12 May 2012
£20 Million has been given to local authorities as a part of the Prevent Strategy, which was introduced by the previous labour government to prevent British Muslim youth from being recruited by ‘radical groups’ after the 7/7 bombings. The money has been used in joint projects with Muslim groups to educate them against radicalization.
However, aside from the criticism against the policy which was labelled as surveillance and entrapment of Muslims by some Muslim organization, the projects that the money was spent on have also been a subject of controversy. Many people have been sceptical about the appropriate expenditure of the funds.
The Muslim Council of Cambridgeshire’s (CMC) recent statement which lambasted the City Council for allocating the funds to a different project yet again has drawn attention to problems with the Prevent Strategy.
Just ahead of (and in preparation for) the publication of the updated Prevent Strategy, Home Secretary Theresa May criticized British universities for not taking the issue of radicalization amongst students seriously enough. Without sufficient willingness on the side of university officials to tackle radicalization, Muslim extremists could easily form groups on campus that support extremism, May argues. She called for universities to challenge extremist ideologies more actively and send clear messages to those that support extremism on university campuses.
Five years after the terrorist attacks on the London underground, the papers review what has changed since then in terms of security, anti-terrorism laws and the situation for British Muslims.
The Guardian features a comment on the lost narrative of British Muslims, who have been “stigmatised en masse” by some media and government policies. Another Guardian article talks of the flaws of neo-liberal government policies towards terrorism that have only increased the risk of new attacks, which another comment in the same paper supports, claiming that the government’s “Prevent strategy” has not made anyone any wiser and urging the government to learn how to work with “ordinary Muslims”. A commentator of The New Statesman describes how his life, being a commuter and a Muslim living in Britain, changed on 7/7 2005. The London Daily News commemorates the victims and lists the names of those deceased in the attacks, while The Independent talked to those who witnessed the bombings but survived them, and gives an insight into how they cope with the experience today.
The government program aimed at preventing Muslims from being lured into violent extremism is being used to gather intelligence about innocent people who are not suspected of involvement in terrorism. The information the authorities are trying to find out includes political and religious views, information on mental health, sexual activity and associates, and other sensitive information. Other documents reveal that the intelligence and information can be stored until the people concerned reach the age of 100. This has been published in a report of the Institute for Race Relations (IRR) by Arun Kundnani, entitled “Spooked: How not to prevent violent extremism”.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, branded it the biggest spying program in Britain in modern times and an affront to civil liberties. The intelligence is being gathered as part of the strategy Preventing Violent Extremism — ‘Prevent’ for short. It was launched three years ago to stop people being lured to al-Qaeda ideology and committing acts of terrorism.
The government and police have repeatedly denied that the £140m program is a cover for spying on Muslims in Britain. But sources directly involved in running Prevent programs say it involves gathering intelligence about the thoughts and beliefs of Muslims who are not involved in criminal activity.