Swedish security experts warn of disinformation campaigns undermining counter-extremism efforts, citing PX report
Peder Hyllengren, Analyst at the Swedish Defence University, and Magnus Ranstorp,
Associate Professor of Political Science and Strategic Advisor at the Centre for Total Defence and Community Security (CTSS) at the Swedish Defence University, published an article in the Swedish language news outlet, Altinget, on the strategic use of Islamophobia as a tool to “silence and vilify” their opponents, including the UK Government and its Prevent programme. They cite Policy Exchange’s recent report, Delegitimising Counterterrorism. Policy Exchange publishes the exclusive English translation of the article below.
Beware of activists who want to undermine work against violent extremism
Peder Hyllengren and Magnus Ranstorp
June 8, 2022
Several organisations use Islamophobia and racism as effective tools to smear opponents and counter terrorism, write Magnus Ranstorp, Associate Professor of Political Science and Strategic Advisor at the Centre for Total Defence and Community Security (CTSS) at the Swedish Defence University, and Peder Hyllengren, Researcher at the Swedish Defence University.
Various disinformation campaigns to undermine efforts to prevent violent extremism have been widespread over the years. Already in 2014, we warned about the collaboration between British CAGE and its counterpart in Sweden, MMRK (Muslim Human Rights Committee), which together published a white paper on the terrorist Munir Awad while spreading falsehoods about Säpo.
Polarisation is fuelled
Two MMRK activists also pursued a defamation case against Ann-Sofie Hermansson. During the trial, Magnus Ranstorp presented an expert report on the troubling links between CAGE and the MMRK. The dossier shows that both organisations have gone to bat in defence of terrorists and fuelled polarisation in society under the guise of defending human rights.
An elaborate strategy used by CAGE and MMRK is to paint themselves as victims and oppressed. Both use Islamophobia and racism as effective tools to silence and vilify opponents. In the UK, CAGE and similar organisations such as Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) have campaigned extensively against the UK Government and its Prevent work against violent extremism.
A recent report (foreworded by former Prime Minister David Cameron) by the British conservative think-tank Policy Exchange analyses these organisations and the false narratives they market against British authorities. For example, CAGE, MEND and other activist groups make false claims that Prevent is a tool for the authorities to spy on Muslims, that it is a pretext for taking Muslim children into care, and that Prevent is racist and Islamophobic and must be scrapped.
Brake pads against extremism
Recently there was a meeting in the British Parliament on “Islamophobia” organised by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) whose rapporteur was Malcolm Jallow, Swedish MP for the Left Party. This is worrying because PACE invited several leading MEND and CAGE affiliates to the meeting. UK Government officials we have been in contact with see clear signs that the Council of Europe and PACE (led by Malcolm Jallow) are trying to legitimise the organisations and give them a place in the political mainstream. This is very worrying as MEND and CAGE are working hard to undermine prevention work against violent extremism, under the guise of action against Islamophobia.
Political naivety and ignorance create space for those who want to polarise and divide. It is hardly surprising that Malcolm Jallow is acting as a political pawn and that he has also organised a meeting in the Swedish Parliament on the same theme as the London meeting. Nor that the invitees were MMRK’s Kitimbwa Sabuni and Mattias Gardell, one of the experts on MMRK’s side in the slander trial against Hermansson. Both have long been activist brakepads against preventive work against violent extremism.
Conclusions that belong in the bin
A representative of British counter-terrorism told us that although anti-Muslim prejudice is a real problem in Europe, the absence of ‘mainstream’ voices at the London meeting and the inclusion of activists and academics linked to Cage UK and MEND is problematic. The forthcoming PACE report is likely to be another attempt to undermine counter-terrorism work in Europe.
Indeed, Jallow is currently leading a so-called “fact-finding” mission on Islamophobia, where he wants to highlight the links to counter-terrorism in France and now the UK in particular. Jallow’s predetermined ideological agenda and dubious contacts, such as MEND, make for a predictable report whose conclusions have good potential for disposal at the bottom of the wastepaper basket.