| ||The disclosures printed in The Guardian newspaper on Saturday, on the use of the Prevent scheme to ‘spy’ on innocent British Muslims, was complemented with the publication of a report by the Institute of Race Relations. |
The report ‘Spooked! How not to prevent violent extremism’, outlines some of the problems created by the Prevent programme.
It finds ‘strong reasons for thinking that the Prevent programme, in effect, constructs the Muslim population as a ‘suspect community’, fosters social divisions among Muslims themselves and between Muslims and others, encourages tokenism, facilitates violations of privacy and professional norms of confidentiality, discourages local democracy and is counter-productive in reducing the risk of political violence.’
Problems highlighted in the report include:
- The government claims Prevent is ‘communities-led’ but Prevent funding has not been driven by a decision-making process in which local agencies identify their own needs and access central government funds accordingly. Rather, local authorities have been pressured to accept Prevent funding in direct proportion to the numbers of Muslims in their area – in effect, constructing the Muslim population as a ‘suspect community’.
- Prevent decision-making lacks transparency and accountability. Decisions are taken behind closed doors rather than in consultation with the voluntary and community sector. Rather than engaging local people democratically, many local authorities seem to take the view that decisions over Prevent are best made away from public scrutiny.
- There is strong evidence that a significant part of the Prevent programme involves the embedding of counter-terrorism police officers within the delivery of local services, the purpose of which seems to be to gather intelligence on Muslim communities, to identify areas, groups and individuals that are ‘at risk’ and to then facilitate interventions, such as the Channel programme, as well as more general police engagement with the Muslim community, to manage perceptions of grievances.
- Prevent-funded voluntary sector organisations and workers in local authorities are becoming increasingly wary of the expectations on them to act as providers of information to the police. The imposition of information sharing requirements on teachers and youth, community and cultural workers undercuts professional norms of confidentiality. Moreover, it will be impossible to generate the trust that the government sees as one of the aims of Prevent if there is any suspicion that local services have a hidden agenda.
- There is a perception that the government is sponsoring Muslim organisations on the basis of theological criteria – for example, holding Sufis to be intrinsically more moderate than Salafis. Such an approach runs counter to the secular separation of ‘church’ and state, even though such a separation is itself upheld by the government as a marker of ‘moderation’ which Muslims should aspire to.
- The atmosphere promoted by Prevent is one in which to make radical criticisms of the government is to risk losing funding and facing isolation as an ‘extremist’, while those organisations which support the government are rewarded....The current emphasis of Prevent on depoliticising young people and restricting radical dissent is actually counter-productive because it strengthens the hands of those who say democracy is pointless.
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