The UK counter-terrorism police recently released an official 12-page guide to “Safeguarding young people and adults from ideological extremism”. Filled with “warning signs” pertaining to a broad range of “ideological extremisms”, the guide encourages referring individuals to Prevent if they are seen to display any of the behaviours listed.
Counter-terrorism and counter-extremism have long been rooted in increasing securitisation and scrutiny through de-legitimising certain groups and ideologies, and Prevent ushered in a new and concerning age in counter-terrorism whereby an individual’s potential to become a so-called extremist became just as important as whether or not they are or have ever been a so-called extremist.
The guide, which has now been re-called, included a page on Extinction Rebellion and how to identify members. Within this section, the “things to look out for” included being “taught ‘the theory and practice of non-violent action’” and “speaking in strong or emotive terms about environmental issues”, while the “why are they a threat?” question was answered by their being “an anti-establishment philosophy that seeks system change”. Counter-terrorism’s new limb of counter extremism is continuing to allow for extended scrutiny and control of explicitly non-violent activities. Moreover, feeling strong emotions is extremism, apparently.
Regarding a group called Al-Muhajiroun, causes for concern include “the belief that Muslims are oppressed”, “opposition to fundamental British values”, and a “dissatisfaction with mainstream education”.
“You may become aware of individuals who have been invited to private religious ‘study groups’ having attended Islamic stalls ostensibly offering only religious guidance and literature”.
In short, if you are Muslim, if you believe Muslims face discrimination from the UK media or the government, or believe Muslims are persecuted anywhere else in the world, the guide recommends you refer them to Prevent.
After further investigation The Guardian uploaded a similar document released by the counter-terrorism police which lists some common symbols, signs, and slogans of extremists. The logos include St. Pauli and Britain First alike. “No borders” and “make Britain great again” are listed as equally illegitimate. Symbols and statements range from “stop the cull” to “ACAB” to “white pride worldwide”. Also, the Ukranian Coat of Arms is listed as a far-right nationalist symbol. This shambolic guide is the inevitable result of defining ‘extremism’ as anything which supposedly goes against the state.
Left-wing groups, publications, and individuals took quite a hit. There has rightfully been a collective sense of outrage in response to seeing hammers and sickles, anarcho-syndicalist flags, and raised fists listed as extremist symbols. Activisms rooted in Marxism, anarchism, environmentalism, or protecting badgers have all been attacked. A deserved outcry condemned the guide’s insinuation that a school-kid with an XR badge and a commitment to non-violence should be reported to counter-terror police.
For decades, Muslims in the UK have been shouldering the enduring burden of the domestic war on terror, largely enacted via Prevent. The left must keep hold of this outrage and extend a rigorous, long-term solidarity to the fight against Prevent.
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Darya is a writer and researcher in the fields of religion, discrimination, and post-colonialism.
Image via Guillotine Media