebron. Photo: AFP

At a meeting with the UN in the West Bank, the room was too hot and Gerald drifted off to sleep. I nudged him repeatedly but he would drift off again, missing most of the presentation. Being the leader of the delegation, Gerald was to give feedback on behalf of the group. I exchanged nervous glances with a fellow organiser, but to our relief Gerald awakened and responded to the presentation with a series of apparently well thought out points that went to the heart of the issue, expressing his gratitude to our host and making everyone in the room question whether they had really just seen this 80-year-old man having a nap.

“Do you remember one phrase used by a Labour frontbencher since 2010?” Gerald asked me before the last election, and in that question he summed up a major problem that Blair, Brown and Miliband have created; a set of MPs that lack what Gerald had in spades: gravitas.

He was a great writer, with careers as a satirist, journalist, columnist, speech writer, phrase-maker and author. It was he who described Labour’s 1983 manifesto as “the longest suicide note in history”.

Gerald held Ministerial positions in the departments of Industry and Environment, and we can only speculate about how he would have dealt with the Israeli government had he become Foreign Secretary in 1987. The sycophantic grovelling of successive Tory and Labour governments would surely have been dispensed with:

The Israel lobby didn’t know what to do with Gerald. He made plenty of controversial statements about Jews and “Jewish money” but when faced with stinging criticism for his remarks, he was memorably nonchalant: “I can’t remember every comment I mutter under my breath”.

Gerald could not be dragged into the distraction of the Israel lobby’s games, life had too much more to offer him. He wouldn’t care what they are saying about him now. He was a man of hilarious anecdotes and dry Yorkshire wit, as charming with those he liked as he was ferocious with those he considered fools. His London flat was a shrine to Hollywood musicals; he loved them “because they’re beautiful”. He also loved literature, television, fashion and people; he was a dandy, a charmer, belligerent and brilliant, I will miss him.

Sir Gerald Kaufman, 21 June 1930 – 26 February 2017

 

By Tom Charles

What Happens to Suspended Labour Politicians?

Hopefully not this…

The campaign against Jeremy Corbyn was in full swing long before a Labour MP shouted “Nazi apologist” in Ken Livingstone’s face on a day of apparently choreographed media attacks, aimed at distorting debate on Israel and undermining Corbyn. No sane person would believe that Corbyn harbours any antisemitic tendencies, so softer targets have been sought in order to defame the Labour leader by association.

One such target lives right here in Notting Hill. Councillor Beinazir Lasharie was libelled labelled an antisemite by media outlets such as The Sun.

Suspended

What has happened to Councillor Lasharie raises questions about Labour’s approach.

In October 2015 the councillor was suspended by Labour and instructed not to talk to the press after The Sun newspaper ran a story that Lasharie had posted a video on Facebook which claimed that ISIS was created by Israel. The story was taken up by the right wing blogger Paul Staines, who goes by the moniker Guido Fawkes. Continue reading

At the boozer with Jeremy Corbyn

Here’s the footage from my phone of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell’s victory speeches to supporters on Saturday afternoon shortly after Corbyn’s victory had been announced:. 

Not exactly a hardcore volunteer (I did a day at the Corbyn campaign office this summer), Urban Dandy still had the best seat in the house having spotted Corbyn’s taxi pulling over as we walked down to St James’s Park.

John McDonnell MP, Shadow Chancellor: “The earth moved” – cue loud cheers…

Jeremy Corbyn MP, Labour Leader: “Hope…justice…inclusion”

He's in there somewhere
He’s in there somewhere

 

By Tom Charles

Unknown Hell – Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon

Pic at Bourj al Barajneh camp, Beirut, which inspired the title 'Unknown Hell'. Graffiti in foreground is of the Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem
 

In February 2011 a group of British Labour MPs joined a Parliamentary delegation to Lebanon, home to 400,000 Palestinian refugees. They live in hell, but it is never mentioned in the mainstream media. Click here to read the findings of Gerald Kaufman, Michael Connarty and Jeremy Corbyn.

Unknown Hell