This is a guest post by Leila Saleem
Andy Burnham has come out with some pretty hysterical claims about Prevent, the Government’s counter-terror strategy. At a time when it has emerged that MI6 will be recruiting around 1000 new spies in light of the grave “lifetime threat” ISIS poses to our national security, this threat is obvious to most of us, but not to our shadow Home Secretary of all people.
In June this year, he called for Prevent to be scrapped and even compared the strategy – a strategy operating in the non-criminal space and which offers support to those most vulnerable to radicalisation – to “today’s equivalent of internment in Northern Ireland.”
The ridiculous and frenzied claims don’t end there. Burnham, giving Islamist anti-Prevent activists the best gift one could give, has even claimed that it is Prevent which “risks creating the very conditions for it (extremism) to flourish.” Let’s take a moment to think about that. A strategy which has successfully stopped people from travelling to Syria, including children, which has generated ISIL counter-narrative videos viewed millions of times, is what, Burnham is suggesting, is causing extremism to flourish in the UK. It’s not ISIS propaganda, or British pro-ISIS fanboys tweeting day in day out or even the plethora of extremist preachers operating on our campuses and communities as Harry’s Place has long evidenced that is causing extremism according to Burnham. No it is Prevent.
It does not end there though. Yesterday Burnham spoke at a MEND fringe event at the Labour Party conference – another organisation whose anti-Prevent stance and silence on Islamist inspired violence (but very vocal on anti-Muslim violence) is well known.
And once again he came out with frankly more ludicrous comparisons.
Conflating anti-Muslim hate crime with a strategy which seeks to counter radicalisation, Burnham now also claims Prevent “risks legitimising or inspiring Islamophobic hate crime” as opposed to the acts of Islamist terrorists which Prevent seeks to deter. As usual his claims were thin on actual evidence but one wonders what else will Lefties blame on Prevent? That it will be responsible for deporting people or targeting anti-austerity activists or anti‑fracking activists? Oh wait…
Burnham erroneously even compared Prevent to the French ban on the burkini swimming costume.
Demonstrating further his ignorance at MEND’s fringe event, he asked in relation to the Prevent Duty “where is the statutory duty on that [far right extremism?]” Er Andy, if you had taken the time to do your homework you would know that the Prevent Duty clearly focuses on both far right and Islamist extremism.
Burnham’s poor understanding of law, security and counter-terrorism policy when the terrorist threat level to our country stands at “severe” does little to inspire confidence as he seeks to become Mayor of Manchester. If I was a Manchester resident I certainly would not feel safe under Burnham’s watch, considering individuals from Manchester sought to join and fight for ISIS. But in his eagerness to become Mayor, and his predictable pandering to Muslim MEND type voters, Burnham once again reminds us that for some politicians it is always power over principles, eh Andy?
Finally one audience member asked Burnham.
“Why is Government refusing to engage with mainstream Muslim organisation on counter terrorism strategy and prefers fringe groups?”
Burnham’s response included:
Government should work with parties trusted by Muslim community under Prevent.
Maybe Andy that is what the government is actually doing? If he does not agree, can he tell us who does he think the ‘mainstream’ Muslim organisations are? Does he think that includes the Muslim Council of Britain perhaps? The same MCB who were recently rebuked by the Home Affairs Select Committee who in their Counter-narrative report stated that the MCB should be doing more to “expose, remove and isolate those who preach” extremism? Anyone familiar with MCB’s long history knows that is quite simply not going to happen.
Organisations like the MCB and MEND spend a great deal of time moaning about how the Government should be engaging with “mainstream” “credible” organisations but none of these organisations deliver any counter-radicalisation, counter-terrorism or counter-extremism work. Instead what they do spend plenty of time attacking is a) Prevent and b) actual counter-extremism Muslim groups – declaring them to be “fringe” voices.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised about Burnham’s dangerous views on Prevent which let’s face it are a threat to our national security. Labour’s newly elected leader Corbyn is often on an anti-Prevent tirade himself and this week told Andrew Marr that he did not think it was “necessary” for MI6 to recruit 1000 extra spies.
The likelihood of Labour getting into power for at least the next ten years is looking pretty slim but that is probably a blessing as I worry about our national security under them. ISIS’s latest edition of their English online magazine Dabiq makes it quite clear that they want to kill us and they will not stop. “We hate you, first and foremost, because you are disbelievers” because of our “secular and liberal values” they write. They even go to great lengths to point out – shock horror – foreign policy is not the prime reason for ISIS’s hatred for us. It is precisely because of what and who we are and they are committed to forever fighting and killing us.
So in light of this, I have a simple plea to Burnham: Stop attacking Prevent. Stop pandering to regressive organisations like MEND in search of votes. Educate yourself about the facts on Prevent rather than buying into Islamist propaganda and recognise the absolutely need of counter-terrorism policies like Prevent of at a time of huge national security concerns.