William Eichler 30 August 2017

Anti-radicalisation programme accused of Islamophobia

The Government has criticised a report into its controversial anti-radicalisation programme for spreading what it describes as ‘falsehoods’ and ‘myths’.

The report, published by Just Yorkshire, argues Prevent is built on a ‘foundation of Islamophobia and racism’ and should be axed.

Based on interviews with 36 Muslim individuals including activists, journalists, faith leaders and students, the report describes Prevent as ‘counter-productive’ and said it encourages ‘a climate of self-censorship and fear’.

Prevent is part of the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy. It is designed to stop people from engaging in terrorist-related activities by tackling extremist ideas.

However, Just Yorkshire, which was set up by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust in 2003 to promote racial justice in West Yorkshire, claimed it held ‘the entire Muslim community as collectively suspect, and is built on a robust foundation of Islamophobia.’

‘Our independent report has engaged with grassroots perspectives and has highlighted the many harms of Prevent, particularly those impacting on Muslim minorities,’ said co-author and senior lecturer at Leeds Beckett University, Dr. Waqas Tufail.

‘Our report adds to a number of established critical accounts of Prevent and we hope it is now the start of genuine public debate that seeks to move beyond this failed and counter-productive policy.’

Responding to the report, security minister Ben Wallace MP said: ‘It is no wonder people are concerned about Prevent when reports such as this peddle falsehoods and create myths.

‘Anonymous and misleading quotes riddle this report. Are we really to be expected to stop safeguarding vulnerable people from being exploited because of this flawed report?

‘At its heart Prevent is about safeguarding. In the age of the internet and social media people of all backgrounds and religions are vulnerable to being exploited.

‘The Prevent duty sits alongside the duties to protect people from sexual, bullying or criminal manipulation. As a parent if my children were being targeted by bullies or terrorists or paedophiles at school I would expect that such occurrences were reported and dealt with.

‘But this report seems to suggest such reporting be stopped when it relates to exploitation by terrorists.’

‘We all have a stake in delivering safeguarding in society and I am pleased we are seeing really successful results,’ the minister added.

Writing about Prevent for The MJ, Waqar Ahmed, Prevent manager at Birmingham City Council, described the thinking behind the programme.

'Prevent practitioners work on the premise that vulnerability to radicalisation from a global jihadist perspective or from an extreme far-right perspective is very similar and see the risks as two sides of the same coin,' he wrote.

'We saw the attack on Finsbury Park mosque follow similar attack methodology to the Westminster and London Bridge attacks.

 

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