Why Sara Khan should be the new Counter Extremist Tsar│ Amin Haque
The Government’s Commission for Countering Extremism has found its leader. Her name is Sara Khan, a lifelong campaigner and activist who has devoted her time to the counter extremist cause through the organisation Inspire, which she co-founded. Her task will be to advise the Government on the identification of extremism and the threat it poses. The role schools and colleges play in spotting extremism will also be brought into light.
What’s puzzling is the immediate animosity that erupted in the wake of her appointment. Accusations of bias, inexperience, and even signalling a turning of the tide; a dark dystopia for Muslims in Britain. But a careful analysis of the facts show that this is not a warning sign, but rather a ringing endorsement for the new counter extremist Tsar.
Sara already has experience working with government, having given evidence to the EU parliament and the Home Affairs Select Committee. She contributed to the Tackling Extremism and Radicalisation Working Group, and the Department for Education’s Due Diligence and Counter-Extremism Expert Reference group. Her organisation Inspire challenges the narrative of Islamist extremists through education, training, as well as advocacy, such as the challenging of gender segregation in universities.
The most credible argument for her appointment is by reading her book ‘The Battle for British Islam’, where she succinctly narrates the rise of Islamism in the UK, the role of universities in the rise of extremism, and an even handed evaluation of the Governments flagship scheme, Prevent. But the crucial point is her awareness of the role of Muslim organisations and some members of the Left, masquerading as representatives of the Muslim community, seeking to undermine counter extremist efforts. And this is why they are rattled.
Misinformation is the hallmark of these organisations. Even criticising Prevent in cases where it was never involved in. Parading the innocent mistakes of various authorities such as the case of the boy who miswrote ‘terraced’ as ‘terrorist’ as proof that the Islamophobic establishment is against them and that their very machinery must be toppled. These are the same type of Muslims who are utterly opposed not just to Prevent, but to the entire idea that the government should have a program like prevent which counters radicalisation, and are just not willing to wake up to the problem of extremism.
Even the former Conservative minister Baroness Warsi described Khan as a mouthpiece of the Home Office and tagging her remarks on Twitter with the hashtag #AnotherTobyYoungMoment. But let’s be realistic; Sara Khan is not Toby Young. Where both have gathered a wealth of experience in their respective fields, only one has masked that with painful comments and controversy.
It is deeply frustrating when the media seek to portray Muslims from the lens of Muslim organisations that so few people have heard of. Organisations like the Muslim Council of Britain, or the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, largely made up of out-of-touch self-appointed men, and at times have bought themselves controversy by liaising with the very Islamises they seek to distance themselves from. And then there are the useful idiots like the Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, who weigh in on appointments such as these claiming that Sara was appointed ‘because of her support of the Government’s Prevent strategy’. The same useful idiots that take advantage of the faux-outrage for their own political purposes and are utterly stunned when the same Islamist-favourable opinions like anti-Semitism are found within their ranks.
I grew up as a Muslim and have learnt to appreciate secular values, and understanding that no beliefs, including Islam, are free from scrutiny. As a Conservative, I also believe in the ideology of Muscular Liberalism advocated by David Cameron. That the Prevent agenda, despite its flaws, requires support and constructive dialogue, and that the Commission for Countering Extremism is best placed to succeed with someone who understands the nuances of Islamic extremism, and that is why Sara Khan is right for the role.