A Disruptive Influence? “Prevent-ing” Problems and Countering Violent Extremism Policy in Practice
On the evening of January 19, 2012, officers from the South Wales Police and the Wales Extremism and Counter-Terrorism Unit entered the Canton Community Centre in Cardiff with the intent of disrupting a meeting being hosted by Al Ghurabaa. This group, closely allied with the organization Muslims Against Crusades that had been proscribed by the Home Secretary two months previously as an affiliate of Al-Muhajiroun, had taken to holding private meetings in venues in the local area.1 Their public and private activities were starting to generate considerable concern among members of the local Muslim community.
In part this reflected several recent events, including the arrest in December 2010 of five men from Cardiff for their part in an alleged plot to blow up the London Stock Exchange, and a second case where two local men had been traced to Kenya where they were trying to join a terrorist group. Set against this backdrop, the increasing public visibility of some of the key individuals involved with the Al Ghurabaa group and their seeming ability to act with impunity were proving troubling. These community concerns had been relayed to the police at a senior level through well established channels of engagement.
The police action was therefore designed to overtly disrupt the group with the aim of sending a message both to those allied to Al Ghurabaa and the wider community. The formal aims set out in the police operational order were to:
- Engage in overt disruption;
- Dismantle the Al Ghurabaa infrastructure;
- Divert individuals from radicalization;
- Respond to legitimate public concern.
It was, according to the Association of Chief Police Officer's Prevent Delivery Unit, who have a national view of such issues “…the first direct disruption of this kind to take place nationally.”2