downloadMaajid Nawaz critiques the use of Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs) in The House Magazine at politicshome.com, arguing that there is no substitute for counter-extremism legislation based on values of civil liberties and human rights.

The main challenge we face in the twenty-first century comes from those who exploit religion and seek to promote their narrow, extremist worldview over all others. All over the world, often in the UK, occasionally violent, and most threateningly when it underpins terrorism.

The response to this has traditionally been military, be that Bush’s war in Afghanistan or Obama’s drone strategy, or legal, including the notorious detentions and trials at Guantanamo Bay or the UK’s own Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs).

It is essential that the UK continues to lead the way on adding a third response: civil society-led human rights-based counter-extremism to challenge extremist ideology and narratives. Terrorism does not always pose an existential threat to the UK, its citizens and its interests; very often it poses a threat to the values we seek to protect. It is thus imperative that we do not undermine these values in trying to combat the threat.

It is therefore heartening to read the report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, in agreement with the Independent Reviewer of TPIMs, which identifies their human-rights improvements on the previous Control Orders: a two-year time limit and no relocation. It crucially identifies the importance of ‘exit strategies’ that must link up with the Prime Minister’s taskforce to counter extremism and the revised wider Prevent Strategy.

However, in the context of 250 British jihadists currently fighting in Syria, it is surprising to read that the Committee perceives TPIMs to be “withering on the vine”. I anticipate the dreadful conflict to continue in Syria and many more British Muslims being drawn to fight alongside Al Qaeda-affiliated groups there, given the strength of the Islamist ideology and narratives. If anything, TPIMs, once amendments have been made to the system, could be used to prevent these individuals from engaging in terrorism-related activity.

TPIMs punish something which through the criminal justice system is otherwise unpunishable in isolation: intent. It is this intent that must be challenged in the two-year period of the measures, either through pastoral visits from representatives of the Channel Programme, as happens in prisons, or an extremism-awareness course comparable to the speed-awareness course for those caught speeding.

This will serve two essential purposes: firstly, it will provide the authorities with a more accurate and evolving picture of the suspect’s intent to commit an act of terrorism, meaning that potentially dangerous suspects are not released into the public; secondly, it will engage with the suspects and is likely to rehumanise the authorities in their eyes, which may have a deradicalising impact on their ideological commitment to extremism.

TPIMs, now further in line with human rights, are already less likely to cause harm than the Control Orders they replace. The challenge is to make sure they are not a blunt instrument and can be used for good, especially if they are to be used more in the future. A joined-up approach and a focus on ideological engagement, through deradicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration are great ways of doing this.

Maajid Nawaz is Lib Dem PPC for Hampstead & Kilburn, and Co-Founder & Chairman of Quilliam

The PDF of the article in The House Magazine can be viewed here Maajid Nawaz – The House Magazine.

Click here to see the article on politicshome.com.