By Muhammad Mussa
LONDON (AA) - The government has been criticized for appointing a controversial Tory campaigner as the new chief of an anti-terror initiative in its drive to stamp out radicalism in Muslim communities.
Sara Khan will lead the new Commission for Countering Extremism in the U.K. with Home Secretary Amber Rudd describing her as “expertly qualified” on Thursday.
However, the appointment has been met with immediate and widespread criticism, especially within parts of the Conservative party, as she has been a strong supporter of Prevent -- part of the government’s four-tier counter-terror strategy which has been criticized for being intrusive.
Sayeeda Warsi, the former Tory chairwoman, described the move as “a deeply disturbing moment”.
In a tweet she said Khan has been a strong advocate of the government’s policy of “disengagement” which many consider has damaged the “important battle to engage Britain’s Muslim communities”.
“The opaqueness surrounding her relationship with the Home Office was the subject of questions at the Home Affairs Select Committee, questions which have still not been addressed. This misjudged appointment will regrettably hinder, not help the fight against extremism,” she added.
The Muslim Council of Britain, the U.K.’s largest Islamic representative body, also condemned the appointment by Prime Minister Theresa May.
“One of the tasks of the Commission will be to define already contested notions of extremism. However, this appointment indicates that the task will continue to be elusive and divisive at a time when the fight against terrorism requires common purpose and partnership,” the council said in a statement.
Harun Khan, secretary-general of the council, said: “The fight against terrorism requires equal partnership between all parties, including Muslim communities. The appointment risks sending a clear and alarming message that the government has no intention of doing so. Sadly it will be seen as a move to placate those small sections of society who see Muslims as foreign, alien, rather than as equal citizens in this country.”
Khan, whose official title will be Lead Commissioner, is the co-founder of the counter-extremism organization Inspire. She has described herself as a counter-extremism and women’s rights activist.
Nonetheless, her strong advocacy for the divisive, and at times questionable, Prevent Strategy has brought her independence and transparency into question.
Khan is expected to assume the position next month. The appointment will last for a period of three years.