Some of the UK’s most prominent Islamic groups have sided with a Muslim Member of Parliament and member of the House of Lords to attack the new head of the government’s Commission for Countering Extremism.
The Home Office announced the selection of Sara Khan Thursday, but Labour’s Naz Shah MP and Tory peer Baroness Warsi were quick to speak out, claiming her support for the Prevent counter-extremism programme made her unpopular with Muslims.
They also said Mrs. Shah is not qualified and is too close to the government to be respected by the Islamic community.
The CAGE group, which described Islamic State executioner Jihadi John as a “beautiful young man”, made very similar arguments, as did the Muslim Council of Britain, which has been linked to the international pro-caliphate group the Muslim Brotherhood.
Former Guantanamo Bay prisoner and ‘extremist’ writer Dilly Hussain, of the Islamist-sympathising Muslim website 5Pillarz — which has defended jihad, “Islamic expansionism”, and targeted minority sects — also railed against the appointment, writing on Twitter:
This is some high-level trolling from the government 😂😆.
Talk about burying an “initiative” before its inception.
— Dilly Hussain (@DillyHussain88) January 24, 2018
Sara Khan of @wewillinspire heads new #extremism commission. She endorsed paid police informant, cocaine addict & convicted child abuser who threatened @UK_CAGE. She's welcomed by @HJS_Org who believe: "Conditions for #Muslims in must be made harder." https://t.co/O9gtMVdBDT
— Moazzam Begg (@Moazzam_Begg) January 25, 2018
Sara Khan is the current CEO of the Inspire counter-extremism organisation and has written for many left-wing papers. However, her criticism of radical Islamic practices, such as veiling children, has made her a popular target of Islamic fundamentalists.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Mrs. Khan was “expertly qualified” for the role and “will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the commission which will prove vital as it works to identify and challenge extremism and provide independent advice to the government”.
The Commission for Countering Extremism will aim to identify and challenge all forms of extremism, advising ministers on new policies and promoting “pluralistic British values”. Its remit is likely to include helping train schools and colleges and protecting women’s rights.
Baroness Warsi, who was an MP before being appointed to the House of Lords by David Cameron, said it was a “deeply disturbing appointment in a vital role” and claimed Mrs. Khan was too close to the government.
“Whoever comes into this role comes into it from a position of strength. This is a person who is going to have to challenge communities who is going to have to take on some tough issues” @SayeedaWarsi querying human rights campaigner appointed to lead counter extremism commission pic.twitter.com/axuLYyYlXc
— BBC Daily Politics and Sunday Politics (@daily_politics) January 25, 2018
“For the Commissioner to be effective the person had to be an independent thinker, both connected to and respected by a cross-section of British Muslims. Sara is sadly seen by many as simply a creation of and mouthpiece for the Home Office,” she said in a statement.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the Labour MP Naz Shah, the vice-chairman of the British Muslims all-party group, said: “Here we have somebody who does not accept the concerns in the community.”
“She continues to profess she’s independent,” she added. “Even her book she wrote was in partnership with the Home Office. She has taken Prevent funding. She came out of nowhere after the coalition government without any experience.”
Mrs. Khan has defended the government’s counter-extremism Prevent strategy, explaining that opposition is driven by an “Islamist-hard left alliance” which was “promoting false claims and conspiracy”.
Despite the vast majority of violent extremists in the UK being Islamists, in Yorkshire, “far-right” referrals have accounted for nearly 50 per cent of the caseload and 30 per cent of the caseload in the East Midlands.
Britain’s most prominent Muslim lawyer has slammed such groups for hindering the fight against terror and “undermining” and spreading misinformation about Prevent.