Preventitude : A Newham Case Study

What is Prevent?
CAGE analysis of PREVENT's role in the
generation of though crimes in the UK today.
The UK government's Prevent strategy is a sinister method of manipulating and undermining the Muslim community. State mouthpieces like the BBC would disagree, but even they cringe sometimes, albeit in a smug technocratic resource efficiency and Private Eye orientated fashion that never questions the political fundamentals of white privilege. For that level of analysis, Arun Kundnani has studied the government's approach to what it has called radicalisation and extremism over the past decade and formulated a constructive critique.

However, the odious ghetto of the jobsworths and securocrats responsible for Prevent is not in the business of admitting the degree to which their bogeymen are of their own making. After all, it is far easier to repress the weak than risk the truth. These individuals are paid handsomely by the state, often with competitive pensions to recruit vulnerable people to their nefarious schemes of ummahtic suffocation. What motivates them to choose this life of an open air prison warden is unclear and worth pursuing, theories range from structural learning difficulties to sexual impotence to daddy issues.

For Muslims and others with a decolonial analysis of things, Prevent is a neoliberal representation of a long tradition of coloniality stretching back hundreds of years. It surveils, fragments, disciplines and depoliticises the formation and articulation of a Muslim sense of self, place and community,. The strategy has even been reframed as a Cradle to Grave Police State.  Rendered statutory by the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015, it is something we need to understand, resist, survive and recover from.

Rather than be permanently bummed out over the latest bro to sell out, cash in and cause cringing, its high time to respond in the tradition of decolonial Ummahtic Love. To turn the gaze ( and the blade) towards the slow violence of Prevent , Establishment Extremism and the coloniality that makes them possible, is a liberating, positive and politically productive project that I am sure many would like to see operating.

Preventitude and the #NewVic3

Mak Chishti threat upon the bodies, spaces and habits of all Muslim youth was not an isolated incident. There is an entire generation, particularly in the schooling system, being subjected to Preventitude. The term salutes the Francophone African Negritude movement, and articulates a rallying call  to attend to the colonial institution of Prevent. Experience of this unjust set of power relations and weaponry connects not just those trapped beneath it in the UK, but in other locations around the world as powerful governments employ weirder, meaner and more brutal forms of policing souls, minds, bodies and with them the future. After all, the counter extremism kit, of hard and softer varieties is a growing British export to many countries.

A good example is in the country of my immediate ancestry, Bangladesh. Over their the British trained and human rights violating Rapid Action Battalion headed by Benazir Ahmed (who presided over the 2013 Dhaka Massacre ) would not be possible without the UK's  multidisciplinary input into the great War on Terror Scam. Fields of diplomacy, academia, military, education, culture and media operation are integrated into this mutually useful enterprise. Therefore, it stands to reason that calling out and challenging malevolent bullshit in the UK can work towards institutionally, professionally and politically safeguarding vulnerable people and societies all over the world, whether they are in Nigeria, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Bangladesh, India or Pakistan.

Yesterday, less than a fortnight after the exposure of primary school children to dubious surveillance in Waltham Forest, I heard of the suspension of three upper sixth form students from New Vic College in Newham, another east London borough. Punitive measures had been taken against them for their opposition to college Prevent policies and Islamophobia. Given that it is exam season for A-level students, the college's behaviour is disproportionate and stupid at best, if not outright malicious.

Unreal right? You may have attended a wedding
at the nearby Impressions venue.

Justifying his destructive decision, Principal Playfair (!) cites the student's circulation of a petition to students and staff and IT policy as the grounds for their suspension. He talks about a commitment to fighting Islamophobia yet has contributes to it with his actions and doesn't seem to be fighting with Islamophobia's expression through Prevent. Maybe he is one of those post-racials who thinks that because his local prevent officer is brown, that there cannot be anything wrong with it.

Needless to say, the girls' supporters' and sympathisers' at the college and around the country aren't convinced by his initial pronouncements. If inclined to, you can watch the #NewVic3 hashtag on Twitter to see and connect to outrage at this serious institutional student rights violation.  From what I can tell, their petition is legitimate and interesting. It demands honesty, transparency from the senior management and protection of their student rights from the government's Prevent policy and in particular.

Some more politically-seasoned people might have advised a slightly different course of action, had their invitation by the students not been rescinded by the college. The context of the petition was in the aftermath of the college's banning of an event they had organised to critically discuss the politics and meaning of the government's Prevent policy. NUS Black Officer Malia Bouttia and others including local councillor Unmesh Desai were scheduled to speak, but for some undisclosed reason the college students were denied an audience with them.

The Lie of 'contravening IT policy' is enforceable by white power and 'how dare they demand of us' thinking. In reality it resembles an abusive big brother punching you in the gut, throat and mouth, then branding your face with 'enemy of the state' for picking the teeth out of your mouth. I hope the governor's of New Vic are busy making justice out of this situation. This is a school where a teacher can tell a room full of female students that they are. 

“too lazy to run to Syria, carry machine guns and have sex all day.”

and get away with it

I wish these young sisters a successful political and academic education and support their cause. They have shown more leadership than a lot of the fat brown bearded males. I think they should be nominated for a Muslim News Malcolm X Award for Services against Preventitude.

Recognising and supporting courage is one important, but so are the underlying causes of the Prevent Policy Disaster and our particular situations.

Reading Moby Dick in Newham

Cabinet Meeting at Newham.
Newham is a one party state. An East London borough where every single council ward is controlled by the Labour Party presided over the elected Mayor Robin Whale.  Whale plays an effective divide and rule policy on the boroughs different ethnic minority communities, has quite hard secularist views on multiculturalism and diversity and was a key collaborator in the gentrifying orgy that was Olympic Developmentia.

His whiteness, Labour identity and compliance with corporate interest means that he hasn't been subjected to the same scrutinies, dirty tricks, boycotts and lawfare of Lutfur Rahman next door in Tower Hamlets. The lack of headlines regarding his overrepresentation of 16.7% White British community in Newham is notable.

Whale's contribution to this Case study of institutional insanity is his appointment of the much-hated Quilliam Foundation's Ghaffar Husain as the borough's Prevent Officer. Interestingly, the Foundation's founder, Essex-born Majid Nawaz went to college in Newham, where he manipulated student politics, finances and Islam to violent affect. Following the 2013 Woolwich murder he made political value for himself spinning another self aggrandising yarn about the murder of Ayotunde Obanubi at his college.

What is to be done?

To close, the classroom coloniality unfolding in every educational institution around the country is on the increase and we need to tool up. Data and case studies like this one will be plentiful because of the baseline stupidity of institutions. Looking at the situation optimistically, it is a good opportunity to hold up a mirror of coloniality to government functionaries. Intellectuals focusing on race, Islamophobia, civil liberties and human rights discourses will of course be busy.  Muslims need also to attend to the spiritual impacts and connectivities of the problem, both to safeguard young people and better understand the sicknesses inside those who design, enforce and defend preventitude.

A Decolonial Dua

Owner of Judgement, Everlasting, Protecting Friend

forgive us those foolish decisions,

which enclose noble futures,

as we make our way to the minbar.

Guide us in our knowledge adventures,
beyond the accumulation of certification
to generation, political epistemic emancipation.
Protect us from developmentors on the watchtower,
and their developmentees
Preventing us, from helping us
Selling poverty pornography and non answers.

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