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Row erupts over Tory government’s choice to head Commission for Countering Extremism

The choice of Sara Khan to head the Commission for Countering Extremism has caused a lot of uproar, with many viewing her as a mouthpiece for the Home Office. It doesn’t help she is a supporter of the government’s Prevent anti-extremism programme. The programme, safeguard vulnerable individuals who are at risk of radicalisation, has been termed “toxic” by critics.

Former Tory chairwoman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi described it as “a deeply disturbing appointment”.

She wrote on Twitter: “Sara has unfortunately been a strong advocate of the Government’s policy of disengagement, a policy which many, including members of the police and intelligence services, consider has damaged the important battle to engage Britain’s Muslim communities.

“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.”

Labour MP Naz Shah told BBC Radio 4 that Khan “does not accept concerns in the community” around Prevent and is “unable to answer” questions about her own transparency. She also pointed out that Khan lacked experience to hold such an important post.

Khan is the co-founder of campaign organisation Inspire, and as per her website, she is one of the UK’s leading Muslim female voices on countering Islamist extremism and promoting human rights.

Plans to set up the Commission for Countering Extremism were announced last year after the Manchester bombing in May. The Commission will be involved in advising ministers on new policies and challenging all forms of extremism. It will also work towards ensuring women’s rights are upheld.