The Prevent Strategy – an exchange with Lord Carlile

Dear Lord Carlile,

Paragraph 8.7 of the Prevent Strategy 2011 (the drafting of which you oversaw) states:

“Challenging ideology is also about being confident in our own values – the values of democracy, rule of law, equality of opportunity, freedom of speech and the rights of all men and women to live free from persecution of any kind. Challenge must be accompanied by advocacy of the very systems and values which terrorists in this country and elsewhere set out to destroy.”

On the basis of the statements made by Islamists who have committed acts of violence in the UK, however, the motivation would seem to be less a desire to “destroy” UK values, and more a desire to influence UK foreign policy. Some examples:

“I and thousands like me are forsaking everything for what we believe. Our drive and motivation doesn’t come from tangible commodities that this world has to offer. Our religion is Islam, obedience to the one true God and following the footsteps of the final prophet messenger. Your democratically-elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world. And your support of them makes you directly responsible, just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters. Until we feel security you will be our targets and until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight. We are at war and I am a soldier. Now you too will taste the reality of this situation.” (Mohammed Sidique Khan)

“What have you witnessed now is only the beginning of a string of attacks that will continue and become stronger until you pull your forces out of Afghanistan and Iraq. And until you stop your financial and military support to America and Israel.” (Shehzad Tanweer)

“The only reason we have killed this man today is because Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers, and this British soldier is one. It’s an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. By Allah, we swear by the Almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. So what if we want to live by the Sharia in Muslim lands. Why does that mean you must follow us and chase us and call us extremists and kill us? Rather you lot are extreme. You are the ones. When you talk of bombs, do you think it hits one person? Rather your bomb wipes out a whole family. This is the reality. By Allah, if I saw your mother today with a buggy I would help her up the stairs. This is my nature. But we are forced by the Quran in Sura at-Tawba, through many, many ayah throughout the Quran that we must fight them as they fight us, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. I apologise that women had to witness this today, but in our lands our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your governments. They don’t care about you. Do you think David Cameron is gonna get caught in the street when we start busting our guns? Do you think the politicians are going to die? No it’s going to be the average guy like you and your children. So get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so we can-so you can all live in peace. Leave our lands and you will live in peace. That’s all I have to say. Allah’s peace and blessings be upon you, as-salamu alaykum.” (Michael Adebolajo)

The above statements in mind, I wondered if you could clarify the evidential basis of the claim that “terrorists… seek to destroy [our values]?
I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Joe Sucksmith

PS – For information, I am a member of staff within Higher Education, so have a particularly keen interest in the Prevent Strategy.


Dear Mr Sucksmith

You have been extremely selective.

The basis of the ambitions of, for example, Hizb-ut-Tahrir is the creation of a Caliphate across the Middle east, and the imposition of Islamic values on our society. It is naive in the extreme to accept a small number of statements as evidence of an ambition only to change UK foreign policy. Further, the use of ‘political’ violence to kill individually innocent UK citizens and their staff, whether at home or abroad, in itself undermines our democratic values, as we do not change policy in that way – unless you condone 9/11 and 7/7.

You say that you are in higher education. Where, please? As such, you owe a personal duty of care to every student you teach, and to your institution, to challenge the appalling statements that you quote in your email.

Yours sincerely

Alex Carlile


Dear Lord Carlile,

Many thanks for your prompt response.

First off, an apology, since my question contained a slight misquote of paragraph 8.7 of the Prevent Strategy. It should have read “set out” rather than “seek”, as in:

The above statements in mind, I wondered if you could clarify the evidential basis of the claim that “terrorists… set out to destroy [our values]?”

A small error, for sure, but important to be completely accurate in debates of such seriousness, I hope you agree. To your response…

You say that I have been “extremely selective”. Indeed I have – I have chosen (arguably) the two most high-profile acts of violence committed by Islamic radicals in the UK: the 7 July 2005 bombings and, just recently, the killing of Lee Rigby in Woolwich. In neither case did the perpetrators mention “western values” as a motivating factor. My assumption, in drawing this to your attention, was that you would have a ready supply of quotes to hand of convicted terrorists who have specifically stated their actions were motivated by a desire to “destroy our values”. Instead, rather puzzingly, you point to Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an organisation that the British government itself recognises to be non-violent, and that quite specifically condemns terrorism in all of its literature. I’m afraid the relevance of this organisation to my request for evidence that “terrorists… set out to destroy [our values]” is unclear. Could you please clarify the precise linkage?

At the same time, in the interests of keeping the debate evidence-based (and, by definition, clear of caricature and prejudice), I think it would be useful if you could set out the basis of your belief that Hizb-ur-Tahrir seeks the ““imposition of Islamic values on our society”. This seems especially important in light of the fact that Hizb-ut-Tahrir clearly rejects this charge:

“The party does not work in the west to change the system of government, but works to project a positive image of Islam to western society and engages in dialogue with Western thinkers, policy makers and academics.” (Media Information Pack, p2, Hizb-ut-Tahrir)

You ask where I work, and I’m happy to confirm: it’s the University of *** (where I am employed as a Visa and Immigration Officer).

I look forward to your further comments.

Yours sincerely,

Joe Sucksmith


Dear Mr Sucksmith

I receive a huge number of emails and cannot reply in detail to them all. However, some short comments:

My comments about HuT are founded on what they told me face to face. This included a refusal to reject the notion that murdering UK service personnel abroad is legitimate. You should read Ed Hussain’s book ‘The Islamist’ and also read the postings on the website of the Quilliam Foundation.

Further, there has been plenteous material in the media in recent days setting out the support of various bodies and individuals for violence for claimed (but heretical) Islamist ends.

I would suggest that as Visa and Immigration Officer you should be especially sensitised to the risks presented to students by any presence on campus of speakers and activities supporting activities contrary to section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (qv).

Kind regards

Alex Carlile


Dear Lord Carlile,

What HuT told you face to face does not constitute evidence to support the claim that “terrorists… set out to destroy [our values]”. Not least because HuT are, according to the British government, a non-violent organisation that openly condemns terrorism. Your anecdote that they refused “to reject the notion that murdering UK service personnel abroad is legitimate”, while an effective soundbite, is of course meaningless in the absence of context.

To be clear why I’m labouring this point. The young muslims responsible for violence in the UK have stated, with unerring consistency, that they were inspired to act due to UK foreign policy (in Iraq, Afghanistan etc.). The government can of course choose to advance an alternative explanation – namely that these acts were motivated by a desire to “destroy our values” – but it cannot expect this alternative to be taken seriously in the absence of a credible evidence base. Put another way, the burden of proof rests with government, not those who accept, as I do, that UK foreign policy does indeed act as the principal recruiting sergeant for violent extremism.

Many thanks for the suggested readings. I’m familiar with Ed Husain, just as I am with Jason Burke, Michael Scheuer etc., whose texts gather dust on my shelves, a legacy of my Master’s degree in International Relations.

Best wishes,



3 thoughts on “The Prevent Strategy – an exchange with Lord Carlile

  1. It seems that Carlile is not too confident in the values he professes. Perhaps because they have yet to be fully defined, or agreed. When non-violent political expression of your Islamic views (together with an explicit forbidding of terrorism) is beyond the pale then anything/anyone can be banned…

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