What is the Islāmic view of PREVENT? In other words, is PREVENT compatible with Islam? This is a question that makes perfect sense to ask once raised. However, since its inception in 2003, there has been little discussion on the validity of PREVENT and interaction with it from an Islāmic perspective. This is a curious omission, given that PREVENT has been imposed on Muslims for nearly two decades now. Instead of a critical engagement with PREVENT as a policy, Muslims, and especially Islāmic scholars, have been used by PREVENT and “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE) programs more broadly, as tools to implement pre-crime counter-extremism aims. In fact, scholars have even tried to give PREVENT and CVE legitimacy through a questionable application of theology.
Our report, ‘PREVENT, CVE, and Pre-crime – Through an Islāmic Lens,’ subjects PREVENT to Islām. It seeks to understand the political context, PREVENT definitions, and its logic, before proceeding to scrutinize PREVENT through an Islāmic lens.
This article provides for an extended summary of the report (Download the full report here). We hope the complete report is read by respected Islāmic scholars, Muslim PREVENT practitioners, and the general Muslim public.
Formation and Goals of PREVENT
The report shares how PREVENT emerged as a domestic policy as part of the War on Terror. The policy has been strongly influenced and driven by neoconservatives and associated think-tanks and individuals that can be characterized as subversive, anti-Islām and Islamophobic.
At the root of their thinking are the fantasized myths of a Clash of Civilizations (that there is an inevitable clash between the “world of Islām” and the “West”), Eurabia/Great Replacement theory (a neoconservative conspiracy theory that Muslims are taking over Europe and replacing the host population), and the doctrine of preemption (that the problem of Islām and Muslims needs to be neutered before it can gestate into a threat).
PREVENT is a preemptive policy that uses cognitive behavioral manipulation to coax a deformed “reformed” Islām. This is evident in the manner it sifts the “good Muslims” from the “bad Muslims” in the community, often pitting them against one another. It is also evident from the growing PREVENT cases in which an Islāmic marker has triggered the PREVENT mechanism.
In the process there is restructuring of worldviews targeting Islām – a “conversion” of Muslims no less.
A key approach is to target the Muslim population with deformist messaging. This has been carried out by people and organizations that have been directly involved in the propaganda warfare against Muslims in Iraq during the Iraq invasion.
What is PREVENT?PREVENT is a limb of the UK’s counter-terrorism policy called CONTEST, and fulfills the role of preemptive, pre-criminal intervention. Historically, it has explicitly targeted the Muslim community only, with the objective to “increase the resilience of communities to violent extremism”. Its target is “Islamist extremism,” and more recently far-right extremism, though its most verbose and simultaneously the most nebulous definition is reserved for the former. Such definitions, however, implicate key aspects and views that are a part of orthodox Islām as “extremist”, such as jihād, takfīr and the use of the word “kafir”, martyrdom, khilāfa, and adhering to Sharī’a in all aspects of life.
The current “British values” definition of “extremism”, which is used to identify potential “extremists”, is as follows:
“Extremism is the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and respect and tolerance for different faiths and beliefs. We also regard calls for the death of members of our armed forces as extremist.”
These potential “extremists”/“terrorists” are then assessed by local “Channel panels,” which interrogate the person using the Channel Vulnerability Framework. Where a person is deemed vulnerable, a mentor may be assigned to that individual for “deradicalization” purposes.
Stripped of the government propaganda surrounding it, PREVENT is a tool for spying and has been referred to as an intelligence gathering mechanism by senior government officials and those who propagate the policy. It is used to gather intelligence on the Muslim community.
Stripped of the government propaganda surrounding it, PREVENT is a tool for spying and has been referred to as an intelligence gathering mechanism by senior government officials….It is used to gather intelligence on the Muslim community.Click To Tweet
Interactions with PREVENT
There are several scenarios in which Muslims engaging PREVENT find themselves. Muslims may be working as public sector workers implementing PREVENT, funded to champion PREVENT theory and messaging, engaging local PREVENT advisory groups throughout the country, actively rolling out PREVENT policies or similar “Muslim versions” in schools, teaching children PREVENT theory as part of school lessons, or working with neoconservative think-tanks that seek to bolster PREVENT.
We also have Muslims who are processed through the PREVENT infrastructure by being “referred” by a public institution that has implemented PREVENT: schools, colleges, doctors, police officers, and so on.
PREVENT’s Impact on Muslims
There are numerous examples which show that Muslims are being targeted with propaganda that undermines orthodox Islām. There is a distinct focus on using imāms and brainwashing Muslim women, including female Islāmic scholars. Our report concludes that PREVENT not only conflicts with, but ultimately undermines Islām and harms Muslims. It is anti-Islām in its objective, and un-Islāmic in its underlying logic and impact.
Our report concludes that PREVENT not only conflicts with, but ultimately undermines Islām and harms Muslims. It is anti-Islām in its objective, and un-Islāmic in its underlying logics and impact.Click To Tweet
A multitude of case examples show that the “British values” definition of “extremism” is forcing a liberalized, secularized version of Islām in the public sphere. The report highlights cases which show that various Islāmic views and practices have been used as indications of “extremism” or radicalization “concerns”:
- Adoption of hijab and veil
- The prohibition of music
- Islāmic evidentiary rules
- Sex separation in gatherings/PE lessons
- Islāmic penal punishments
- The prohibition of same-sex relations
- Using Islāmic terminology such as “Allāhu Akbar,” “Alhamdulillah”
- Accepting Islām (i.e., converting to Islām)
- Discussing the khilāfa
- Prohibition of drawing the Prophets (upon them be peace)
- Adoption of Islāmic attire
- Discussing jihād (in a Religion and Philosophy lesson)
As part of the “restructuring of worldviews,” activism or charity work related Al-Quds Al-Sharīf, Palestine, and Syria is also targeted.Case examples of Muslims, including children, who encounter PREVENT demonstrate their experience as being marked by harassment, coercion, and intimidation. Muslims feel interrogated about their Islāmic beliefs and practices. Children are even made to recite the Qur’ān in front of PREVENT officers. Such children are left traumatized, and resort to self-censorship about their faith and political views.
Muslims, including children, who encounter PREVENT endure harassment, coercion, and intimidation. Muslims feel interrogated about their Islāmic beliefs and practices. Children are even made to recite the Qur’ān in front of PREVENT officers.Click To Tweet
In one particularly disconcerting case, a child was forcibly removed from her parents and placed into foster care where she was disallowed from reading the Qur’ān and meeting Muslims.
The Logic of PREVENT
The following are the mechanics of the pre-crime logic which underpin PREVENT/CVE:
- The need for an enemy identity, provided courtesy of the War on Terror.
- A shift from detecting crime to identifying enemies.
- A shift from the individual act/perpetrator to a group.
- The entry of suspicion of Muslims and Islāmic beliefs due to the above two shifts.
- Preemptive intervention into a group is based not on categorical evidence, or even risk (which is connected to history) but suspicion and guesswork that imagines a violent outcome as a sort of prophesy.
- The focus of enforcement measures within the criminal justice system is no longer on intent, but on a “mindset” to prove a potential offense.
- This mindset is identified through a fictional list of indicators, signs, and vague definitions of “Islamism”, “extremism”, and “terrorism”, which are viewed in a securitized manner.
- The establishing of “mindset” relies on “intelligence” which is often inaccurate, unreliable and can rest on innuendo, hearsay, or even circumstantial connection.
An Islāmic Scrutiny of PREVENT
We consider these mechanisms and logic conflicting with Islām in several ways:
- The notion of identifying enemies, mindsets, and groups leads to collective punishment due to the actions of a criminal, which contradicts Qur’ānic directives.
- The stage at which PREVENT intervenes upon Muslims (well before an intention is even formed), coupled the with vague definitions of “extremism” and “Islamism” means that PREVENT conflicts with the constitutive elements of penal liability in the Sharī’a, which necessitates knowledge of the prohibition (i.e., what PREVENT sanctions), intention, and action.
- The use of negative suspicion and hearsay to “guess” (via “signs” of “extremism”) a potential crime directly opposes the directives of the Sharī’a.
- The notion of searching for behaviors/actions/statements (i.e., actively cultivating negative thoughts about others) and spying on people is prohibited by Allāh ﷻ.
- The predictive logic of PREVENT that predicts a future catastrophic outcome as inevitable unless intervened upon can be likened to astrology. PREVENT’s conjectural judgements are based upon ignorance, thereby conflicting with Islāmic principles.
Some scholars have tried to give pre-crime policies like PREVENT a theological warrant. We have addressed these in the report in detail, and summaries the key points here:
- “Terrorism” is analogized to the Shar’ī penalty of ḥirābah, or qaṭ’ al-tarīq (highway robbery). This, however, is a gross misapplication of fiqh. Firstly, PREVENT intervenes on behaviors that do not amount to an offence, and secondly, ḥirābah only applies in the abode of Islām, not in territory controlled by non-Muslims.
- Some have argued that PREVENT and CVE “block the means to evil” (sadd al-dharāʾiʿ), i.e., terrorism. However, we argue that on the contrary, pre-criminal programmes like PREVENT (and CVE) are producing and reproducing injustices and harm against Islām and Muslims due to their foundational pre-crime mechanics, rather than “preventing” them. Rather, given these harms, the principle of sadd al-dharāʾiʿ could be applied to render impermissible all those activities, policies and organizations that support the implementation of PREVENT.
- Some argue relatedly that PREVENT helps to avoid harm (i.e., terrorism), citing the ḥadīth, “There should be no harming or reciprocating of harm.” However, as already pointed out in the second point, above, PREVENT itself is the harm.
Concluding Remarks – A Call to Disassociate and Help Withdraw from PREVENT
In questioning why certain masājid and madāris have actively implemented PREVENT, the usual response is that there is a lack of awareness of PREVENT and its impact. It is our assertion that there is no longer any excuse to be unaware of PREVENT and its national, even international impact on Islām and Muslims. Indeed, it is highly probable that future revisions to PREVENT or its replacement policy will harden the focus on Muslim places of learning and worship.
We hope this report bridges any knowledge gaps and lack of awareness about PREVENT.
Our report concludes that PREVENT not only conflicts with, but ultimately undermines Islām and harms Muslims. It is anti-Islām in its objective, and un-Islāmic in its underlying logic and impact.
The recommendations made in the report for Muslims fall into one or more categories of disengagement, minimization, and challenging. Depending on their circumstances (detailed in the report), Muslims must urgently disengage from PREVENT and its implementation as much as possible, work to minimize its effects, and challenge it by supporting the effort to have it withdrawn.
Allāh ﷻ knows best.
– The Trojan Horse Affair: A British Muslim Parent Perspective
Source: Muslim Matters