UK anti-militant project stirs unease among Muslims

The British anti-radicalization strategy called Prevent aimed at Muslim communities to detect and prevent early signs of radicalization, among youths and others. But Security officials are struggling to stem a tide of unease among Muslim communities about the program, which seeks among other things to identify people most vulnerable to recruitment by al Qaeda-aligned groups and wean them away from extremism.

“People fear Prevent. They misinterpret it. They think it’s spying on us,” said Owais Rajput, a researcher at Bradford University in West Yorkshire, the home area of three of the four men who killed 52 people in suicide attacks in London in 2005. Jahan Mahmoud, a community worker and academic in the Midlands city of Birmingham, said there were large segments of the community that felt Prevent, led by the Home Office, was prying into their lives.

Prevent Director Debbie Gupta thinks there was “great confusion” about Prevent’s link to wider efforts to strengthen Muslim communities. Prevent spying was a myth, she said. “Prevent is focused on Muslims because that is where al Qaeda’s focus is. They deploy their distorted version of Islam onto Muslims.” She said one solution might be to reduce the role of the police and boost that of community organizations.