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Nearly a hundred academics issue statement raising concerns with Commission for Counter Extremism

Nearly a hundred British academics and researchers have issued a joint statement raising their concerns over Prime Minister Theresa May’s newly-formed ‘Commission for Countering Extremism’.

The following statement signed by 94 academics and researchers was issued earlier this week:

“We are concerned with the Commission for Countering Extremism’s recently launched ‘evidence drive’.

The Commission states that ‘neither the issue of terrorism nor the government’s counter-terrorism strategy (which includes Prevent) are in the Commission’s remit’. The Commission, in excluding any focus on ‘terrorism’, pushes the narrative ever-more towards the inherently problematic and contested ‘non-violent extremism’. If ‘extremism’ refers to extreme yet non-violent beliefs and opinions it is unclear how the Commission’s aim of countering-extremism is compatible with the democratic values and human rights that they claim to uphold.

The Commission shows an interest in the victims of ‘extremism’ yet fails to show concern for the well documented victims of counter-extremism. These victims have faced an erosion of human rights, been marginalised from democratic engagement and lost access to health and education services as a result of counter-extremism. For the Commission to fail to include the Prevent Strategy – a strategy that refers to ‘extremism’ 118 times and which has faced continued critique for its focus on ‘extremism’ – demonstrates their failure to engage with and critique current counter-extremism practice and strategy.

The experts chosen to advise the Commission do not include any of the many voices critical to counter-extremism (see: https://www.preventdigest.co.uk/who-s-who ). We are also concerned that the Commission is not engaging with evidence on Prevent that has been recently gathered in Parliament by the Joint Committee for Human Rights and by the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism. Despite Sara Khan professing a desire that the Commission be ‘as radical as needed’, this commitment does not stretch to including any of the critical voices from the many academics who have conducted fieldwork on the impact of counter-extremism in public spaces.

The need for critical voices is also vital in light of the Government’s failure to define ‘extremism’. A problem compounded by the Commission’s intention that their work ‘not be limited by this definition’. A lack of working definition of ‘extremism’ will significantly inhibit the empirical validity in determining who ‘is’ and ‘isn’t’ an ‘extremist’. It also prevents empirical reliability in being able to reproduce the Commission’s work for scientific testing. History has shown, in this regard, that the label ‘extremism’ has been used to silence political dissent, from the suffragettes to Martin Luther King Jr. A working definition of extremism should thus be the first step in any scientific endeavour, and not be ignored in favour of political strategy.

Our View 1. It is our view that the Commission is unnecessary in an environment where the UK has amongst the most intrusive policy and legislation in the Western world.2. We believe the Commission has been wrongfully conceived and convened outside the scientific enterprise, to the wide criticism of many in British society.

3. As it stands, this exercise from the Commission will do little other than exacerbate tensions between communities targeted by counter-extremism and the Government.

4. In addition, a growing number of scholars and community leaders have noted that the association of Muslim cultural/religious practices to extremism has exacerbated a narrative that views Muslims outside of equal citizenry.

5. In light of this, we call to question the purpose of the Commission. Should it persist, we request the Commission to produce clear, workable definitions of ‘extremism’ and ‘British values’ that is open to academic and public scrutiny before embarking on its plans.

6. The Commission must also comment on the body of research detailing the negative impact of the Prevent Strategy, which has relied on a vague definition of extremism as well.”

Signatories: 1. Rob Faure Walker, University College London and PREVENT Digest

2. Dr Tarek Younis, UCL, British Academy

3. Ifhat Smith, Anti-Prevent Campaigner

4. Tom Smith, Senior Lecturer in International Relations, University of Portsmouth

5. Lee Jasper, Fmr Policing Director for London, Momentum Black Caucus Press Officer

6. Prevent Watch ( www.preventwatch.org )

7. Dr Charlotte Heath-Kelly, University of Warwick

8. Asim Qureshi, Research Director, CAGE

9. Tom Pettinger, University of Warwick

10. Nadeem Murtuja, JUST Yorkshire

11. Dr Sadia Habib , Independent Researcher

12. Kieran Ford, National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies

13. Marian Carty, Goldsmiths, University of London

14. Sahar Al-Faifi, Community Activist

15. Dr John O’Regan, UCL Institute of Education

16. Dr Naaz Rashid, University of Sussex

17. Ahmed Makda, Community Campaigner

18. Dr Laura Mills, University of St Andrews

19. Dr Shameela Islam-Zulfiqar, Independent Researcher

20. Dr Antonio Perra, KCL and Mend

21. Dr. Narzanin Massoumi, University of Exeter

22. Professor Richard Jackson, National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies

23. Dr Fatima Rajina, SOAS

24. Sushrut Jadhav, UCL

25. Arun Kundnani, New York University

26. Abyd Quinn Aziz, Cardiff University

27. Dr Derek Silva, King’s University College

28. Mohammad Shoaib, Mend

29. Dr Lydia Cole, University of St Andrews

30. Malia Bouattia

31. Dr Sangeeta Chattoo, University of York

32. Eleanor van den Heuvel, Brunel University

33. Yusuf Patel, SRE Islamic

34. Dr Jessica Potter, Queen Mary, University of London

36. Dr Aislinn Macklin-Doherty, Clinical Research Fellow

37. Dr Anna Jones

38. Lubaaba Al-Azami, University of Liverpool

39. Erin Dexter, UCL

40. Jibran Saleem, Cyber Security Consultant, Manchester Metropolitan University

41. Justyna Wroblewska, SOAS, BSMS

42. Roghieh Dehghan, UCL

43. Professor David Miller, University of Bath

44. Abdul B Shaikh, University of Leeds

45. Dr Siema Iqbal, Co-Founder AVOW (Advancing Voices Of Women against Islamophobia)

46. Dr Hans Rohlof, psychiatrist, Transparant Mental Health

47. Gary Craig, WISE, University of Hull

48. Dr Neil Krishan Aggarwal, Columbia University

49. Natassia Brenman, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

50. Dr Jacqui Lovell-Norton, Institute of Education, Bath Spa university

51. Suman Fernando, London Metropolitan University

52. Ghulam Esposito Haydar, Myriad Foundation

53. Dr Francesco Ragazzi, Leiden University

54. Rezwana Ahmed, UCL

55. Dr Shazad Amin, MEND (Muslim Engagement & Development)

56. Audrey Mc Mahon, University of Sherbrooke

57. Leon Sealey-Huggins, University of Warwick

58. Mia Bloom, Georgia State University

60. Dr Hilary Aked

61. Matthew Flinders, UCL

62. Steve Anderson, Independent researcher and docial work educator.

63. Dr Deborah Chinn, King’s College London

64. Ronny Flynn, Retired academic and charity manager

65. Dr Ghazala Mir, University of Leeds

66. Calum Carson, University of Leeds

67. Imran Shah, MPACUK (Muslim Public Affairs Committee)

68. Professor David Ingleby, University of Amsterdam

69. Professor Tahir Abbas, London School of Economics

70. Josh Walmsley, Independent Researcher

72. Dr Katy Sian , University of York

73. Diane Leedham , Freelance educator

74. Nisha Kapoor, University of York

75. Gemma Gronland , UCL PhD student

76. Dr Saba Hussain, University of Warwick

77. Professor Virinder Kalra, University of Warwick

78. Adam Peter Lang, UCL

79. James Fitzgerald , Dublin City University

80. Katie Washington, University of Oxford

81. Sophia Siddiqui, Researcher

82. Jane Louise Horton, University of Liverpool

83. Faiz Sheikh, University of Exeter

84. Dr Rukhsana Arshad, Independent Clinical Psychologist

85. Rob Ferguson, Officer, Newham NUT

86. Scott Bartle, Trainee Clinical Psychologist, UEL

87. Dr Sarfraz Jeraj, University of Surrey

88. Emma Anderson, York St John University

89. Stephen H. Jones, Muslims in Britain Research Network

90. Valeska Matziol, Independent Researcher, VM Community Research & Action

91. Sivamohan Valluvan, University of Warwick

92. Ghayda Hassan, UQAM

93. Isobel Ingham-Barrow, MEND

94. Dr Thomas Martin, University of Sussex