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The Appointment of Robin Simcox is Deeply Concerning for British Muslims

The Appointment of Robin Simcox is Deeply Concerning for British Muslims

Categories: Latest News

Tuesday May 11 2021

The recent appointment of Robin Simcox as the Interim Lead of the Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE) by the UK Government is extremely concerning and deeply worrying for Muslim communities in Britain. It risks fragmenting an already fragile relationship between Muslim communities and the UK Government and in particular the confidence in the Commission for Countering Extremism. His appointment comes after the departure of Sarah Khan, another controversial appointment that had sparked unrest among the Muslim community after her remarks around Muslim activist organisations. In light of the appointment of Robin Simcox – who has been linked with right-wing groups such as the Henry Jackson Society and has publicly dismissed Islamophobia – MEND calls for Simcox’s immediate removal and a review into the process through which such appointments are made.

Simcox has had a long track record of working with right wing organisations. He was a Margaret Thatcher Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank based in Washington DC, which had close ties to the Trump administration. Through his research, he is accused of promoting racist and anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, including a proponent of the ‘Great Replacement’ theory which has inspired far-right attacks in recent years, such as the New Zealand terror attacks in 2019. He also spoke for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a notorious American anti-immigration hate group that promotes anti-Semitic, white nationalist material, including articles by Holocaust deniers.

Simcox has worked for the right-wing thinktank the Henry Jackson society, which has been described as having an “anti-Islam agenda”. Former directors include Douglas Murray, who has said “conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board” and “immigration into Europe from Muslim countries must stop”; as well as the current head of the Independent Review of PREVENT, William Shawcross, who has stated “Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future. I think all European countries have vastly, very quickly growing Islamic populations.”

In the context of an increase in hate crime and growing polarisation in Britain, Simcox has vehemently dismissed Islamophobia, undermining attempts by minorities to achieve equality. In the annual Hate Crime in England & Wales report for 2020, 50% of religious hate crime offences were against Muslims, and a ComRes poll commissioned by MEND in 2018 found that nearly three in five British adults agreed that Islamophobia is a real problem in today’s society. Despite such evidence, Simcox dismisses the term Islamophobia as a “slippery concept” deployed cynically to shut down argument and urging the Government to “push back on ‘Islamophobia’” and be “wary” of calls for an internal Conservative Party review.

Simcox has argued that the term violent extremism was “dreamed up as a way to avoid saying ‘Islamic’ or ‘Islamist’ extremism”, linking Muslims to terrorism. He has also implied that Muslim organisations such as the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) are extreme and should be “left out in the cold”. Yet again, it seems the UK Government has appointed a figure that undermines efforts of equality and social justice by minorities. By dismissing Islamophobia, Simcox dismisses legitimate concerns held throughout British Muslim communities and the experiences faced by Muslims daily in Britain. The appointment furthermore undermines the active involvement of Muslims in public life, alienating Muslim communities by downplaying the barriers faced by many in engaging in civic life.

This is not the first time the UK Government and Home Office has faced such controversy. In 2018, Sara Khan was appointed to the same position despite over 105 Muslim organisations and mosques signing a letter protesting against her appointment. Khan has made several inflammatory comments about the Muslim community and organisations, specifically referring to MEND as “a divisive organisation”. Muslim communities are concerned with the continued direction that the CCE is taking. Not only is the UK Government failing to address these concerns but is actively increasing the distrust between itself and British Muslims through such controversial appointments and statements.

Simcox’s appointment, his statements and his activities all seem to link British Muslims with terrorism, reinforcing structural Islamophobia in Britain and risking an increase in hate crime and polarisation. The current Government and the Home Office are acting to alienate the Muslim community, causing alarm and concern. MEND calls on the Government to immediately reconsider the appointment of Robin Simcox as Commissioner for Countering Extremism and calls on Parliamentarians to push for a robust review into how such appointments are made.


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