What to do about Prevent?
Monday, June 13th, 2016
What should British Muslims do about the government’s counter-terrorism policy? Many individuals and organisations have raised concerns about a policy that has preferred to teach thousands of teachers and health professionals about how best to spot an extremist rather than to have directed the same resources at engagement with the British Muslim community. But it seems that the government is continuing with its strategy of disengagement and ideological challenge. Many British Muslim organisations have therefore decided to distance themselves from the prevent policy and simultaneously criticise those that do engage with such a policy.
There remains a problem however in that the threat from extremists does remain. We may differ about the size of the threat, but it does remain. There are clearly some individuals in this country who are dangerous and others who do not yet believe that such kinds of attacks are wrong. How we have managed to backtrack from a stronger position a few years ago is beyond me. But nevertheless the threat remains.
So what should the community do? One suggestion is that the community should fund its own counter-terrorism think tanks or organisations. We are familiar with the world’s first counter-extremism think tank: the Quilliam Foundation. Alas, it is also the world’s first counter-productive counter-extremism think-tank. They emerged in 2008 three years after the July 7 bombings and have occupied the ‘deradicalisation’ space in the British public sphere. Because of their presence, many Muslims have decided to withdraw from organised forms of deradicalisation activities.
We need to progress from this point. As mentioned previously, the community itself should fund three or four anti-extremism organisations. They can be led by community-based activists who have a track record on deradicalisation. Examples include people like military historian and counter-terrorism consultant Jahan Mahmood, faith leader and social activist Alyas Kermani and Dr. Abdal Haq Baker of STREET in South London and the organisation Engage in Dewsbury. All of whom have previous Home Office clearance. They should be encouraged and supported by community philanthropists. They should work locally in their respective regions and be used by Muslim community organisations as resources for dealing with extremists and radicals. An annual one million pound fund should cover the costs of all four organisations. It will also be an expression of our commitment towards a problem which affects us and others directly and indirectly. These organisations should be encouraged to work with the local police organisations in a mutually supportive manner. This way the politics of a prevent policy that has damaged this very important area of work can be side-lined and ignored. I assume that there are enough seasoned and trusted counter-terrorism personnel that could act as go-betweens between the government and these organisations. We encourage leaders of the British Muslim community to consider this course of action as a matter of urgency.