Discredited Contest

Shiraz Maher on Contest 2:

Contest 2 continues to focus on violent extremism without considering the wider Islamist infrastructure that inspires and motivates terrorism. In practical terms, this means that Contest 2 is largely a continuation of the policy that preceded it, rather than representing a break with the past. The government is still unwilling to shift the focus of its efforts from preventing violent extremism to preventing all extremism.

This much was confirmed by a senior official in the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism who circulated a private letter, which I have seen, to Muslim groups after the revised strategy was revealed. “Any suggestion that we intend to criminalise people who reject our values but operate within the existing law is wrong. Nor will such people be the targets of our counter-terrorist strategy, which is concerned with violent extremism.”

He revealed the strategy is “largely the same as was published last June [2008] in the cross-government Prevent strategy that you will be familiar with.” It is an extraordinary revelation given the fanfare with which the government launched Contest 2.

Therefore, when government now talks about ideology, it does so in only the narrowest possible terms: the bloodcurdling doctrine of al Qaeda. By refusing to cast the net further, groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its sprawling network of “front groups” continue unchallenged. Yet the Brotherhood is a movement whose views, including its desire to establish a pan-Islamic theocracy, are fundamentally irreconcilable with those of a liberal society.
the state should draw a line against any group or individual opposed to those inalienable and nonnegotiable values — such as not discriminating on the basis of religion, race, sexual orientation or gender — which define the British public sphere in the 21st century.

These values are universal and applicable to all communities. Government should use them to create a robust, values-led initiative that makes clear exactly what the state stands for.

Contest 2 is a most necessary strategy for combating the threat to British society. But if the government continues to embrace reactionary Islamists indiscriminately, it risks discrediting the entire enterprise.

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