Why CAGE Cannot Be Trusted On ‘Prevent’ & Anti-Extremism


‘Prevent’ is a government strategy in the UK with the aim of combatting extremism and radicalisation. Although its clearly stated aims are to tackle both the threat of Islamic extremism and ‘far-right’ extremism – Prevent is still frequently misrepresented by various Islamic interest groups as a sinister ‘anti-Muslim’ project.

This popular rhetoric has had a knock-on effect in wider discourse as demonstrated by Labour MP Andy Burnham’s recent comments. At a fringe Labour conference, Burnham described the Prevent Strategy as a “policy that singles out one community for different treatment” and questioned where the “statutory duty” was on far-right extremism – seemingly unaware that the Prevent strategy is also the answer to that question.

Today, The Guardian published the articleAcademics criticise anti-radicalisation strategy in open letter’.

It’s of great consequence who you choose to empower on the topic of extremism, and The Guardian appears to have failed a basic test of responsibility (and due diligence) in this regard.

The Guardian article fails to mention that Asim Qureshi is behind the ‘open letter’, which is produced on behalf of his soft-Islamist group ‘CAGE’.

Qureshi, the research director of CAGE repeatedly refused to condemn the act of stoning people to death on the BBC last year. He was less coy on Russia Today however when he outright condoned the barbaric practice. You can also see Qureshi speaking at a rally for pro-caliphate Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Some of you may also recall Qureshi describing notorious beheader of aid workers, ‘Jihadi John’ as a ‘beautiful young man’. Amnesty International dissociated themselves from CAGE soon after these comments.

As reported in Left Foot Forward:

Even though CAGE say they knew Britons were being held hostage in Syria, at a time the wider public did not, they argued that the UK had nothing to fear from Muslims travelling to Syria to fight. As the crimes of Britons in ISIS and the Al-Nusra front became clear, this analysis was quietly dropped, replaced by the claim that British Muslims were being criminalised collectively, or that particular excesses of the Islamic State’s actions were incompatible with sharia.

CAGE also has also been described as a ‘pro-terrorism’ group.

A leading ITV journalist told me that CAGE setting their sights on the Prevent Strategy is “like a fox hunter trying to abolish the League Against Cruel Animal Sports”.

It should come as no surprise that a group like CAGE would want to limit attention afforded to the extremist elements within their own communities given they’re unable to take a convincing stand against extremism themselves.

The Guardian should be more sceptical about just whose interests they are promoting when they publish propaganda for groups such as CAGE.

Given the complex and ever-changing nature of extremism, no strategy dedicated to tackling it will be without its flaws, meaning scrutiny is absolutely essential. Any anti-extremism strategy must be flexible enough to take constructive criticism, however one thing should be absolutely clear: groups such as CAGE should not be within a million miles of that conversation. Theirs is destructive criticism. They want all opposition to extremism to fail.

Stephen Knight is host of The #GSPodcast. You can listen to The Godless Spellchecker Podcast here, and support it by becoming a patron here.

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