Why we should support Britain's new counter-extremism chief
The newly appointed head of the UK's Commission for Countering Extremism - set up to advise the British government on ways to stop people falling prey to extremist radicalisation of all types - is well used to taking on tough jobs. But the outcry that has followed her appointment threatens to make that job even harder.
Inspire's "Making a Stand" campaign encouraged women across Britain to fight back against recruiters for IS, al-Qaeda and their ilk, identifying them as a particular threat to young Muslim women, whom they seek to lure into a life of servitude and sexual slavery.
When three young girls from London went to join the Islamic State group in Syria in 2015, Khan wrote an open letter for teachers in the capital to read to their young students. In it she implored them not to fall for the "poisonous ideology" that has now drawn an estimated 800 British youngsters into the arm of IS in Syria.
|Her work shows that when extremism enters the bloodstream of a society it divides communities|
But Khan's appointment has prompted a remarkable protest. And not just from the organisations who claim a monopoly on representing Muslim interests in Britain, but from left-wing Labour MPs and feminists too.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an umbrella organisation of mosques and Islamic organisations, which aims to "shape the debate and provide the Muslim viewpoint", also attacks Khan for not being part of the Muslim community. They seek to marginalise and disparage a dissenting voice like Khan's by claiming she is unrepresentative.
Yet, her record in helping women, teachers and parents, fearful their children will be the next to be spirited away to the jihad abroad, shows there is no such blanket opposition to her work among British Muslims.
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These groups have no difficultly, however, in identifying the far-right brand of extremism when it manifests itself in violence against British Muslims, such as in the attack outside a North London mosque last summer. Groups such as this argue that the government's anti-extremism agenda is nothing but a mask for deliberate targeting of Muslims generally, a form of Islamophobia.
They dismiss the UK's Prevent programme - which encourages teachers to spot the early signs of extremist radicalisation in their pupils before they drift into violence - as a sinister plot aimed only at Muslims.
|Anyone who draws attention to extremism risks being seen as a government stooge or labelled Islamophobic, something that has happened to Khan|
Others suggest she will be oblivious to other forms of extremism and focus unfairly on Muslims, that in doing so she is a government stooge, a "mouthpiece for the Home Office" in the words of Sayeeda Warsi, herself a former chairwoman of the Conservative Party and member of the House of Lords.
She promises to begin her tenure running the Commission for Countering Extremism by looking at the scale of the problem and seeing what strategies work and which don't.
|It is depressing to see political and ideological turf wars in Britain detracting from her support|
Khan's rare insight is to show how extremism poses a particular threat to the rights and life opportunities of Muslim women. And she highlights the parallel between the grooming methods used by online paedophiles and terrorist recruiters.
Her work shows that when extremism enters the bloodstream of a society it divides communities, undermines women's rights and those of minorities and reinforces bigotry of all kinds as well as promoting terrorism.
With such a dire threat to society, it is depressing to see political and ideological turf wars in Britain detracting from support for someone who has shown the courage to speak up for the rights of women and minorities, the prime victims of extremism and hate that threaten us all.
David Powell worked for 20 years as journalist in pan-Arab television news, including BBC Arabic and MBC. He is now an analyst of Middle East affairs specialising in media and Islamist movements.
Want a different point of view? Read Malia Bouattia's article: Token brown faces are not what Muslim women want
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.