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Does Bradford festival's counter-extremism funding warrant a boycott?

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24.06.2019

Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan: I’m boycotting the festival because of its counter-extremism funding

Three days ago I shared a public statement explaining my withdrawal from the Bradford literature festival 2019. By the morning of 24 June, 11 others scheduled to speak had also withdrawn (Lola Olufemi, Waithera Sebatindira, Malia Bouattia, Sahar Al-Faifi, Dilly Hussain, Hussein Kesvani, Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, Paula Akpan, Lauren Booth and Madiha Raza). We did not do so because we oppose the festival itself. I have previously performed poetry there and believe the BLF has done invaluable work for the local community through years of grassroots engagement centred on BME people. However, I chose not to participate this year when I found out the festival was a beneficiary of a fund called Building a Stronger Britain Together (BSBT). This fund comes from the government’s Counter-Extremism Strategy (CES) and it is this strategy, this fund, and this connection that I and others oppose.

The government’s website describes BSBT as “funding and support for groups involved in counter-extremism projects in their communities”, and it was used to fund some of BLF’s pre-festival programmes engaging local Muslim women on their aspirations and literacy. While I am sure the programmes were beneficial to participants, it is highly problematic to suggest that the people the projects engage are at risk of becoming extremists due solely to their identity. It is rooted in the counter-radicalisation thesis that suggests that since any Muslim could become violent, all Muslims require monitoring. It reduces Muslims to subjects requiring de-radicalisation.

Bradford’s predominantly Pakistani, Muslim population has long been looked at through a lens of........

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