The tragic murder of serving MP, Sir David Amess, should have been a moment of reflection. Yet, the security industry has been quick to capitalise on the tangible fears and exploit dormant prejudices to push for a brazen power grab that does little to solve the problem of political violence- or meaningfully assess the supposed rationale for the attack, which at this point remains deeply unclear 

This year marks 20 years since the beginning of the Global War on Terror. We have seen an almost annual passing of terrorism laws since. The state today has extended its tentacles of control to all aspects of public life, in attempts at ‘combatting terrorism’. Yet we are no closer to a solution. 

With little humility or introspection, politicians, commentators and Islamophobic think tanks ,like the Henry Jackson Society, have embarked on the same predictable response to the murder. 

As seen over the last 20 years, political violence is used to create a moral panic around Islam and Muslims, collectively blame communities, demand that “more must  be done” – which always translates to more policing, more surveillance and more rights eroded from citizens. This has been the pattern for two decades and it’s time we stop.  

There may be many who question whether the government’s response is solely motivated by any ideals about the sanctity of human life, given the reports of Priti Patel seeking legal immunity for border officials who kill migrants during ‘pushback’ operations at sea – reported the very day before Sir David Amess’ death.

Nor does it seem that it is genuinely motivated by a desire to reduce ‘coarseness’ in public discourse on the part of government – otherwise it would not seek to impose the former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre in charge of the Online Safety regime

 A failing strategy

On Thursday 21st October, Ali was charged with murder and preparing acts of terrorism – on account of the fact that it “had both religious and ideological motivations.”

What’s now become a common feature of such attacks, is that the alleged perpetrators had been referred to the Government’s failed PREVENT strategy.  

The question is, why has it failed consistently?

The answer may lie more with appreciating how PREVENT operates as an intelligence gathering operation and social engineering, whose dragnet approach to referrals runs counter to any notion of considered or intelligence led anti-violence interventions.

What should be self-evident by now is that PREVENT is not, and has never been, capable of actually preventing acts of violence. Responding to every attack by augmenting and expanding the programme has been the modus operandi for the security industry for over a decade now – yet is a fool’s errand that has long since run its course.

In fact, reports are surfacing that the delayed review of the Strategy by the Islamophobe William Shawcross will push this line exactly – make PREVENT more about policing and hand it entirely to security services and the police.

The tabloid press and pro surveillance state lobby groups are excited about this development, and have defiantly pointed out that attempts to drag in the ‘far right’ into PREVENT was just an exercise in political correctness that must be redressed. 

What we must argue is for a complete step-change in the approach to combatting social violence, which takes the scrapping of PREVENT as a prerequisite. Our 2020 Beyond Prevent report outlines a broad framework for building healthy, safe societies – supported by over 100 academics, leaders and activists – that doesn’t centre on an infinite expansion of Prevent and security, but rather on rebuilding society at its core.

Among these are the demands for Reinstating a society where civil rights can be properly exercised, to put an end to the situation whereby social issues are managed through security measures, and to decouple welfare and safeguarding from counter-terrorism: all pertinent in light of calls to ratchet up security further in light of Amess’ killing.

More laws does not equal better security

The more security logic will have us all believe that giving up our right to not be snooped upon, harassed at airports, having our social media reviewed by police at all times would make us safe. 

The end point of this, is that a full totalitarian police state will mean we all live fulfilling happy lives.

Commenting on the recent murder of Sir David Amess, Norwich South MP Clive Lewis said “More security isn’t the answer, just as more police on the streets isn’t the answer to cutting crime”. 

These systemic problems can’t be solved by simplistic grandstanding gestures that pander to people’s prejudices and continue the growth of the security and surveillance infrastructure. 

It’s why we agree with Lewis when he says “Crime, including violent crime, is increasingly systemic, and until you deal with that nothing short of moving around in a tank will do.”


Image courtesy of No 10 on Flikr

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)