Prevent: A Totally Illiberal Strategy 131

I have now ploughed through all 120 pages odd of the Government’s new Prevent Strategy, which manages to be even more illiberal and more turgid than the original. It claims that the last Prevent Strategy was misguided – but for all the wrong reasons. Rather amusingly, it starts with a message of endorsement from Lord Carlile – who also endorsed the last strategy which it criticises so strongly. The truth is, Carlile will endorse anything for any government which gives him status – he loves status – “It has my considered and strong support” he concludes his endorsement – you have to imagine saying it with marbles in your mouth and a degree of insufferable pomposity – “It has my considered and strong support”- wanker.

The report has many errors. but its fundamental flaw is iits explicit assumption that terrorism is actuated by a hatred of democracy.

” There is evidence to indicate that support for terrorism is associated with rejection of a cohesive, integrated, multi-faith society and of parliamentary democracy. Work to deal with radicalisation will depend on developing a sense of belonging to this country and support for our core values. “

That may in part be true; but with stunning intellectual dishonesty the government refuses to tackle in the report the fact that terrorism in the UK has been driven by disgust at British foreign policy, and especially the invasion of Iraq, and the continuing occupation and civilian deaths in Afghanistan. This is not speculation on my part; the 7/7 bombers not only referred to this specifically in suicide videos, they also indeed cited extraordinary renidition and torture as motives of their actions.

The Prevent Strategy ignores this and instead chooses to adopt the stupidly simple mantra of George W Bush to explain terrorism; “They hate our freedoms”. This is precisely the sole cause of terrorism which the Prevent Strategy defines as the problem. When the problem is defined fundamentally wrongly, you can hardly expect the solutions to be correct.

And those conclusions are stunningly illiberal – much more so than the mainstream media has picked up This is a direct quote. I am not making it up:

But preventing terrorism will mean challenging extremist (and non-violent) ideas that are also part of a terrorist ideology.

The (and non-violent) is there in the original. Really.

So peaceful support for a united Ireland should not be allowed, because it is “also part of a terrorist ideology”? That is absolutely the implication of the report. But it is plain it only applies to Muslim groups, on the grounds that they “pose the greatest threat” to the public,

So what it means is that believing that the UK should be governed by Sharia law, even if you hold that belief totally lawfully and without violence, and wish to campaign for it through democratic means, should not be allowed.

But it goes further than that. Universites, healthcare providers, NGOs and faith groups are to be vigilant in searching for those who hold such beliefs, and reporting them to the police. We have already seen where this leads. At Nottingham University two students were thrown out for researching information on Al Qaida on the State Department website, and then a lecturer was sacked for defending them.

Pages 15 to 19 cover support for terrorism and the drivers for it. There is one single phrase in five pages that acknowledges western foreign policy as a motivator for terrorism, but this is then ignored, while all the other factors are treated at great length. The opinion polls cited on pages 16 to 17 on Muslim attitudes to terrorism refrained from asking any question about western foreign policy or giving any chance for respondents to refer to it.

There is an accidentally hilarious part of the report where it denies that Prevent is used for spying on Muslim communities. That, they say, falls under a related programme called Pursue, and should not be confused with Prevent! But twenty odd pages after their lengthy passage claiming Prevent has been unfairly accused of spying, which is the task of Pursue, we find:

“Taking action against propagandists and radicalisers requires careful coordination between work in the Pursue and Prevent areas” p. 52

Which is something of a giveaway.

There is also yet another example of the Tories fulfilling their pledge to reach the target of 0.7% of GDP spent on development aid, by classifying war and “security” expenditure as development aid.

The Department for International Development (DfID) also has a role to play. Although its main purpose is to reduce poverty, overseas development work in some areas can help to build resilience to terrorism through programmes that strengthen governance and security,

With my interest in the university sector, it is some of the stuff on universities I find most chilling. It is full of reasonable sounding propositions that reveal the feeble grasp of a limited intellect:

Universities and colleges have an important role to play in Prevent, particularly in ensuring balanced debate as well as freedom of speech.

There is no obligation on universities to provide “balanced debate”. Do they have to have a creationist speaker at every lecture on evolution? There is still less of an obligation on them to ensure balanced debate in the extra-curricular activities of their students. Does there have to be a Tory speaker at every meeting against the cuts? And remember, that the Prevent Strategy makes plain that the “extremist speakers” they wish to guard against specifically include speakers with a non-violent ideology.

But the great news is, that restrictions on what you are allowed to think at university are all for your own good:

to ensure that all institutions where there is risk of radicalisation recognise their duty of care to students to protect them from the consequences of their becoming involved in terrorism, and take reasonable steps to minimise this risk;

This incredible piece of Orwellian justification for the end of academic freedom is breathtaking in its audacity. The practical consequences could easily be transposed into a manual of the Third Reich, of Stalin’s Russia or Pinochet’s Chile. Again I am not making this stuff up, this is what the report says about universities:

work with the police and other partners to ensure that student societies and university and college staff have the right information and guidance to enable them to make decisions about external speakers.

support local police forces in working with those institutions assessed to be at the greatest risk;

Under New Labour I had the peculiar experience of finding myself banned from entering a Cambridge University building, and therefore delivering a speech to a large crowd of students who gathered in the foyer to hear me as I shouted through the open doorway. I honestly did believe that the Lib Dems and even the Conservatives would be better. I was very, very wrong.

This new Prevent Strategy is a document which sadly proves that the staff of MI5 and the Home Office are, on average, not very bright, and will always favour their own power over liberty. Media reports have focused on the decision to withdarw government funding from those organisations viewed as “extremist”, because that is what the government press release said, and no mainstream journalist will ever actually read the report.

In fact I favour withdrawing that funding. Personally I don’t think the government should fund any faith group or institution.

One organisation which will still receive plenty of government funding under the Prevent programme is the Quilliam Foundation,. This taxpayer funded body attempted by subterfuge to gain personal financial details from me. That says all you need to know about Prevent, which is a secret service led programme.

In fact, if the government got much smaller, and stopped funding attacks on foreign countries, we would all be vastly safer, which would be a real “Prevent Strategy”.

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131 thoughts on “Prevent: A Totally Illiberal Strategy

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  • Abdul

    I wonder why clegg and the Lib Dems are queit on this. They had a good counter to Cameron’s Munich speech. They should totally go on the offensive on this.

  • gyges

    I haven’t read the report; however, based upon your notes I’d like to make a couple of comments.

    Even in the absence of the new ‘Prevent’ strategy people are already chilled, for example, I invited discussion of the chemistry behind the 7/7 bombings – from a chemistry perspective they are curious – with the following response from a PhD student in Edinburgh,

    “I don’t have a lack of professional interest, I’m just afraid to end up on some list somewhere.”

    The second point refers to proscription of terrorist organisations: under this regime would it still be possible to de-proscribe a supposed terrorist organisation?

  • willyrobinson

    ‘overseas development work in some areas can help to build resilience to terrorism through programmes that strengthen governance and security’

    What is that a euphemism for? Afghanistan? Libya?

  • Bert

    Lord Carlile was doing the rounds yesterday on R4 & R5, stating that there is no place for any extremism in our midst & that all here must belive in our system of democracy, human rights etc.

    The UK is hardly a shining light of human rights, having installed a derogation order from Article 5(1) of the ECHR (the right to be brought before a court following arrest, and the right to liberty unless convicted), which allowed the detention of a number of (mainly Algerian) persons without trial. The reason/excuse this was allowed? – 9/11 (see

    The Law Lords (God bless ’em) through out this measure in December 2004 [the hearing ‘A (FC) and others (FC) v. SSHD], & Control Orders were then brought into place in March 2005. Now these are to replaced by Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs). However it may be dressed up, the UK is shameful in its policy of persons detained without proper explanation/evidence.

    If persons are accused as terorists, let them be put on trial. The blanketing of these cases usually belies security service involvement/machinations – take for instance, the case of Mohammed Gulzar (Appellant ‘AY’), who was touted a ‘leader’ of the ‘August 2006 Airline Liquid Explosive Plot’ baloney. However, during the first (of 3 No.) trials, he was acquitted at the direction of the judge & immediately placed under a control order (at the request of Mi5).

    Craig, your analysis of the Government’s new Prevent Strategy is welcomed, exposing it for the tosh that it is.

    Speaking of ‘Quilliam’, note that Noman Benotman, originally the UK based ‘top man’ for the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), was appointed in 2010 as a Senior Analyst (Strategic Communications) at the Quilliam Foundation.


  • Leo

    Thanks for reading and analysing the report, Craig.

    It seems the government (this one and the last) are unable to admit that their actions are the real cause of terrorism and so they’re looking for anything else to pin the blame on, with the result that they’re blaming the intermediate effects, not the underlying causes.

    If our government weren’t killing people that our own citizens identified so strongly with, and if our government didn’t completely marginalise, discredit and ignore the voices of those who think we should be behaving differently, then those citizens wouldn’t be driven to such extremism.

    Even so, very few are, and even fewer really dangerous people get caught, so even if we can’t admit why people become extremists it seems hard to justify what we’re trying to do to stop them.

    This sort of illiberal crap that targets certain communities more than others and that prevents free thought and free speech is only going to make more extremists, not fewer. Which might just be what they want, anyway. They want to have their wars — that much is clear — so they might as well turn the results of their wars into excuses to wage further wars.

    They should rename the War on Terror as the War on Peace. Seems pretty clear that’s what it is in reality.

  • mike

    “Prevent is a secret service led programme”.

    Indeed it is. The initiative was part of a Blairite attempt to normalise what you could call the “security-surveillance state” by bedding it down in certain neighbourhoods, under the guise of anti-terrorism.

    We won’t lose our freedoms through the march to power of Big Brother. We’ll lose it through the signing of Security Ministry contracts with private sector providers.

  • Tom Welsh

    “…with stunning intellectual dishonesty the government refuses completely to tackle in the report that terrorism in the UK has been driven by disgust at British foreign policy…”

    With all due respect, Craig (and in your case I actually mean every word of that often-abused phrase) surely you know better than to hope for intellectual honesty from politicians? It’s far too great a handicap for any successful politician to consider carrying – like Usain Bolt running the Olympic 100 metres with a ball and chain attached to his leg. Bismarck said that, “Politics is the art of the possible”. Note that he did NOT say, “Politics is the art of telling the truth”. Indeed, that proposition would have made him roar with laughter, possibly to the point of spilling his Black Velvet.

    I do heartily agree with your point about the ridiculous pretense that anyone thinks terrorists are motivated by “hatred of our freedoms”. But it seems to be a plank in every government’s strategy to keep up that pretense, and indeed to prevent any discussion of the real reasons we are so hated. While idly listening to Radio 4 yesterday, I heard announced Michael Buerk’s (0900)interview with Joe Glenton. I think you can still catch it on iPlayer at

    The story, in a nutshell, was that Glenton chose to go AWOL from the Army rather than return to Afghanistan for a second tour of duty. He stated that he had already told the Army that he didn’t want to go back, but they said he had to. In this 30-minute interview we learned about Glenton’s youth, education, background, reasons for joining the Army, how he got on with his mates there, where he went AWOL, and how it all got sorted out in the end. The one thing I never heard – although that was specifically what I was listening for – was an explanation of why he decided the war was unethical and therefore refused to fight any more.I suppose that must be because Buerk never asked the relevant questions. It was spooky – suddenly I had the very strong feeling that I was listening to Soviet or Nazi radio, with all “subversive” material not just edited out, but systematically prevented in advance.

  • Rich

    “Wanker” – Craig you absolutely rock. Would love to buy you a drink one day.

  • JimmyGiro

    “I honestly did believe that the Lib Dems and even the Conservatives would be better. I was very, very wrong.”
    Not better, but different. Like the pawl of the ratchet, they act in symbiotic league with the left-wing to further their power in the ‘shared’ bureaucracy. As the parliament goes left-right-left-right; the civil service bureaucracy goes only in one direction: totalitarianism.

  • numberstation

    Hear hear Craig. Hear hear.

    I really wish you had made it as an MP as would be glued to the Parliament Channel every time you spoke in the HoC.


  • Nomadic

    I am a muslim and my concerns are growing now for the future of my children in this country. Having said that, I would like to quote the sayings of Prophet Muhammad who said “there will come a time muslims will be holding their religion as if they are holding the burning fire in their hands due to increase of offences and persecution from non-muslims, and they will wish going out to mountains and living alone to keep their religion secure”

  • ingo

    Thanks for wading through this stodgey report Craig. I am alarmed, because my non violent direct actions of the past could now easily be a mark on my future endeavours.

    For Vince cable to threaten unions and NGO’s alike and for this ConDem coalition to clamp down on Universities and free will, never mind free speech is alarming. I once said that I can hear the sound of Hobnail boots, when refering to clamp downs on demonstrators, not too soon so it seems.
    The immediate effect of this will be that previously open groups will try and keep their non violent activists safe, they will meet clandestinely and without refering to it on facebook or phone, it will put an inexorable strain on the security services and lead to many wrongfull arrest, imho. It also reverses liberalism and democractic rights as they were established and under a cloak of pretending to save democracy from terrorist aims. What a lot of bollox, Thomas Paine and the Tolpuddle marchers are turning in their grave.
    Where is Tony Benn, he should be breaking his favourite pipe in public over this, why no concerted outcry by Greens and Lib Dems? have they been tattoed already?

  • Duncan McFarlane

    this is off-topic – preview of a documentary about Donald Trump’s planned golf course complex near Aberdeen.

    The Scottish government over-ruled the local council in order to allow Trump to build over habitat for endangered species and cut the public off from beaches. Trump has been running a campaign of intimidation, legal action and (less than legal) cutting off of water supplies to pensioners and families who’ve lived in their houses on other parts of the land (not the SSSI part) for decades. Aberdeen police arrested the documentary makers using the catch-all ‘breach of the peace’ charge to try to prevent them filming and talking to local residents protesting against the plan.

  • coiaorguk

    I agree Numberstation, Craig maintains my sanity and I appreciate that. I attacked the ‘Prevent’ program with brute force in Craig’s ‘British library’ after reading Lord Carlile’s preamble *and* having spent the last 6 years dissecting and researching the official account of the bombings in London on 7th July 2005
    – while keeping one’s mouth shut and remaining courteously silent or gagged by section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000

    Craig has delivered a coherent, diplomatic yet powerful criticism promised after reading the ‘Prevent’ strategy; this of course is the way forward to achieving public awareness of the ongoing ‘Orwellian’ attempts to blanket our lives.

    Meanwhile I will listen to Richard Gage in London on 20th June and ponder the ‘public emergency threatening the life of the nation within the meaning of Article 15 of the European Convention on Human Rights (time of war) owing to the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States of America.’

    Today I have sent an email shot to every UK architect. If architects were to become 9/11 sceptic (many already are) it would be very hard for the mainstream media to keep the lid on this catalyst that has attempted to manipulate fear through terror and spawned the inexorable destruction of English liberties in ten years of sustained attrition.

  • Conjunction

    Now I understand why you have been banned from the British Museum.

    Its because when you read stuff, you take the trouble to thoroughly understand it and disseminate it to the general public.

    Clearly, that shouldn’t be allowed.

  • joe kane

    Interesting that this new government programme against extremism defines terrorism in terms of “non-violent extremism”, and anyone the government thinks is popularising opinions which it considers terrorists can exploit – which, to me, is a bit extremist in itself and anti-democratic.

    It seems the government is doing the job of the terrorists who want to destroy British democracy.

    It’s a novel way of getting rid of terrorism by our government – by it stealing their jobs basically.

  • Paul

    This post is a bit disappointing. Craig Murray is handicapped by his commitment to liberalism, human rights, and democracy. If you approach this strategy review with the same mindset as the people who wrote it, then that makes it difficult to criticise it. There should be more analysis of its ideology.

    Illiberalism, in any case, is not a vice, it is a virtue. There is an interesting example in the Review itself, where it proposes withdrawal of government funding to those who do not accept certain values. That offers a way to campaign against government funding for certain groups or organisations, on grounds of their beliefs, without breaching anti-discrimination law. Requiring acceptance of evolution, for instance, would exclude most evangelical christian organisations from government funding. The people who wrote the Prevent strategy are tough, and determined to exercise sole political power in the UK. They are not afraid of taking a hard line. That can’t be said of their critics, unfortunately.

  • CanSpeccy

    “with stunning intellectual dishonesty the government refuses to tackle in the report the fact that terrorism in the UK has been driven by disgust at British foreign policy, and especially the invasion of Iraq, and the continuing occupation and civilian deaths in Afghanistan. This is not speculation on my part; the 7/7 bombers not only referred to this specifically in suicide videos, they also indeed cited extraordinary rendition and torture as motives of their actions.”

    This is a remarkable claim, asserting a mere hypothesis as a fact and then stating that it is not a speculation.

    And on what basis are we to accept your claim as a fact? Why, on the authority of a suicide bomber’s video conveniently provided by Britain’s ever trusty police. LOL.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    I totally agree with Craig that religious organisations ought not to receive funding from the state. I also agree that the ‘Big Brother’ fear generation is a tactic designed for social control. The Qulliam Institute has always seemed like a very well-funded front to me. The overseas wars are ludicrous, imperialist, counterproductive and extremely expensive (and generate very big bucks indeed for a plethora of arms dealers and mercenary companies).

    Nonetheless, having said all of that – and I also agree with many of the comments on this thread – it is for those who wish to advance the cause of secularism and reason in our society to argue strongly and consistently within Muslim and other communities for those dynamics (for the Theory of Evolution, etc).

    There has been a gradual yet inexorable domination of resources and of the discourse (on all sides and both within and with the state) within Muslim communities in the UK by Islamist groups, funded mainly by Saudi Arabia and its cohorts, so that the mainstream within those communities deliberately has been shifted. Developments in South Asia over the past 35 years form a key part of this dynamic. This dynamic was vastly fuelled by the 1980s support by the USA/Saudi Arabia/ the Pakistani ISI of the Islamists in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This has had a deleterious impact on communities in the UK. I have been on Facebook pages where I have been insulted and called a “kaffir” by, for example, white British and Irish converts wearing niqabs.

    So, in essence, the strategy is nonsense, yet there are aspects of it which make sense – let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Sadly, we are likely to drown in the latter.

  • mark_golding


    You make a good point in fingering the way government funding acts as a leverage for opposing views, that is why Craig has opposed such funding. I cannot agree with you that Craig has taken a soft line. On the contrary I though his criticism of Lord Carlile QC was inimical yet in no way pernicious. It was the right approach.

    For someone like me working at grass roots Craig has exposed the dominance (power over liberty) of our secret services (MI5) who frustrate attempts to expose the truth. In fact someone called ‘therealelvis’ has interrogated me as someone ‘seeming to know too much’ and I have been asked to disclose my sources, a classic case of weakening resolve.

  • mark_golding

    Thanks for that link – the remit is broad and to me lacks any intelligent points of comparison. Interesting however is the proposed appointment of David Anderson QC as the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation in the new year. What happened? Not the ‘right’ man?

    David Anderson represented Mr Kadi, an alleged supporter of al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden in Kadi v European Commission. On successful appeal, in a summing up Anderson said, “The imprecise allegations of terrorist activities were clearly insufficient to enable him(Mr Kadi) to challenge them effectively, and the interference with his property rights was disproportionate.

    Anderson has reported on “Operation Gird,” the name given to the Metropolitan Police’s action against six Muslim men who were accused of “a plot to kill the Pope.”

    Criticizing the armed arrest of the men involved, Anderson said, “There is no reason to believe, with the benefit of hindsight, that any of the arrested men was involved in a plot to kill the Pope, or indeed that any such plot existed.”

    We remember the Daily Express led its front page with the banner headline: ‘MUSLIM PLOT TO KILL POPE’, stating ‘It is feared plotters with links to Al Qaeda planned ‘a double blow to the infidel’ by assassinating the head of the Roman Catholic church and slaughtering hundreds of pilgrims and well-wishers.’

    Says it all really – classic propaganda, deception and lies.

  • mark_golding


    Mohammed Hamid was convicted in Early 2008 under politically-motivated circumstances. He was found guilty of “soliciting to murder” under acts dating to 1861, despite never instructing anyone to any specific act. This conviction was based upon statements allegedly made by Hamid whilst under surveillance(psychological torture), which Hamid and others with him maintain were taken out of context. Either way, there is no evidence linking Hamid to any act of murder or solicitation to murder.

    He was also convicted of “providing terrorist training”. This conviction in particular was a farce, involving Muslims paintballing and camping with no other aim than to enjoy outside recreation. The BBC also filmed them playing paintball as part of a documentary on Muslims in the United Kingdom.

    Mohammed Hamid who committed no crime, who was not only jailed for 7 years but also an additional indeterminate period of inprisonment called Imprisonment for Public Protection, which is more than a murderer’s tariff. A victim of Islamophobia and a serious Miscarriage of Justice.

    The controversial ‘Imprisonment for Public Protection'(IPP) is also an asset for the secret services who require a person to remain ‘out of range’ of journalistic interview and to prevent ‘public statements’ considered ‘detrimental to national security.’

  • Ruth

    I believe the UK is rapidly descending into a totalitarian state because its finances are far, far worse than we’re being told and because the crisis is so great all the parties are gradually merging into one to follow the same directives from the government within the government.

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