Academics criticise anti-radicalisation strategy in open letter

Confidential research used by the government as the basis for identifying radicalisation in the controversial Prevent programme relies on flawed science, a group of academics has claimed.

The study, conducted by psychologists at the prison service, identified 22 “risk factors” for gauging whether individuals are vulnerable to engaging with terrorist groups or posing a security risk.

The risk factors, which have become known as the Extremism Risk Guidance 22+, form the basis for the “vulnerability assessment framework” carried out under Channel, a strand of the Prevent programme that aims to identify and engage with people believed to be at risk of radicalisation.

Referrals to Channel can come from teachers, social workers, healthcare workers and police. Last year, nearly 4,000 people were referred for assessment, including children younger than nine.

The exact contents of the study have been deemed classified by the government, and the Ministry of Justice has previously refused to release it when asked by the Guardian. An official claimed that releasing the details of the 22 risk factors would compromise the assessment.

The “Science of Pre-crime” report has prompted more than 140 academics and experts, including Noam Chomsky, to sign an open letter protesting against the lack of transparency and scrutiny of the science that underpins key aspects of the government’s domestic counter-terrorism strategy.

“We are concerned that tools that purport to have a psychology evidence base are being developed and placed under a statutory duty while their ‘science’ has not been subjected to proper scientific scrutiny or public critique,” they write.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists recently also raised concerns about the secrecy shrouding the evidence base for the risk assessment. “Public policy cannot be based on either no evidence or a lack of transparency about evidence,” the college wrote in a position statement. “The evidence underpinning the UK’s Extremism Risk Guidance 22+ and other data relating to this guidance, should be comprehensively published and readily accessible.”

David Miller, a sociology professor at the University of Bath, told the Guardian: “This is secret research, and we can’t interrogate what the process was that led to the material in the original report. It’s not academic research, it’s not social science – it’s an internal report and not in any way a sound basis for making any kind of policy.”

The Home Office said: “The guidance that is used was based on a peer-reviewed study, carried out to meticulous academic guidelines and published in two publicly available academic journals.

“It informed part of the process used by independent experts to assess a person’s vulnerability to being drawn into terrorism, and the support which would most benefit them to stop this happening.”

Civil rights groups to feds: Purge your anti-Muslim training materials

August 14, 2014

(RNS) Civil rights and religious groups say efforts to rid federal agencies of anti-Muslim bias have faltered and prejudice against Muslims persists, particularly in the training of anti-terrorism officers.

On Thursday (Aug. 14), 75 groups — including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Auburn Seminary and the NAACP — sent a letter to the White House urging an audit of federal law enforcement training material.

“The use of anti-Muslim trainers and materials is not only highly offensive, disparaging the faith of millions of Americans, but leads to biased policing that targets individuals and communities based on religion, not evidence of wrongdoing,” the letter reads.

A National Security Council representative said the letter will be reviewed and a response issued.

Anti-Muslim sentiment, flagged several years ago, prompted the White House to order an assessment of the intelligence community’s training materials and policies — but that never happened, the letter charges. Instead, the groups wrote, administration officials settled on expanded sensitivity training and other measures that don’t directly address the continued use of anti-Muslim materials.

The letter states that its allegations are based in part on a July 9 article in The Intercept, an online publication created by journalist Glenn Greenwald. According to its website, its immediate goal is “to provide a platform to report on the documents previously provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden,” the former National Security Agency systems analyst now a fugitive living in Russia.

Lee Rigby’s sacrifice should be commemorated with a public memorial

12th May 2014

We were disappointed to read about the apparent decision to refuse a request for a public memorial to Fusilier Lee Rigby, and hope this can be reconsidered. Lee Rigby’s murder shocked our country. In its wake, we saw Britons from every faith and none come together, both locally and nationally, to mourn his death, to commemorate his service, and to reject the hatred of his killers.

Extreme groups such as the BNP and EDL did try to exploit the tragedy, but found very little public support, being widely seen as part of the problem too. The Rigby family, in their grief, were consistently strong voices in challenging the tiny, unrepresentative minority who sought to use his name to stir up hatred.

If the family’s desire is to have a memorial, neither they, nor the British public as a whole, should be denied the chance to commemorate Lee Rigby’s service and sacrifice in a proper way.

 

Signed,

 

Sughra Ahmed

President, Islamic Society of Britain

 

Mohammed Amin

Deputy Chairman, Conservative Muslim Forum

 

Sunny Hundal

Journalist

 

Dilwar Hussein

New Horizons in British Islam

 

Sunder Katwala

British Future

 

Nick Lowles

Hope Not Hate

 

Imam Ajmal Masoor

 

Stephen Pollard

Editor, Jewish Chronicle

 

Stephen Shashoua

Director, Three Faiths Forum

 

Julie Siddiqi

The Big Iftar