How Might Human Rights Contribute to Countering Extremism in the UK?

By Prof Steven Greer, Professor of Human Rights (University of Bristol Law School )

Photo credit: Wiredforlogo

Many, including the government, are convinced that ‘extremism’ is implicated in the current terrorist threat and in some of the challenges which arise in the promotion of integration and the maintenance of social cohesion in a society as diverse as the UK. It is, of course, undeniable that terrorism involves ‘violent extremism’. But it is less clear that there is a problem with ‘non-violent extremism’, or at least that it is of such significance that the state and society should be mobilizing to address it. Yet, it is also difficult to deny that the profile of ideas and behaviour hostile to humane values, tolerance and mutual respect has increased in recent years, particularly as a result of the internet and social media. It is against these backgrounds that an independent Commission for Countering Extremism was established by the government in March 2018. At the core of its mission lie three questions: what precisely is ‘extremism’? What kind of threats and risks does it pose? And what, if anything, should state and society do about it? This brief contribution considers the role that human rights might play in finding some answers.
(more…)

Universities and Counter-Terrorism in the UK: ‘Educators Not Informants!’, ‘Boycott Prevent!’?

By Prof Steven Greer, Professor of Human Rights (University of Bristol Law School).

PreventHow – consistent with democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and the preservation of cosmopolitan community cohesion and public confidence in law and its enforcement – should the UK respond to the threat posed by terrorism and, in particular, how should it seek to prevent people, especially vulnerable young people, from being enticed into it? These questions have arisen in a particularly acute form as a result of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 which, amongst other things, imposes a legal duty upon schools, universities, charities, the NHS etc – but not directly upon their staff individually – to ‘have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.’ This may include banning some activities, regulating others, and/or taking appropriate steps to identify those who may be at risk and to refer them to appropriate welfare agencies.

The policy of the University and College Union (UCU) – which represents over 110,000 academic and other staff in higher and further education in the UK – is to boycott the requirements of the Act and the wider ‘Prevent strategy’ of which it is a part, on the grounds that they seriously threaten academic freedom, stifle campus activism, require staff to engage in racial profiling, legitimize Islamophobia, and jeopardize safe and supportive learning environments. Hence the slogans ‘Educators Not Informants!’, ‘Boycott Prevent!’, ‘Prevent Prevent!’ and ‘I Dissent from Prevent!’ which circulate in and around the campaign. This blog summarises work in progress – part of a much larger project concerning terrorism, counterterrorism and human rights in the post-9/11 UK – which argues that the UCU boycott is not only illegal, illegitimate and deeply flawed, but also potentially dangerous and irresponsible.

(more…)

The myth of the “securitized Muslim community”: the social impact of post-9/11 counterterrorist law and policy in the west

By Prof Steven Greer, Professor of Human Rights (University of Bristol Law School).

9780415870375S Greer, ‘The myth of the “securitized Muslim community”: the social impact of post-9/11 counterterrorist law and policy in the west’ in G Lennon & C Walker (eds), Routledge Handbook of Law and Terrorism (London: Routledge, 2015), 400-15.

The academic literature broadly concerned with the ‘social impact’ of post-9/11 terrorism and counter-terrorism in the West is dominated by ‘the securitization thesis’ at least eight senses of which can be distinguished: 1. Muslims as a whole feel under suspicion from society merely because they are Muslim; 2. Muslims as a whole are under suspicion from society for the same reason; 3. Islam is under suspicion from society; 4. Muslims as a whole feel under suspicion from the state solely on account of being Muslim; 5. Muslims as a whole are under suspicion from the state merely because they are Muslim; 6. Islam is under suspicion from the state; 7. Muslims as a whole are subject to special security and criminal justice measures purely because they are Muslim; 8. Islam is subject to special security and criminal justice measures not applicable to other faiths or ideologies. There can be little doubt that the first four propositions are true at least to some extent. But these are not genuine instances of ‘securitization’ because this term can only credibly refer to objective, deliberate, state-managed processes, not reducible to the subjective experiences of those who may or may not have been affected by them, or to social processes over which the state may have little or no control. (more…)