Letter: Appointment of new counter extremism commissioner

Date published: 30 January 2018

Dear Editor,

The North England Muslim community is aghast at the news of the appointment of our new counter terrorism commissioner. Whilst supportive of attempts to eradicate terrorism and hate, we are lost for words that this latest government strategy has once again shown an inability to engage or understand the wider Muslim Community.

The whole question of a need for a Counter Extremism Commissioner or what the role entails is equally puzzling. If it is to formulate and focus strategy, surely there is scope using present organisations and structures such as the recommendations of the Home

Affairs select committee or even those of the Counter Terrorism reviewer as starters, instead to adding another tier that adds to the bureaucratic process.

There is also scope for considering what the intention of the government is in creating this position when we haven’t really established what the legal definition of Extremism.

The Home Secretary spoke glowingly about the new tsar; sadly we do not share her optimism or vision. This is arguably the most un-welcome and divisive appointment for some time.

There are many questions as to the suitability and fitness of Ms. Khan for the role, in particular her dismal record of engagement with individuals and groups who have a differing view than her but make an invaluable contribution in preventing violent war and terror. She regards those who disagree with the Government’s Prevent strategy or her views as “extremists”.

Ms. Khan has failed thus far, to show any real understanding of those who have a different view about the impact of Prevent on their daily lives.

Recent emergence of the Far Right threat shows the part played by some personalities and social media in driving their narrative. The focusing on Muslims alone in cases of terrorism and sex grooming give credence to far right narrative that continues to grow.

Sara Khan has been a darling of the Home Office, many have voiced concern about this appointment. There have been concerns about her links to questionable organisations such as the Henry Jackson Society and around transparency of the work carried out by Inspire an organisation that she cofounded.

The former Tory chairwoman Sayeeda Warsi described it as “a deeply disturbing appointment”.

Rt Hon Naz Shah has written an open letter to the Home Secretary asking her to reconsider this appointment; we fully endorse these comments and add our name to the letter.

We add our voice to hers and many others who have questioned the wisdom of this appointment.

We urge the government to start listening to communities and adopt a strategy of consultation and partnership instead of imposition and isolation.

We recall the PM spoke unequivocally that no forms of extremism will be tolerated and she specifically focused on Islamophobia. We were led to believe that there was a dawning of a new era in engaging with Muslims; alas we appear to have been misled.

The Prevent agenda has divided and polarised communities; the Muslim community was never a partner and holds a deep-seated mistrust of it. Even the previous Counter Terrorism reviewer recommended an independent review of it and better consultation with communities.

This is hardly an example of independence or engagement. This appointment will further divide and polarise communities instead of uniting them.

The Oldham Mosques Council is an umbrella organization with some 35 Mosques and services the needs of a community in excess of some 35,000 Muslims.


Greater Manchester Council of Mosques

The views expressed are those of the author of the letter and not those of Oldham Chronicle.