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‘Counter-extremism’ group conducting Twitter campaign against Corbyn

The interfaith organisation Faith Matters has reportedly used its Twitter account to post anti-Corbyn messages on a regular basis, Middle East Eye reports.

The organisation has attacked Corbyn on his “handling of complaints” of anti-Semitism, which they say has “beset” Labour since his 2015 election. As well as this, it is reported that the organisation has posted and shared content that suggests that Corbyn is “sympathetic to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad”, “supportive of governments and organisations responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Muslims”, and is “considered a threat to national security by British intelligence agencies”. [1]

Faith Matters is funded by Home Office’s BSBT (Building Stronger a Together Britain) programme. The Government programme provides “funding and support for groups involved in counter-extremism projects in their communities”. [2] Part of the 2015 Counter-Extremism Strategy, it operates alongside the PREVENT strategy and funds over 230 groups, as specified on the Government website. [3] [4] A Home Office report released last month states that its recipients have received “around £8.8 million of government funding” since 2016. [5]

Despite Faith Matters only being listed as a recipient of BSBT in February 2018, Middle East Eye argue that since that time, it has tweeted about Labour and Corbyn “more than 200 times”, in comparison to “less than 40” tweets about the Conservatives, Johnson, and Theresa May. [6] Some of this content includes an article with the headline “Is Jeremy Corbyn a friend of all Muslims?” and Twitter threads that claim Corbyn supports “regimes and groups” that have killed Muslims.

The allegations of promoting anti-Corbyn messages comes as Faith Matters had accused Middle East Eye of peddling “conspiracy theories against Muslims challenging Corbyn’s anti-Semitism”.

On 28th October, Faith Matters published the pre-emptive article on its website and revealed that a journalist from Middle East Eye had emailed the organisation, raising questions about how “the government is using public funds to support political attacks on the leader of the opposition”. [7] Middle East Eye argues these questions were about a “potential conflict of interest”, as opposed to the “conspiracy theory” that Faith Matters claims them to be. [1]

Defending their tweets targeted toward Corbyn, the organisation also said it “has been and will continue to be critical of the poor way in which antisemitism has been tackled within the Labour Party and the way that Jeremy Corbyn has linked up with groups who have a very poor track record of relationships with communal Jewish organisations”.

The pre-emptive article then went on to explain its reasonings for accepting BSBT funding, stating that they chose not to publicly highlight it due to staff being subjected to threats, intimidation, and abuse in the past. They also criticised Middle East Eye for its lack of funding information and for its staff, who they say have connections to organisations and individuals supposedly promoting anti-Semitism.

“We utilized that funding to counter far right and online extremism and promote civil society and democratic engagement to young people, hardly any secretive ploy to attack Jeremy Corbyn.” [7]

It is not the first time that BSBT-funded organisations have come under fire in the Muslim community. Since June, the Bradford Literature Festival, This is Woke, and SuperSisters, were all scrutinised for accepting BSBT funding, with Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan saying that the funding “decimates trust”.

“At every level of every institution, the idea that Muslims are all at risk of perpetrating violence has been enshrined in the name of security and is causing the mass surveillance and targeting of us across the board. This is Orwellian.” [8]

A history of controversy

Prevent is one of the four strands of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy which is known as ‘Contest’. Unlike the other strands—which exist to deal with things related to actual terrorism—Prevent was created to combat “extremism”, which was defined as the opposition to “British values”. This was due to the misguided, ideologically-based belief—now rejected by the government—that something called “extremism” causes terrorism. [9] This underlying “radicalisation” theory still remains in Prevent vocabulary despite the government distancing itself from the refuted conveyor belt theory and the ERG22+ “extremism” risk factors that were once offered as justifications for the policy, before their “scientific” basis was condemned by 140 experts across the world off the back of a CAGE report exposing it as “pseudoscience”. [10] [11] [12]

The very essence of Prevent is based on ancient myths and stereotypes about the causes of non-White violence. As such, for many years, Prevent has been criticised as being Islamophobic and racist. It is said to have targeted the Muslim community and, over the years, its implementation has deteriorated civil liberties, thus restricting political opposition and constraining any possible room for essential dialogue within schools, colleges, and universities.

According to a report published by the racial equality organisation JUST Yorkshire, the Prevent strategy is having disturbing consequences on society. The report stated that the strategy is “built on a foundation of Islamophobia and racism”. The report also states that the strategy is “ineffective and counterproductive” and should be repealed. [13]

Independent organisation PREVENT digest calls for Prevent to be suspended and reviewed, describing the “evidence” underlying it “…as flawed and racist as early attempts to classify criminals by head shape”. [14] It adds that Prevent stifles debate, as attested by the Home Affairs Select Committee. [15]

The United Nation special rapporteur on racism stated that “the Prevent duty is inherently flawed, and expansion of a flawed program to cover more groups is by no means curative”. [16] This expresses that the targeting of Far-Right groups does not obfuscate the harm carried out by the Prevent strategy.

Figures published by the Home Office display an increase in Prevent referrals across the country, overwhelmingly targeting Muslims. 65% of the 7,631 referrals noted in the released figures refer to Muslims, despite being approximately 5% of the population. 56% of the total referrals were aged 20 or under, whilst a quarter of the referrals were of under-15s. Most of the referrals came from the Education sector, followed by the police. [17] [18]

Muslims comprise approximately 5% of the United Kingdom,[19] and less than 5% of the perpetrators of “successful and foiled” terror plots, [18] yet they are vastly overrepresented in the counter-terrorism matrix—from Prevent referrals to Schedule 7 stops and searches to “terrorism” convictions. Not only does this lead to unjustified fear and panic from the broader population but contributes to the alienation and disenfranchisement of many young or mentally vulnerable Muslims. [18]

This is one of the reasons that an increasing number of researchers and activists have been warning that Prevent is not just ineffective but actually counterproductive. A sense of alienation, disenfranchisement, experience of racist double standards, and so on, have long been significant empirically-determined causal factors involved in the likelihood of some people to be drawn into political violence and terrorism, emphatically not the non-violent beliefs and opinions—be they “radical” or not—that the Prevent programme has been focusing its attention on. [18]

www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1] https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/faith-matters-jeremy-corbyn-twitter-home-office

[2] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/building-a-stronger-britain-together

[3] https://www.cage.ngo/bradford-literature-festival-withdrawals-prioritising-principles-over-promotion

[4] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/809584/BSBT-list-of-groups-jun-19-v2.pdf

[5] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/building-a-stronger-britain-together-bsbt-progress-report-2019

[6] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/684308/BSBT-list-of-groups_Feb_2018.pdf

[7] https://www.faith-matters.org/2019/10/28/middle-east-eye-peddles-conspiracy-theories-against-muslims-challenging-antisemitism/

[8] https://www.islam21c.com/news-views/lifestyle-platform-supersisters-exposed-after-receiving-counter-terrorism-funding/

[9] https://www.islam21c.com/politics/new-study-extremism-does-not-cause-terrorism-2/

[10] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/sep/29/academics-criticise-prevent-anti-radicalisation-strategy-open-letter

[11] https://www.islam21c.com/special/web-posts/moazzam-begg-how-to-really-defeat-violent-extremism/

[12] https://www.islam21c.com/politics/how-do-you-make-a-terrorist/

[13] https://justyorkshire.org.uk/2017/08/22/rethinking-prevent-a-case-for-an-alternative-approach/

[14] Sian, Katy. 2017. “Born radicals? Prevent, positivism, and ‘race-thinking’.” Palgrave Communications 3 (1):6. doi: doi:10.1057/s41599-017-0009-0.

[15] House of Commons. 2018a. Home Affairs Committee: Hate crime and its violent consequences.

[16] OCHCHR. 2018. End of Mission Statement of the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance at the Conclusion of Her Mission to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. ONLINE: United Nations.

[17] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/658004/individuals-referred-supported-prevent-programme-apr2015-mar2016.pdf

[18] https://www.islam21c.com/news-views/new-home-office-stats-highlight-failure-prevent/

[19] According to the 2011 Census, Office for National Statistics.

About Samera

One comment

  1. 'Umar Abd-us-Salaam.

    Asalaamu Alaikum,

    Beware of backing this man to the hilt, Islam21C. I’m all for exposure of smear campaigns but Corbyn does not need smear campaigns to undermine his efforts. To my mind, his own spinelessness is sufficient for that.

    I once bought into the Corbyn hype in the early days but his inability to commit to a position when the chips are down/when the opposition are there for the taking is frankly bewlidering. I also can’t get the imagery of him hiding from the cameras/journalists out of my head, peeking out every now and again (to see if they’d gone away), as he did.

    IMHO, he is not the man needed to lead a stout opposition to Johnson, and certainly not the kind of character we as Muslims should be holding up as a steadfast paragon of politically-principled virtue.

    And Allah knows best.

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